Compton also skillfully juxtaposes his personal misgivings with those received from institutions. He quotes his school teacher as remarking “my grammar teacher said a semi-/ colon is just a gutless colon”. (Compton, p.2) Another citation of institutional racism in the verse goes like “racism is a disease, the ministry decrees to me in my bus seat/ from an ad, and I could add/ that this is just the latest stage in race management.” (Compton, p.2) This is a powerful statement, attacking at once the institutions of social segregation, public relations as well as professional training. While the first is a relic of the past, the latter two are extant forms of racism, which are seen applied using sophisticated techniques today.
Hiromi Goto’s story Stinky Girl talks about discrimination on two grounds – race and size. The narrator describes herself as a “fat coloured rat girl”. (Goto, p.1) The bulk of the story focuses on the unique experiences of fat people, including the numerous myths and suppositions that exist about their physicality. For example, it is commonly held that obese people produce an undesirable odor. But this is seldom noticed by fat people themselves. Their most difficult moments in social spaces come in the form of passing through narrow doors, using undersized furniture, etc. As the narrator poignantly notes toward the end of the story, the shock from static electricity she received upon entering a children’s play enclosure is unique to fat people. The Stinky Girl, it thus appears, deals mostly with individual discrimination as opposed to the institutional form. The final passage clearly indicates what the over-sized narrator realizes when squeezed tight into a children’s play tube. The moments spent in that position of entrapment makes her verify if the legend of bad odor emanating from fat people is true after all. To her surprise, it is not odor that surrounds her, but sound. The sound is composed of a multitude of voices
“The unbearable voices of mythic manatees, the cry of the phoenix, the whispers of kappa lovers beside a gurgling stream. The voice of the moon that is ever turned from our gaze, the song of suns colliding. The sounds that emanate from my skin are so intense that mortal senses recoil, deflect beauty into ugliness as a way of coping. Unable to bear hearing such unearthly sounds they transmute it into stench.” (Goto, p.8)
Goto seems to be hinting that there is an element of hallucination to the legend of the stink that has grown around fat people. The sublime transformation of medium of odor to that of sound underscores how fat people suffer by allowing such voices to exist. To the contrary, if only they would allow themselves to see the facts (as the playtube accidentally allowed the narrator to see), the myth of the stink would disappear like dew upon sunrise. (Davis et. al, 2004)
As for the metaphor of relating herself to a rat, the narrator quickly qualifies by saying that while she is merely a rat, there are “the queen of all rats in the sewer of her dreams, being fed the most tender morsels of garbage flesh her minions bring her”. (Goto, p.4) Hence, beyond self deprecation, the narrator brings a healthy dose of humour to the descriptions.
In conclusion, we can see how both individual and institutionalized form of oppression is exposed by the two texts. But upon closer evaluation, we can see how instances of individual oppression dominate the broader classification. It should also be remembered that even structuralized oppression is experienced at the individual level. To this extent one can claim how individual oppression is contained within the more systematic category of oppression.
Butling, Pauline, and Susan Rudy. Writing in Our Time: Canada’s Radical Poetries in English (1957-2003). Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2005.
Davis, Geoffrey V., Peter H. Marsden, Bénédicte Ledent, and Marc Delrez, eds. Towards a Transcultural Future: Literature and Society in a ‘Post’-Colonial World. Vol. 2. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004.