The point she is making feels like an important one.
The writer would say that we have a deep, primary need to belong….Outcomes tend to bleak for those of us unable to meet this need adequately. Few would perhaps argue with the idea that we would do well as a species to pay attention to developing and deepening community amongst ourselves (and indeed beyond ourselves, with other living beings and with living systems).
However, the writer also observes that, culturally, we tend to self identify with groups who share values or elements of self-definition with us – and from the apparent safety of those groups, we point out how other groups are getting it wrong, or ARE wrong*.
The difficulty with this mindset of judgement, shame and blame – which is massively culturally supported and taught – is that the groups become ever smaller. We notice over time that not all our fellow group members are getting it as right as we are….So we coerce, subtly or overtly, demonize, pathologize, exclude, and redefine the group… A good example is Free Pride Glasgow’s decision to ban ‘self-described drag acts’ from their Free Pride Event on the 22nd August, on the basis that they are:-
‘“offensive,” not “appropriate,” and may make some trans people feel “uncomfortable.”‘
From the writer’s perspective, there is a profound and self-defeating contradiction in a stated goal on the one hand of not ‘making people feel uncomfortable’, and on the other hand attempts to serve that value through discrimination and exclusion. It’s the debasement of a value which might be termed ‘not causing harm/pain to others needlessly’. Our culture has a tendency to confuse this with avoiding uncomfortable feeling (and so inevitably suppressing difference). This is a self concept dissonance, which includes the false premise that we can coerce, shame and punish others into seeing/behaving like we do. History tells us repeatedly that road leads nowhere good….
And so – whilst seeking, and appearing to create community (in the sense of our small groups of ‘okay’ people) – ultimately we do the opposite. Ultimately we reduce ourselves to the final minority – of one – and to isolation. And so we promote separation and division.
It therefore makes far more sense to the writer to support a value of equality – drawing the group boundary at the whole human race – than one defined in terms of gender. The writer too sees a vast amount of discrimination towards/mistreatment of men in our culture, practised by people of all genders (and those who do not self-define in gender terms), and often less visible and less owned than that directed towards women.
A value of equality implies respect for difference, and for other viewpoints. It leaves behind the binary mindset, that makes me ‘right’ and you ‘wrong’. Allied with values of compassion, authenticity and humility, and a sense of the sacredness of life, this has the potential to support expansive and inclusive communities, healing and wholeness.
So we stand with Lauren, in supporting equality, compassion and empathy for everyone.
Thank you to John for drawing the writer’s attention to this (and to so much else).
* Brene Brown on the difference between guilt and shame – guilt is ‘I made a mistake’; shame is ‘I am a mistake’:-
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994