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Anti-Oppression: Anti-Oppression & Beloit College

Anti-Oppression

Oppression

Oppression = prejudice + power

  • Oppression is more than the prejudicial thoughts and actions of individuals, oppression is institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time;
  • Through the use of that institutionalized power, it allows certain groups of people or certain identities to assume a dominant (privileged) position over other groups and identities and this dominance is maintained and continued at institutional  and cultural levels;
  • This means oppression is built into institutions like government and education systems. For example, think of ways that heterosexism is privileged by and built into laws around marriage, property ownership, and raising/adopting children.

Systems of oppression run through our language, shape the way we act and do things in our culture, and are built around what are understood to be “norms” in our societies. A norm signifies what is “normal,” acceptable, and desirable and is something that is valued and supported in a society. It is also given a position of dominance, privilege, and power over what is defined as non-dominant, abnormal, and therefore, invaluable or marginal.

Related Information


Anti-Oppression

Anti-Oppression is the strategies, theories, actions and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an ongoing basis in one's daily life and in social justice/change work. Anti-oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities. Oppression operates at different levels (from individual to institutional to cultural) and so anti-oppression must as well.

Though they go hand in hand, anti-oppression is not the same as diversity & inclusion. Diversity & Inclusion have to do with the acknowledgment, valuing, and celebration of difference, whereas Anti-Oppression challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. Diversity & Inclusion and Anti-Oppression are two sides of the same coin--one doesn't work without the other--but they are not interchangeable.

Related Information

​• Resistance 101: A Lesson on Social Justice Activists and Strategies

​• Beware the Sea Lions

​• Audre Lorde's ABC's of Fighting Fascism

​• How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101

 • Befriending Becky: On The Imperative Of Intersectional Solidarity 

​• Five Classist Pitfalls to #Resist in Your Activism

​• 26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets

​• A Feminist Glossary Because We Didn't All Major in Gender Studies


Video Resources

Oppression 101

Unpacking the Meaning of Oppression | TED

Privilege

Privilege is having unearned benefits/entitlements because of an identity you hold that society considers a "norm" and reinforces as dominant through oppression. Privilege and oppression are systemic and are reinforced by binarized, normative hierarchies that categorize certain identities as superior (privileged) and their supposed opposites as inferior (oppressed) (i.e. male and female; straight and queer; cisgender and transgender, etc.). There are various forms of privilege, some of them tangible and others less so. One form of privilege, for instance, is the representation of one's identity in mainstream media and books--something intangible but nevertheless valuable in our culture.


Intersectionality

Intersectionality is the theory that individually we are all oppressed while we are all also oppressors. While you may be a person who is historically marginalized (a person of color for example), you may also have a role and/or be a member of a group that is oppressive to others (while you are a person of color, you may also be a man, an able-bodied person, upper/middle class, straight etc). The idea is that Privilege and Oppression, like identities, come in infinite combinations, meaning an individual is almost always oppressed by some aspects of their identity while privileged by others. Being oppressed in one way does not negate an individual's privilege in another, and no single oppression holds more weight than another.

No matter the intersections of our privilege and oppression, we ALL have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.


Video Resources

Why Does Privilege Make People
So Angry?

Pedagogy of Privilege | TED

 

What is Intersectionality? Breaking Through
Activist Jargon

     The Urgency of Intersectionality | TED    

Diversity

Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexuality & sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, physical ability or attributes, neurological condition, religious or ethical values system, and national origin (adapted from Ferris State University).


Inclusion

Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values, celebrates, and recognizes the enriching benefits of diversity and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, identities, and lived experiences of its members (adapted from Ferris State University).


Though they go hand in hand, diversity & inclusion are not the same as anti-oppression. Diversity & Inclusion have to do with the acknowledgment, valuing, and celebration of difference, whereas Anti-Oppression (defined in another tab) challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. Diversity & Inclusion and Anti-Oppression are two sides of the same coin--one doesn't work without the other--but they are not interchangeable.

Note: Definitions for diversity are...well...diverse. Context and environment play a big part in what we mean when we say "diversity," and unfortunately as social justice movements have gained media spotlight, the term has become somewhat hollowed out from being overused and under-defined from situation to situation. The definitions for diversity and inclusion above do not capture the many, many cultural and political nuances embedded in these terms, rather they are intended to provide a broad scaffolding for understanding and engaging with the dialogues in and outside Beloit and on which more specific reifications of these concepts as they apply to particular communities can be structured.