We talk about sexism, racism, heterosexism (homophobia), ageism, cissexism, and other systems of oppression a lot around these parts. However, there is occasionally some confusion about what oppression is and how it works in the context of social justice. Oppression is a complex topic. This blog will serve as a basic overview, or a starting point, to related conversations.
Oppression typically operates as a system. This means that there are multiple forces taking away someone’s power based on a part of their identity (their sex, sexual orientation, skin color, etc). All of these forces work together to marginalize, subordinate, dehumanize, or otherwise devalue groups of people.
My entire life, I’ve constantly run into and dealt with older folks treat young people as if they are stupid, incapable, trouble makers, or a downright nuisance to have around. For these people, they see treating someone with respect as optional if they look too young. As a young person, I couldn’t fit the number of times I’ve been treated poorly by older folks -on no basis other than my age- on all my fingers and toes. As I’ve gotten older and gained more respect from people I work with, I still seem to deal with the same bs from strangers in various contexts. It comes up time and time again, and I do believe it’s because I am young (and, to make matters worse, I look even younger than I am). My partner and a few friends, who also look young for their age, have had similar experiences.
On a work trip I took a few weeks ago, I was at a higher end hotel that is patronized mostly by older professionals. I stayed there a few days and took particular notice of how cordial the front desk staff was. Smiles, stupid jokes, holding the door open, the whole shabang. On the day of my departure, I approached the desk and requested a shuttle to the airport. I was shocked to be met with a scolding and condescending lecture about how the shuttle was not available because I had not notified them in advance (regardless of the fact that when I was being picked up from the airport, they did not require a shuttle reservation). With a finger wag and a frown, the staff told me that I would have to make another arrangement. As I walked to the other side of the lobby to call a cab, I faintly overheard one clerk make a comment about irresponsible kids.
I’ve written on offensive speech before, but last weekend, one of my friends (who teaches sex education) gave me a classroom handout with this chart on it. The chart lists all the forms of hate speech for various targeted groups. I thought the chart was interesting.
Hate speech is a term for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or group based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, hair color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability.
Bitch Ho Whore Slut Skank Ripper
People of Color
Nigga/er Beaner Chink Oreo Towel-head FOB
Ghetto Redneck Barrio Trailer Trash Bum
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans
Dyke Faggot/Fag Lesbo Fairy Carpetmuncher
Cripple Retarded Lame Crazy Dumb Stupid
Childish Immature Punk Juvenile Naive Little
Geriatric Geezer Baby Kid Child
Sizes above & below average
Fat Obese Cow Skinny
Ugly To’e-Up Hurt Dog
While some of these definitely are hate speech, others have me scratching my head (for example, “immature”….lolwat?). As such, I’m left wondering: is there such a thing as being TOO politically correct? I think there might be, but at the same time, I worry that people who actually are racists/sexists/etc will pull something like, “Oh you’re being TOO politically correct, faggot isn’t hate speech.” When I think along those lines, maybe it’s justified to be a little extreme. How and where do we draw a line?
Do you think that these terms are all hate speech? Which ones are/are not? As always, I’m reading. :)