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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The War on Birth Control

More and more it seems like “Republican” is just a code word for “religious”.

As a sex educator, this seriously alarms me. In examining oppression, culture, and discourse around sex, it comes up time and time again that religion is one of the most oppressive institutions around — especially the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism).



What is most deeply insulting to me is the effect these religions have on the lives on their victims. Far too often, religion robs people of a powerful human experience by telling them what to do with their bodies, when to do it, how to do it, what reasons they should have for doing it, and with whom they should do it with (and if you don’t obey, you will burn forever in hell). Abrahamic religion makes its victims feel detached and resentful of their sexuality. It creates a culture of shame and guilt around sex. It stigmatizes “virginity” and reduces women to baby-making factories. It encourages mass mutilation of mens’ genitals. It is the sole force behind “abstinence only education” – a taxpayer funded program which keeps people ignorant about sexuality. It polices our expression of gender. It forces us into relationship structures that hurt us. It encourages poor, self-sabotaging behaviors in relationships. It apologizes for & even condones rape. It glorifies heterosexuality & men. It teaches people to be okay with discrimination and hatred. It punishes the innocent, from day 1, with a life of fear and unquestioning obedience where there should be discovery, bravery, and endless curiosity.

The latest in their never-ending assault on human beings is the Republicans/religious right’s war on birth control. I’ve got to say, they must be out of their minds if they really think this is the right battle for them. 99% of women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.

99%.

I’m in awe at the sheer stupidity. Whose bright idea was it to wage said “war” on birth control when it affects the vast majority of the population? Politically speaking, do conservatives realize that women fought for the right to vote 90 years ago…and won? OHAI Romney, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich–each of whom have laced their campaigns with sexism– just a reminder that women vote.

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Gaming is for STRAIGHT GUYS!

I love that more gamers are speaking out about the straight-white-male character domination in video games. Awhile ago, I had a tweet stream discussing Bioware’s outspoken stand against players who felt “violated” by the option to choose gay relationships in the game.

I’ll sum up the exchange.

Neglected straight male gamer“:

I don’t think many would argue with the fact that the overwhelming majority of RPG gamers are indeed straight and male. Sure, there are a substantial amount of women who play video games, but they’re usually gamers who play games like The Sims, rather than games like Dragon Age. That’s not to say there isn’t a significant number of women who play Dragon Age and that BioWare should forego the option of playing as a women altogether, but there should have been much more focus in on making sure us male gamers were happy.

“Neglected straight male gamer” translated: WAHHHH!!!! What about ME?! I’m a neglected majority! How dare you think about women & gays as much as ME? This is oppression! I’M MORE IMPORTANT, DAMNIT!!

Here was Bioware’s response:
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