DUALISMS THAT DIVIDE AND DENY
[Because women were silenced] the world has had to limp along with the wobbling gait and the one-sided hesitancy of a man with one eye. Suddenly the bandage is removed from the other eye and the whole body is filled with light. It sees a circle where before it saw a segment. The darkened eye restored, every member rejoices with it.
ANNA JULIA COOPER, A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH/ BY A BLACK WOMAN OF THE SOUTH ( 1892/ 1988, P. 122)
The mindset that pits We against Other divides a wide range of human experiences into dichotomies, that is, nonoverlapping categories of polar opposites. Culture vs. Nature, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Nature vs. Nurture are among the most divisive opposites common to Western thought. When we choose only one end of a polarity and avoid the other, we cultivate a limited part of what might be possible. For instance, when thinking and feeling are treated as mutually exclusive and opposing capacities we are encouraged to develop one and to deny the other. Those who cultivate their capacities for feeling but not thinking are likely to remain subordinated to all sorts of forces they do not even attempt to control. It is not by chance that those in power all too often attribute the ability for thinking to men and whites and the capacity for emotions to women and blacks.
The tendency to dichotomize human experience is persistent, powerful, and pernicious. Dualistic categories are such an organizing force because they provide a simple classification system that allows even the most complex and elusive qualities to be compared and contrasted in bold, clear terms. Things are either "black or white." In the starkness of this light, the blends and subtleties disappear (for discussions of dualistic thinking, see Bakan, 1966; Basseches, 1984; Bem, 1993; Haste, 1994; Keller, 1985; Labouvie-Vief, 1994; Merchant, 1980; Pagels, 1995).