The Birdcage

If you stand close to a birdcage and press your face against the wires, your perception of the bars will disappear, and you will have an almost unobstructed view of the bird. If you turn your head to examine one wire of the cage closely, you will not be able to see the other wires. If your understanding of the cage is based on this myopic view, you may not understand why the bird doesn’t just go around the single wire and fly away. You might even assume that the bird liked or chose its place in the cage. But if you step back and took a wider view, you would begin to see that the wires come together in an interlocking pattern – a pattern that works to hold the bird firmly in place. It now becomes clear that a network of systematically related barrier surrounds the bird. Taken individually, none of these barriers would be that difficult to get around, but because they interlock with each other, they thoroughly restrict the bird. While some birds may escape from the cage, most will not. And certainly, those that do escape will have to navigate many barriers that birds outside the cage do not.


Scholar Marilyn Frye uses the metaphor of a bird cage to describe the interlocking forces of oppression.