Definition time

You won’t find the word otherize in the dictionary that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for the last two decades.  You won’t even find it among the 1,000 new words that Merriam-Webster added to their 2017 edition.  However, you will find words like mumblecore, truther and binge-watch. <–don’t get distracted now.

English Oxford Living dictionary to the rescue!

otherize: verb View or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.  ‘Referring to them in these terms strips them of their identity and otherizes them as foreigners.’

But the most helpful definition I’ve found is from the blog, There Are No Others.

By “othering,” we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us.” Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.

Dr. Mark Sullivan, Mass Media and Society professor at Towson University, highlights an important factor that is often neglected when defining otherizing.

“It’s not about me against him/her, or even me against them.  It’s us against them.  Otherizing is not just about separating self from other, but also about renewing personal membership with us.”

So when we otherize, two things are happening.  We are alienating an individual or group and at the same time, reinforcing our bond with people that are like us, making ourselves the standard.

“The other,” then, is anyone different than this standard we’ve created.

Still not sure if you otherize?

I’ll leave you with this.  It might not answer the question, but it will give you something to think about.


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