Oppression, Privilege
& Systems of
Inequality
personal problems
versus social issues
1
The Social Order

Categories & Identities



2
Identities: Ways of recognizing similarities
and differences between people. Identities
are always relational.
Labels & Language matter when creating
and using categories and identities
Differences vs. hierarchies
Difference vs. Hierarchy
Male
▲
3
Female
Difference vs. Hierarchy
Male
White
Middle Class
▲
Female
Person of Color
Poor
4
The Mythical Norm
White, middle class, heterosexual,
abled, thin, young adult
5
The Gender Pyramid
Male
Female
religion
6
A representation of a
graduated, not binary
gender system that
reflects power and
privilege as it exists in
the world.
The Gender Pyramid
White, Male, Middle Class:
The mythical norm is really
a small, elite minority
Others
7
Levels of Inequality
 Prejudice &
Bigotry

Personal Level

Institutional Level  Discrimination

Structural Level
8
 Oppression
Forms of Discrimination
Aware/Blatant
 Aware/Covert
 Unaware/Unintentional
 Unaware/Self-righteous

9
Oppression
Those pervasive and systematic social
arrangements by which members of one
group are exploited and subordinated while
members of another group are granted
privileges
10
Types of Oppression
Types of
Oppression
Oppressed
Group
Privileged Group
Sexism
Women
Men
Anti-Semitism
Jews
Christians
11
Ideology & Oppression

When members of oppressing groups believe
dominant messages, it is easy for them not to
see their privilege and deny that others are
oppressed
12
Internalized Oppression

Although they can see the advantages given
to the privileged groups, oppressed
individuals can come to believe the dominant
messages & images that refer to them as
inferior

Internalized oppression is a consequence of
oppression that helps maintain inequality
13
Key Questions

How can we tell the difference between
suffering and oppression?


Why is it so easy to think that oppression
doesn’t exist in contemporary US society?


What are the consequences of stereotyping,
discrimination, and prejudicial behavior at the
structural level?
How are inequalities justified?
Why aren’t desire and ability enough to
overcome oppression?
14
Ideology & The “Isms”
Connections between discourse,
culture and forms of oppression
15
Key Questions



16
How do ideologies support institutions?
How do these ideologies show up in the
institutions that most affect your life?
Why is it so easy to think that oppression
doesn’t exist and that your privilege may be
justified?
Why aren’t desire and ability enough to
overcome oppression?
Ideologies:
the symbolic dimensions of power

Ideology—the taken for granted world view of
the dominant group

Ideology—the messages & images that the
dominant group sends out to society—works
to hide oppression and privilege
17
How ideology works
1.
2.
3.
4.
18
Justifies the status quo
Guides the activity and policy of a
particular group
Controls without using violence or
coercion through controlling symbols
Maintains the dominant position of
those who are able to “name the
world."
American Ideology:
Rugged Individualism &
Free Pursuit of Happiness
The bootstrap myth
stereotypes of the poor:
Welfare queens
 Lazy bums
 Immediate gratification
 Immature
 Irresponsible

19
What are your chances of reaching the…
With parents in
the…
Bottom quintile
Middle quintile
Top quintile
Top income
quintile
6.3 %
16.3 %
42.3 %
Middle income
quintile
17.3 %
25 %
15.3 %
Bottom income
quintile
37.3 %
18.4 %
7.3 %
Source: Thomas Hertz, American University
20
21
If things are so bad,
why don’t more
people complain?
Ideology works to justify inequalities &
place responsibility on individual:
“Everyone knows women can’t play
football as well as men”
“If you don’t make it, you didn’t try hard
enough”
22
If things are so bad,
why don’t more
people complain?
Tokens of success are better than nothing
 Oprah
 Hilary Clinton
 Jennifer Lopez
23
If things are so bad,
why don’t more people
complain?
Going against the norms, the prevailing
ideology involves great risk:
Loss of identity
Loss of community
Loss of life
24
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Oppression - Clark College