This will become easier to grasp if we go
back to a word we met early on, the word
As was said earlier, if you consider and
reflect upon the meanings, associations and attitudes to this word, you
will recognise that these are created by our sense of the word that is actually its 'cultural opposite', the word
hero. Each of these two words are, in essence and in deeply ingrained and important cultural ways, reliant for
their meaning on the existence of
their opposite: their binary
Of course, the word 'hero' is not a
real 'opposite' of
the word 'coward' (that would be 'un-hero' if the word existed); but a person who is
'coward' is judged negatively precisely because he or she has failed to show qualities of 'heroism'.
Perhaps a more accurate
definition would be
that these two words exist in cultural opposition to each other.
What should become clear is that within
our culture, we each subconsciously apply a system of binary
opposites to shape our interpretations of
many words and ideas. These oppositions seem entirely natural and too obvious to question;
they are anything but: such 'opposites' exist simply because
our culture deems it to be so. Here are some common
Can you see
how our perception of one thing is deeply implicated with our sense of its
binary opposite? And how we judge one half of each binary
in a more negative way?
Can you recognise
the importance of this and how binary oppositions feed each other - it's as
if meanings are bound up together. For example, can you connect the binaries
hero/coward with the binary masculinity/femininity and recognise how this
feeds stereotypes and attitudes?