Okay, I’m in summer school right now. I’m taking an American Literature course, and a Gender and Popular Culture course. In both courses, we’re talking a lot about ideologies and discourses- so of course being me I wanted to connect it to my blog, (briefly… Mostly I want to make sure I have the concept of the idea right.) And I felt that I needed to give myself a little refresher on what these things are, so I’m also sharing it with everyone else! If you understand what I say, it means that I understand what the concept is. So win-win! And this is more fun than going through my notes trying to remember…
In order to understand any of this: you’re going to have to either have 1) a strong grounding in English, Cultural or Women’s studies, or 2) A short introduction. Just a few terms I’ll explain and off we’ll go into deeper meaning.
- Discourse-Language used by a group of people (e.g doctors (medical discourse), the church (religious discourse) the state (political discourse, legal discourse) used to explain ideology. Discourse hides behind ethos (logic) in the forms of authority figures who are entitled to use of the discourse because they understand the language. Everybody else not in the group will not understand the language. The people who can counter the discourse can basically break up the ideology. (Of course to do that you have to go against authority- and deal with the gaze and that’s a scary thought… but the ideology needs to be destabilized.)
- Ideology- A belief held by a group of people which is false, unreasonable, but still believed because many people hold onto the ideology.
I’ve been using the word binary an awful lot- you’re all probably wondering “What is a binary anyway?” Binaries or Binary opposition is opposites. Children/Adults, Black/White, Male/Female, Dominant/Subordinate. Pretty easy to categorize when you’ve got these nice little things called binaries. Categories aren’t always bad- “People analyze the world, sort it into categories, impose structure on it, in order to avoid being overwhelmed by its richness.” (Fowler, 26-27) When we only think in binary terms however, that’s dangerous. Binaries are created by introducing an ideology, and discourse may seek to support ideologies. For example the male/female ideology- the stereotypes of boys being stronger than girls- that’s an ideology. Using medical discourse people can say that biologically, the statement is true- for those who don’t know how it works, they can’t deconstruct the language or refute it. To refute it, you either need to learn the discourse, or find something that counters the ideology.
“If we look at the sources of categories, we find that some are natural in origin, but the majority are social.” (Fowler, 27) Categories are created through ideologies and discourses, and are as false as ideologies themselves. Those who hold onto the belief that one group is better than another because religion/the law/biology says so is using discourse to rationalize their ideology. “Ideology is often used to accuse a community of holding false or distorted theories of reality.” (Fowler, 26) It is about being part of a (select group) and excluding others who are different. People exert power over others by using discourse, and maintaining ideologies to assert their authority in society, whether it is really logical or not. Ideologies are often present in literature. They exist in life, but it is easier to spot it in writing. Authors often use their books and discourses to refute ideologies, break binaries, and humanize those that have been dehumanized through discourses.
The problem with ideology and discourse is that they are false. They are used to maintain a sense of structure where there actually is none. As long as people believe in ideologies and use categories and binaries as a part in ideology and discourse, people will always be trying to be better than others or try to prove they are better than others. That is why the whole argument of being a child or an adult is just meaningless. It only exists because people feel that ages are a factor in deciding how experienced they are.
This ideology exists in several places and the discourses used are too numerous for me to mention right now. But exploring a little further will help to show just how much control that people really have over an idea. If enough people believe in an idea or are persuaded that it’s true- it doesn’t matter if the idea is true or not.
- Fowler, Roger. Linguistic Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.
- Humphreys, Sara. “Minority Report: The Gaze” Web log post. The Expendable Citizen. WordPress. Mar 14 2012. Web. May 20 2013. <http://expendablecitizen.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/minority-report-the-gaze/