It is difficult to foresee the outcomes of social movements that strive for change in the name of equality. While the experiences of one’s gender and body can be the driving forces behind these social movements, however, it is problematic to assume that the whole is unified by one commonality. With the charge to forgo gender in favor of the ‘lived body,’ we could identify as physical bodies acting and experiencing in a specific sociocultural context” (Young 16). The benefit of eliminating an exclusionary gendered binary has the ability to challenge rigid gender and social norms. Although, experiencing one’s body in a specific sociocultural context can still encounter varying arrays of institutionalized discrimination. Moreover, erasing constructed individual identities – race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. – has the ability to dismantle any sense of solidarity. There will still be gaps between wealthy and poorer peoples, which can only be exacerbated by one’s language, education, and access to resources. Is it not more beneficial for individuals to unite, whether on lines of gender or race, to fight inequality? Even though Young argues the importance of these identifiers in the conceptualization of social structures, I am not sure if dismantling these identifiers would benefit all individuals.
The experiences of individuals have the ability to alter their perceptions of the world. Phenomenology attempts to create a direct description of experience as it is, without outside interpretations. If every individual’s experience is always social, is there a root experience? Even language is a social tool created by other individuals, and with this tool is a set of rigid rules. Although language can filter an experience into a coherent thought, is that primal experience any less genuine? It seems that it is impossible to escape such a framework.
The power of such framework is daunting. Social norms are constantly disciplining an individual’s body. I find my body consistently shaping and fitting into the micro-aspects of this power structure. I manage my actions to fit into the greater societal mold. It is this very action that gives power to the framework. By having a force of people continuously conforming to certain social queues, the power apparatus is able to replicate itself. Moreover, if people choose to protest the power structure, then they are chastised and disciplined. This is not to say there is one power structure in play, but rather multiple overlapping structures. One thing I find interesting in Foucault’s writings is the absence of privacy. Even if we are socialized, can we not find moments where we escape such a framework? Can the Internet be one of these outlets? For many, the Internet can be a playground to live fantasies and continually recreate identities. Of course within the compounds of technology, but it seems that maybe one can momentarily escape from this power structure. Virtual reality often gives the individual the ability to create new environments where the individual is in control. This escape from reality may have the ability to bypass many of the social restrictions that one encounters on a daily basis.
Lastly, I find Foucault’s closing paragraph somewhat troubling. He writes, “We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production” (194). Power is frightening. It has the ability to protect, and often does, but also to destroy. I am not sure if I feel comfortable saying that I find my reality and identity through this glorified means of production. What about the ‘waste’ from this power production? In our global economy, there is always waste. Are the people repressed by this power production necessary for progress? With this view point, I am worried that movements for equality will never be given proper attention.