Why you shouldn’t conflate bigotry and phobia

“One thing is phobias; which are a mental process that is rather disruptive and tends to preclude clear thinking. The other is bigotry. Bigotry is hate. It’s treating people as less than human. It’s systematically denying people basic rights and disrupting their lives.

But it’s not a phobia.

Calling it one gives reasonability to the panic defense; when someone claims that they just panicked because the victim of a hate crime was different and that made them commit said crime. Because phobias do result in an inability to think clearly, although they don’t usually result in violence so much as hiding. Further calling bigotry a phobia serves to make oppressors sympathetic. After all, their bigotry is just an out of control emotional reaction. It says that they are the ones who are suffering, not the people who they are oppressing.

Using “-phobia” to discuss bigotry shames phobias as well. Telling people that their emotional reactions are as bad as forces that systematically dehumanize and kill people on a regular basis prevents people from being able to discuss their reactions without being read as terrible people. It prevents people from being able to deal with their phobias in useful ways, whether by avoiding them or by attempting to find treatment for them. It encourages people to hurt themselves by entering painful situations and ignoring the pain, because the pain is seen as a manifestation of their own personal failures. Using “-phobia” for bigotry is an example of bigotry and is definitely oppressive.”

Eater of Trees

Phobias are real things that impact the lives of many people.  Bigotry and oppressive forces are also a thing that impacts the lives of many people. But they’re not the same thing.  At all.

Specifically phobias are when something or other produces an extremely strong unpleasant emotional reaction, mostly fear or panic.  You see a bee, and you completely freeze up and can’t move because the bee is going to hurt you (even though, logically, you know that’s unlikely and if it did the pain would be annoying and not serious)

Phobias are not generally taken very seriously.  This is a recurring problem; wherein people will try to expose you to your phobia for a variety of reasons, possibly because they think you need exposure therapy and have decided to skip the informed consent stage.  Or possibly because they find it funny, or any variety of reasons.  All of which…

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