Sorry for the delay, but this post compliments the photo essay in the post below (please view before reading on). I am always pondering the many complexities of mental illness stigma. One topic that I often dwell on is the history of oppression (in all societies). "Oppression is defined as the use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or privilege the oppressor. Social oppression may not require formally established organizational support to achieve its desired effect; it may be applied on a more informal, yet more focused, individual basis." Most of us have experienced or learned about various types of oppression. I would like to outline a few in order to compare any similarities and differences.
African Americans have endured many forms of discrimination, but why? The color of their skin? So they LOOK different. I can't really think of any other reason why they had to experience years of intense oppression except for a few stereotypes. "Many terms were used to describe (and brand) African Americans such as superstitious, lazy, and ignorant. Today’s stereotypes are not much different, and include unintelligent, loud, very religious, poor, and criminal." These stereotypes are made up in order to empower the majority. Unfortunately, African American's can not hide their skin color, so they can not hide from discrimination and hate. These individuals fought hard and long to obtain their Civil Rights. This inpirational time in history paved the way for our current African American president. It also proved that the majority can embrace the minority.
Woman are faced with a similar dilemma in that they can not hide their identity (as a female). Because of this, women were forced to fight for their right to vote. Now I don't want to be blunt, but men did not view women as equal, so they were not ALLOWED to vote. After all, women have roles, right? Who needs an identity or right to vote when women are meant to have babies and watch after the house (sense the sarcasm). Women also experienced intense oppression in the workplace, and to some degree, still do. However, it was OK for women to do a "MAN'S JOB" during WWII. Propaganda was used during this time to lure women into the war industries. "The government’s war time efforts to recruit women had several themes, the main one being patriotism. The campaigns told women that the war would end sooner if more women worked. Women were also warned that if they did not work then a soldier would die, people would call them slackers, and they were equivalent to men who avoided the draft (Rupp 96). Women who took war jobs were praised." Even though, most women were sent back to the home when the war ended, this important time in history was not forgotten. Women continued to fight for equality in the workplace far after WWII.
Sexual harassment will always exist as a tool to intimidate one party by empowering the other. As a woman, I have experienced this in my past, but you learn to speak up and correct unacceptable behavior. Thankfully, there are laws in place to combat this. I also can't walk through a hardware store without getting asked, "do you need any help". I get this question, even when I give NO indication that I am confused by all the tools. Sorry I forgot to read my role book that day, but I have installed chandeliers, sinks, electrical outlets, hardwood floors, moulding, etc. All without the help of a man:) I am not this serious all the time, trust me, I do have a sense of humor!
Hitler use of propaganda allowed for the extermination of millions of Jews. "Hitler made the Jews the scapegoat for everything that was wrong in Germany and convinced enough people that they were taking up space that would be better used by his "Master Race" of aryans." Really sick. Hitler also killed anyone who appeared to have a mental disorder or physical deformaties. This sad peice of history amplifies the notion that differences are not acceptable. An appetite for power or personal fear prevents equality. This sense of entitlement has destroyed so many innocent individuals. Hitler was on a mission to create the perfect race. The scary thing is, he was not finished after the holocast. He planned to exterminate other races that were not "perfect". Many of us are still here because of those who fought to end this horrible oppression and hate.
Animals have a very special place in my heart. They are therapeutic and kind. Since they do not have a voice, they can not object to slaughter, cruelty or lack of empathy. I have an intense sense of empathy which is why I choose to purchase eggs, dairy and meats that are produced on farms where the animals are cage free, slaughtered humanely and not given steroids or antibiotics. It's expensive to eat this way, but very worth it. If an animal will be ultimately slaughtered for our consumption, than the least we can do is give them a comfortable life up until that point. The reason why people may not view acts against animals as inhumane is because these animals do not have a voice. We must remember that humans are also animals and all animals feel pain. I have to stop talking about this because it is making me too sad. Just go watch "Fast Food Nation" or visit this site to learn more.
Right now, we are experiencing a very important battle for civil rights. Gay and lesbian individuals are fighting for their right to marry. This may seem like a little request but by allowing same sex marriage, these indiviuals will receive the same economic benefits that married couples have. Now, why are so many against same sex marriage? Because it goes against the idea that marriage is the "inherently procreative relationship of opposite-sex pair-bonding or to protect an intimate relationship for the purposes of its procreative potential". It is still debated by many, but I beleive that you do not CHOOSE to be homosexual. I won't go into my reasons (it would take a while) but plain and simply, oppression prevents progress. So this battle for civil rights may take a while. However, I am very happy that these individuals are speaking out because that is the only way to enact change.
Finally, I come to the topic which fuels my passion to fight stigma. Our society is still very comfortable with oppression against those with a mental disorder. The main reason why this discrimination is so intense is due to lack of education, propaganda and fear. When an individual (with mental illness) is not medicated, he or she will present a behavior that is strange or different. Others will sheild their behavior and suffer in silence. Those who have recovered preserve their identity by hiding their illness from the public as well. Who can blame them? When an illness carries such stigma, many run the risk of being forced to identify with their illness, as opposed to their true self. However, if we do not talk about mental illness, we can not replace fear with empathy or shame with courage. The truth can eliminate the stereotypes and myths but we need more voices to carry out this message. My message to society: make sure you hear both sides before you decide.
Oppression may taint our history but it also tests the strength and courage of an individual or race.