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Inescapable Hatred

The Unknown's picture

Hate is a strong word, one that should be used sparingly to express a passionate, profound feeling. Hate is defined by the Oxford English dictionary: “An emotion of extreme dislike or aversion; detestation, abhorrence” (Oxford English Dictionary 1). Hating is a cry for action- a demand for change. In the book, Exile and Pride: disability, queerness and liberation, the author,Eli Claire, who has Cerebral Palsy, struggles with gender identity, and other issues, discusses how he and other people’s minds and bodies are influenced by oppression and struggle. Claire discusses how hatred is used to marginalize people, make people feel ashamed of their different abilities, force people to accept certain identities, and isolate groups and individuals.

Eli Claire gives power to hatred and its ability to erase proclaimed identities, forcing people to accept new ones. Eli Claire explains how hatred can be so extensively imposed on marginalized groups that at a certain point the hatred becomes internalized:

They mark the jagged edge between self-hatred and pride, the chasm between how the dominant culture views marginalized peoples and how we view ourselves, the razor between finding home, finding our bodies, and living in exile, living on the metaphoric mountain. Whatever our relationships with these words-whether we embrace them or hate them, feel them draw blood as they hit our skin or find them entirely fitting, refuse to say them or simply feel uncomfortable in their presence-we deal with their power every day (12).

In this passage, Claire concludes that individuals are exiled based on identities that they did not claim, but were named for them. These identities were created by the oppressive, “dominant culture,” rooted in anger, hatred and a desire for disassociation from people who are seen as or assumed to be different, strange, queer, freaky, or crippled. Claire’s personal experiences provoke him to define himself using some of these terms, for instance queer, transgender, and dyke, but he refuses to accept and is ashamed of others because of the context in which they were used in his life. Claire adopts these words to demonstrate his defiance, pride, and to associate himself with a group of people. He goes on to explain that people’s varying relationships to these and other words such as redneck, crip, freak, gay, bi, handicapped, retard, monkey, defect causes them to view the influences of the individual terms differently. Even though some words pierce more than others, Claire reminds his readers that is important to remember where they come from, why they are used, and that they impress heavily on the lives of people who do not fit into a narrow, social structure.

Whether people accept them or fight against them, discriminatory words carry weight and meaning. Eli Claire discusses the effects of hateful words and stereotypes on oppressed people: “Some bodies are taken for good; other bodies live on, numb, abandoned full of self hate. Both have been stolen… Stereotypes and lies lodge in our bodies as surely as bullets. They live and fester there, stealing the body”  (13). These words are omnipresent. They follow people around. Telling marginalized groups they are contorted and abnormal. They are uttered in the reflections of the oppressed. They engender baffled looks from strangers. Constantly hearing these words forces marginalized people to see some truth in them. As they begin to accept them, the terms take on a powerful role- shaping ideas, looks, attitudes, and language.

The language toward the oppressed causes people to define themselves in restricted ways. Differently-abled people, minorities, and outcasts do not define their diverse abilities or lack there of, but instead they are characterized and classed together. The terms that they are forced to pick and choose from and/or decide to adopt are not complex enough to describe people’s multi-facetted histories and identities. These definitions are discomforting. The hatred behind these words can cover vast groups, containing a variety of different meanings.

Many ostracized people fight their labels so they do not and cannot be associated with this discriminatory language. Unfortunately the abilities that people are born with are often unchangeable. Self-hatred comes from a lack of belonging, never fitting in. As a result, people try to hide their differences by falling silent, afraid to hint at, express, or expose any indication of what society sees as their “inadequacies.”

Eli Clare claims that his self-hatred and those of others who have been ridiculed based on race, sex, sexual identity or preference, physical or mental differences, are a response to being told they were lesser, incapable, retarded:

But even as I veer away from the simple and neat argument, the one centered upon the ways oppression can turn around and thrive in the bodies/minds of oppressed people, I must pull my self-hatred out of the bag. Even though the answer to my question about the word freak is bigger than self-hatred, I need to stare down the self who wants to be “normal,” the kid who thought she could and should pass as nondisabled, the crip still embarrassed by the way her body moves. I can feel slivers of shame and isolation still imbedded deep in my body. I hate these fragments (110).

People who have been discriminated against have been taught to hate themselves, to not have confidence in their abilities, and to give into their abuse. Their shame becomes entrenched in their bodies, enveloping them. They are pressed to hate that they are separated as well as what separates them from the dominant culture. Hate can be blinding and vast.

Hatred suppresses identities and diversity. Hatred is a form of subjugation. Those considered others are encouraged to fit into a mold that they have not chosen and does not include them. Acceptance by society is constricted to harsh criteria. There is only one “right” way. Hatred guides and directs people to narrow, conformist ways of thinking.

The extreme disconnection between the differently abled and everyone else, results in isolation. This feeling of detachment is potent and influential in Claire’s narrative and becomes infused in his body, mindset, and practices. Claire struggles with his identities as they are related to other belittled groups. He does not want to associate with differently abled groups, but he has Cerebral Palsy, and therefore society dictates that he be categorized by this disorder. Marginalized groups feel the need both to overcome their differences, and alternatively accept failure, face being cast away, or disassociated.  

The author decides to use this word to describe stark contrasts among marginalized and dominant groups. Hatred is used to explain his reflection on a society in which he finds himself struggling to conform to and rebel against. He intentionally uses this strong word to convey the intersectionality of institutional problems that diverse oppressed groups and individuals confront daily. He uses the word to describe his own embarrassment associated with his past, as well as ideas about his own image, shame and losses that come from taking on new identities, and the feeling of never belonging.

The word “hatred” or “hate” is used extensively throughout Exile and Pride: disability, queerness, and liberation. Though the word takes on different meanings it is continuously used to express the author’s anger and outrage with the racist, sexist, and classicist system he finds himself in. His stories of pain and exile illuminate the pages with hatred. He constantly compares society’s perspective on marginalized groups and the use of hatred and derogatory terms and their limitations with his own. In this way, Claire seeks to shed light on the complex, painful issues of gender, disability, and deep-rooted oppression that pervade society and his personal encounters.

Claire gives a vivid and convincing picture of the devastating and pervasive effects of being hated for not being part of what is perceived as the “Norm.” Claire's frustration with having to constantly combat these derogatory stereotypes being thrust upon him and others with whom he identifies causes him to consistently use the word hate. Whether one accepts the hatred or attempts to rebuff or repel it or both, it has a large role in shaping the identity of the objectified victim.   

Works Cited

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge, MA:SouthEnd, 1999. Print. 

"Discover the STORY of EnglishMore than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years."Home : Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.       <>.