I have previously discussed hermeneutical injustice and wanted to expand on Fricker’s analysis of differentiated marginalization between those in different social positions.
Persons in positions of power, even if female, face lesser hermeneutical injustices than racial minorities in economically less advantageous communities. Employees of both sexes, if sexually harassed, by their bosses are less able to express or relay that injustice to others because of the social boundaries that are imposed on the victim. This is intensified by a disadvantage in our lexicon surrounding sexual harassment.
Fricker elaborates, stating that sexual harassment gets classified as flirting, rape in marriage as non-rape, post-natal depression is dismissed for being hysterical, and the decision not to work long hours as being unprofessional (155). We can see how there is a problem with the way we relay pieces of information and/or how certain verbal expressions can be interpreted in ways that are dismissive and soaked in misunderstanding. I have briefly discussed this previously here and so I will not get into much detail about the nature of hermeneutical injustice, rather I wanted to spend some time focussing on the hierarchies that can be associated with it.
My Own Experience — Living In England
When I was living in Oxford, England, I remember seeing sexism and how my female coworkers were regularly assigned shifts that were not convenient to them because our General Manager sincerely disliked women. It is hard to understand his distaste for my female coworkers since they were lovely. Nonetheless, he thought it fit to give the males all the good shifts. At the time, I was not completely aware of the injustice since no one was communicating why it was taking place. I never registered that there was an injustice, even. Recently, I reconnected with two of my friends from Oxford here in Kelowna when they were visiting and we reminisced together on the time we spent there. I was informed that this was, in fact, a purposeful attack on my female coworkers.
One of my friends told me that that was the first instance when she realized that sexism can properly function in the workspace. It took form as a hierarchical hermeneutical injustice because (1) they were not able to discuss the injustice since no one was aware of it occurring, (2) the hierarchy did not allow for evaluation because of the fear of losing a job, and (3) the seeming innocence of the manager’s behavior at the time.
To elaborate on point 3, no one thought of this as an issue since it was not as extreme as sexual harassment and so the injustice was accepted as a “better-than” scenario. Looking back, some sort of action should have been taken.
The question is: what type of action? The clearest one I can think of is clear communication. We can not amend behavior if it is not properly expressed and understood.
Before you go…
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,