How Oppression Works

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.

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Black History Month is racist! I want a white history month!

If you find yourself asking yourself this:
or this:
or this:
or this:
…or this….

Check. Yo. Self. This whole “Black History Month is racist” thing? It’s embarrassing.

Here in the US, every single month is white history month. In a phenomenon akin to historical revisionism, our “officially accepted” history has become white-centered and focuses on the history of men. It glazes over & ignores minority groups’ contributions to society as well as the fucked up things that have been done to them throughout history. In terms of race, this “false advertising” instilled in us from childhood allows white folks to grow up feeling entitled and justified in our racist structures, while others quickly learn that they are second class. It makes privilege invisible to those who have it. It glorifies white accomplishments above all others. It erases other real histories that have brought us here, to 2012, where racism lives in the systems that govern us and where the entitled foolishly believe that white history is human history.

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Is this “Hate Speech”?

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.

Men Women Bitch
White People of Color Nigga/er
Wealthy Poor Ghetto
Trailer Trash
Straight Lesbian
Able-Bodied Disabled Cripple
“Adults” “Youth” Childish
“Middle-Aged” “Youth/elders” Geriatric
“Average Size” Sizes above &
below average
“Conventional looks” “Unconventional looks” Ugly

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. :)

The Rapey Right, Sex Illiteracy, Trans H8

Recent sex health news in the United States

House Republicans to Redefine Rape
Lately, a large body of powerful people–most of which are men–have been trying to narrow down of the definition of “rape” (and you thought the guy next door with the crazy hair was creepy). From Mother Jones:

Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible.

Let’s look beyond the “political party” shit. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Communist, or IDontGiveAFuckist–does this not seem primitive and barbaric? Have we moved forward at all since the early 1900s? Why must our social and human needs always come second to politics, money, and corporate interests? The good news is, in response to pressures from political activist groups (ye-ah!!), Republicans have initiated corrective measures. Thanks for doing the right thing.

Sex Educators Notice That Adults Are Clueless About Sex Too
It’s like a virus that is passed socially, generation by generation, from parents to their children. Perpetuated by a nation in which 2/3 of the states reject comprehensive sex health education, the trend of being completely clueless about sex is not only worrisome, it’s sad. With the same belief, some badass sex toy reps have taken it upon themselves to use sex toys as an aid to exchange information about sexuality and healthy reproduction. This movement of researchers and educators to bring sex health education to light in new ways is a gentle reminder of how fearful we have become with our bodies, our sexuality, and feeling pleasure.

NoShitNews: Study finds transgender people are discriminated against

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) made history with the 1st nationwide study about the experiences of people who do not conform to our gender boxes. They found that profound forces of discrimination exist in nearly every dimension of life for transfolk. In their intersectional approach, the research also indicates that: “No dumbasses, racism isn’t dead either”.

Here are some examples of the findings:
♦Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.
♦Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.
♦While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color.
♦Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression.
♦An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.
♦19% reported being refused health care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color.
♦Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
♦Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.