The reason which straight, white, non-disabled men give when defining members of every other group - the "Other" - as inferior is physical difference, with this difference being regarded as either reflecting or dictating inferiority in other areas: for example in intelligence, morality or character. Physical qualities - the mark of the Other - are therefore regarded as the Other's most important characteristics, whether or not they exist in reality.
In contrast, straight, white, non-disabled men do not define themselves in relation to their bodies. Instead, repression of anything which transcends the boundaries of gender, sexuality, race and disability is characteristic of them. Marriage and fatherhood are then used to stress their heterosexuality, gender and virility (disabled people commonly being regarded as asexual or as lacking the right to breed).
Belonging to a group seems to be more important to straight, white, non-disabled men than to those whom they define as members of other groups. This is shown in their love of uniformity - most obviously illustrated in their clothing choices. However, members of other groups are commonly perceived as having a greater concern with group identity, since it is only by uniting that they can fight their oppression.
An identity as a member of an oppressed group is formed when someone recognises and reclassifies their personal experiences as resulting from prejudice and discrimination rather than from genuine, inherent, negative qualities in themselves or the group to which they belong, and re-values themself accordingly. This recognition and reevaluation creates pride in oneself and one's group, which previously did not exist because of internalised oppression.
Interestingly, there is no listing for pride in feminist reference books. However, Maggie Humm, in The Dictionary of Feminist Theory (Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, 1989) describes coming out, as "the formation of a homosexual identity . . . As a result of lesbian theory, 'coming out' is now described as a process rather than as a discrete point in time." (pp32-3) The two concepts are interlinked, since "coming out" is taken to be the result of forming a positive, proud self-identity rather than a negative one.
In the same way, "coming out" as a disabled person involves pride in identifying as disabled and overcoming the desire to deny our disabilities. Marsha Saxton and Florence Howe discuss this in terms of disabled women in their introduction to Without Wings, Virago, London, 1988; see also Jenny Morris' Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability, the Women's Press, London, 1991.
An example of personal usage can be found in DAM (Disability Arts Magazine, Spring 1995, p37), where editorial board member Eileen Reddy concludes her introduction to readers with "I am proud of being me". An example of political usage can be found in the 1996 Disability Pride Week organised by Tower Hamlets Council. This was organised jointly by the council and the Tower Hamlets Coalition of Disabled People, after the social services department adopted the social model of disability - where people with impairments are perceived as being disabled by society rather than by the impairment itself - as a means of analysing and directing their work.
Pride in being the Other problematises and destabilises the constructs of power created by straight, white, non-disabled men, for what then explains the Other's inferior treatment and position in society but unfounded prejudice and oppression? The process of developing pride therefore is not merely one of personal reaffirmation, but of political revolution.
However, the impossibility of defining oneself by one's group identity - exacerbated when one "belongs" to more than one group - problematises and exposes the arbitrary nature of the groups themselves. Forced to face this impossibility, many have concluded that group identity and politics are invalid, and movements such as feminism have declined as a result. Polarisation of groups around identity has also meant that action to tackle oppression has been fragmented and weakened.
One way out of this conundrum is suggested by Donna J. Haraway in "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socalist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" (in Siminans, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Free Association Books, London, 1991, pp149-181), who argues for a coalition based on "affinity, not identity". Unlike pluralism, where groups coalesce despite their differences to unite around a common aim, affinity would mean that groups coalesced because they recognised both their commonalities and each Other's sources of and manifestations of oppression.
As the huge majority of the Other, we have far more in common than the physical differences which divide us. When we only recognise our own identities, we fail to recognise the identities of those Others whom we subsequently oppress. And no one is that straight, that white, that non-disabled and that male - at least not all of the time. Perhaps we need to discover our pride in our identities only to rediscover our pride in our humanity, and to realise that our bodies are just that.