The (Marginal) Joys of Marginalization

“At some point or another, everyone has felt unseen and unheard and marginalized.”

  • Ayanna Pressley

If you remember the comic strip Bloom County, you may recall Binkley and his dad having a discussion in which they realize that their status as white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, men puts them in the minority. The irony of course is that white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men are typically seen as the mainstream of society, the standard by which all other groups are judged. So outside of this rather narrow cohort, what remains? Who are the marginalized, anyway?

If you start peeling away marginal groups from society you’ll have to just keep on peeling until there’s nearly nothing left, because unless we’ve devoted our lives to boring conventionality  we each have something about us that pushes or threatens to push us to the margins, limiting our access to health, safety, freedom, financial security, and fulfillment.

Let’s suppose, for example, that you’re a WASP male; you’ll still feel excluded from mainstream society if you’re gay, a Krishna devotee, living in poverty, a communist, an amputee, a transsexual, residing in rural Alabama, or even just socially awkward. Most of us are marginalized, or at least feel so at some point in our lives, which means that social inequality is everyone’s problem.

But there’s a bright side. There are certain perks to being marginalized of which even the most anarchist of unemployed gay social klutzes can avail themselves.

For one thing, you don’t have a façade to maintain. You’ve already been rejected from mainstream society, so you don’t have to pretend you’re one of them. You can wear colourful clothes. You can speculate about whether the earth is flat. You can tell people about themselves. You can eat fried onion rings dripping with melted cheese without whining about calories.

For another, you’re off the hook when it comes to the goals and aspirations of the majority. A house in the suburbs? Not when there are tents, trailers, abandoned factories, and friends with couches. A six-figure salary? Not worth selling out for. Passing carbon tax on to your customers instead of paying it yourself? Not if you want to sleep at night. Faking friendliness to your social superiors in order to advance your career? Puh-leeze.

All well and good, but as my title suggests, the rewards of marginalization are piddling at best. Maybe the marginalized don’t want riches, power, and fame, but we certainly want enough for our needs — which won’t be provided as long as inequality remains the order of the day.

You’re not going to waste your time and energy going for any of these things because even if you did want to sell your soul for money, status, and power you know very well that, for you, it’s nearly impossible to attain these things. Why? Because money, status, and power are very closely guarded by the least marginalized members of society: those with the greatest sense of entitlement, who are looking for any excuse to withhold the goodies.

What’s really bizarre is how even the marginalized blindly submit to this twisted state of affairs, actually believing that a white man in a suit is the most trustworthy and capable character in town despite evidence to the contrary. If we were a little more observant we might admit that the best accountant for miles is the Sikh, the best doctor the female Syrian refugee, and the best kindergarten teacher for our children is transgender.

So whatever it is about you that marginalizes you even a wee bit, embrace it. It grants you a kind of solidarity with the true majority, and there’s strength in numbers—strength enough to challenge the illusions of entitlement.

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