What is Gendered Oppression?

Gendered oppression is the systemic manner in which certain groups are privileged or disadvantaged because of their gender. Because gender is such an integral part of society, we may unconsciously subscribe to harmful and inaccurate gender stereotypes. These socially constructed assumptions about gender do not describe essential characteristics of men, women, and people outside of the gender binary, yet they often claim to. This maintains the gendered power difference that allows certain groups to benefit (socially and economically) at the expense of others.

The maintenance of gendered oppression is systemic and structural. In other words, it results from everyday practices and unquestioned assumptions within society, not necessarily from a few individuals in power. The dissemination of gendered oppression can often be subtle. Popular jokes or comments can be very effective means of spreading and maintaining harmful gendered attitudes.

Gendered oppression does not act in isolation. It intersects with discrimination based on race, sexuality, ability, class, age, history of incarceration, religion, language, and citizenship status. Analysis of any one of these oppressions alone is insufficient; each reinforces the other. In addition, the intersection of oppressions is not simply a linear combination of the individual oppressions. For example, a Black lesbian’s experience is not just the composite of a Black man’s and a white lesbian’s oppressions. For these reasons, tackling gendered oppression necessarily involves exploring all other forms of oppression.

Read about it:

Iris Young, “Five Faces of Oppression.” Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton University Press. 1990.

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