From Le Hub/The Climate Justice Organizing HUB
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Oppression is "the social act of placing severe restrictions on an individual group, or institution. Typically, a government or political organization in power places restrictions formally or covertly on oppressed groups so they may be exploited and less able to compete with other social groups. The oppressed individual or group is devalued, exploited, and deprived of privileges by the individual or group who has more power." - Phil Barker [1]

Moreover, "oppression may arise not just because society actively seeks to disadvantage some groups of people but rather because of the effects of societal norms, laws and unchallenged assumptions" - Ruth Northway [2]

Oppression is unjust imbalances of power and privilege that formed historically, have been institutionally entrenched and continue to be perpetuated over time due to systems of domination (colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy etc.)

Fundamentally, certain groups in our society and communities hold power over others because of their membership in those groups. We call systems of domination systems of oppression when we focus on the imbalances they have created. [3]

There is a historical domination of certain groups over others which continues to be perpetuated thanks to the institutions (banks, state law, police, etc.) that they have put in place. These are oppressive in the ideology and practices forming their basis.

If you look at the demographics of CEOs in big business, city councils, parliaments, etc., you will notice that most, if not all, of these positions of power are held by (publicly heterosexual) white men. Conversely, if you looked at the demographics of janitorial staff or fast food workers, you would find that these positions are filled largely by people of colour." -Stephanie Jeremie, La Forge

Examples of Oppression

The following illustrations from Mary Pender Green outline several examples of forms of oppression. Please also see our definitions page for marginalization for examples of marginalized groups.

For more examples of oppression and how they intersect, see our definitions page on intersectionality.

Other resources

Oppression Olympics (term used when two or more groups compete to prove that they are more oppressed than others)

Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to kenzie@lehub.ca.

Creative commons.png
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Back to Homepage