Untouchability is a feature of several unrelated societies in which certain groups are singled out for exclusion in very concrete ways.
Thwe wiki on untouchability lists these features of the status:
- Prohibition from eating with other caste member
- Provision of separate glasses for Dalits in village tea stalls
- Discriminatory seating arrangements and separate utensils in restaurants
- Segregation in seating and food arrangements in village functions and festivals
- Prohibition from entering into village temples
- Prohibition from wearing sandals or holding umbrellas in front of higher caste members
- Prohibition from entering other caste homes
- Prohibition from riding a bicycle inside the village
- Prohibition from using common village path
- Separate burial grounds
- No access to village’s common/public properties and resources (wells, ponds, temples, etc.)
- Segregation (separate seating area) of Dalit children in schools
- Sub-standard wages
- Bonded labour
- Social boycotts by other castes for refusing to perform their “duties”
This list describes untouchability in India, but most of it should quite familiar to Americans. This is practically the checklist of Jim Crow, both the laws explicitly segregating schools and public accomodation – restaurants especially – and also in a framework of custom restricting where black people could go, where they were admitted, and when.
That’s how untouchability works with respect to caste, whether that caste is defined ethnically or some other way. Let’s look at how it applies to gender.
The essence of untouchability seems to be an imputation of special dirtiness to a class of people. This dirtiness makes them a special threat and contact with them dangerous or to be avoided. This was an essential feature of the Jim Crow mentality and it doesn’t take much searching to find all kinds of references to it. And the purpose or the effect of untouchability is exclusion from privileged areas of society.
We have been looking at how gender patterns as a class divide in our culture. If untoucahbility is a factor in this class/gender overlap, then that could be one reason that black women are not considered or treated as if they are fully female, with regard to the privileges and prerogatives and protections accorded women in our culture.
So think of the ways men in our society are considered dirty, smelly, contact with whom is a defilement to be avoided. In the Old Testament there are passages referring to women in their time of “uncleanness” when they were to elave the camp and their presence was defiling. Then think of the social restrictions in place to exclude men in our society from areas reserved to women.
Untouchability has a poltical puropse. It has the effect of excluding a class of persons. It goes beyond the simple notion of physical dirtiness to demonization of all aspects of these persons; sexuality – men as sexual predators, men as raging balls of lust, etc. – emotions – men as raging violent monsters, men as the predominant or only abusers – and it is used to justify this exclusion.
The fact that so much power is held by men does not refute this, it confirms it, since those men in power are such a small percentage of men. Getting the rest of society to treat all competing men as untouchable and disposable serves the apexuals’ purposes very nicely.
Please suggest specific examples.
EDIT – From the commenters:
Dungone points out:
“It’s hard to come up with examples that combine dirtiness with male apartheid in an overt way. “
Yes. The link is demonization. Anything male is cast as hyperagentive and this chimes with the threat narrative around untouchability, where contact is exaggerated into some huge virulent – ha, it’s even right there in the language – threat. And this sense of threat serves as justification for exclusion. This takes various forms – some are listed below:
Demonization of male sexuality – Men as a sexual threat to children, here, and even here, where it’s a four year old boy being trained to see himself as a possible rapist; rape of females by males as “qualitatively worse” (Mary K. Koss’ formulation) than female rape of males, circumcision apology or simple indfference to it.
Fear of the “male gaze” – Women can go into male locker rooms or public restrooms or even dressing room areas and no one is supposed to get upset about that, but if a man does the same he will end up in th back seat of a squad car.
Men can be searched by a woman, including strip searches, but men are not allowed to search women.
For what it’s worth, I live in an area with lots of small islands and scenic beaches that are all on private roads. I can jog or ride a bicycle there if I’m with a girl, but I risk getting stopped if I go by myself.
Dressing rooms are the same way. I’ve had store employees tell my girlfriend she could go right into my dressing room with me, without asking me what I thought about that. But when my girlfriend had asked me to go into a dressing room with her, store employees blocked my way and told me it makes women uncomfortable.
Male behavior and speech as coarse and needing policing – The meme that men are really just over-grown children, the meme that men are all just drooling, sex-crazed monsters, the meme that women have to be protected from them and their coarse language. (And just look in the comment thread on that last one to see how vehemently this kind of thing is defended, and how amazed people can be even to hear it questioned.) This is where all the one-way sexual harrassment policies and speech codes come from.
Thgis is a very cursory list but it probably covers the major areas of male untouchability in the culture, under which there will be many sub-headings.
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