Subject-Object Polarity and the onset of Sexist and Racist Thought
An examination of Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Jessica Benjamin’s “Bonds of Love.”
The writer addresses and answers the following questions regarding the two works “Black Skin, White Masks” by Franz Fanon and “Bonds of Love” by Jessica Benjamin. How do subject-object polarities arise? How are they present differently in men and woman? How does this lead to an inherently sexist and racist society? How can these polarities be effectively reversed?
“Of all the great social struggles of modern society, perhaps none are so obvious and so ingrained within the minds of the population as the struggles against sexism and against racism. The source of both problems is rooted in the tendency to create a polar dualism between male and female, between white and black. In nearly all cases, this fundamental dualism extends beyond superficial roles and identities, creating a relational structure involving the superiority of one group and the consequent inferiority of the other. In a futile attempt to close the disparaging gap between the extremities of this polar relationship, many have resorted to means that weaken the importance of the role of the superior and at the same time make stronger and more important the role of the inferior. As a result, the roles women and blacks play in society are argued by many to be just as important as those men and whites play, and many would argue that a woman or a black can do anything a man or a white can. Indeed, Benjamin points out that “Every binary split creates the temptation to merely reverse its terms, to elevate what has been devalued and denigrate what has been overvalued (Benjamin, 9). It is precisely the overwhelming tendency towards this temptation regarding solutions to sexism and racism against which Benjamin and Fanon argue. For inherent within this methodology is the erroneous assumption that the problems of sexism and racism can be solved from within the existing social structure. Benjamin argues extensively against such an approach to solving the problem of male domination, advocating instead the resolution of the dysfunctional dualistic structure, itself: ?What is necessary is not to take sides but to remain focused on the dualistic structure itself” (Benjamin, 9). In a similar argument, Fanon points out that racism towards blacks, at least in the East Indies, cannot be resolved by simply elevating the status of the black man in society”