WHAT IS ANTI-OPPRESSION?
Oppression is the use of power to dis-empower, marginalize, silence or subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or to privilege the oppressor. Social oppression may not require formally established organizational support to achieve its desired effect; it may be applied on a more informal, yet more focused, individual basis.
The movement towards Anti-Oppression seeks to recognize the oppressions that exist in our society, and attempts to mitigate its affects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.
Basically there are certain groups in our society and communities that hold power over others based on their membership in those groups. For example, if you were to look at the demographics of lead roles of any major corporation, city council, parliament etc. you would notice that most of these positions are held by white (publicly straight) males. On the flip side, if you were to look at the demographics of janitorial staff or fast food workers you might notice that these positions are held largely by persons of colour, specifically women of colour. When studying the statistics of those receiving social assistance, you would also note that the majority of those in our communities living in poverty are people with disabilities and the elderly.
Marginalized groups: Women | People of Colour | LGBT2IQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, 2spirit, Intersex, Queer people | Seniors/Elders | Folks with disabilities | Low-income people | People of Indigenous ancestry | Children/Young people |People of a unique size | Peoples with mental health issues | New immigrants/Refugees | ELL – English Language Learners | ESL English as a Second Language| etc. (Certainly there are more.)
Practicing anti-oppression is not only confronting individual examples of bigotry, or confronting societal examples, it is also confronting ourselves and our own roles of power and oppression.
Though you may be a person that would never think to ever say anything racist/sexist/classist etc., by not realizing the power that you hold, and how your actions affect other people you will inevitably fall into sustaining and contributing to a larger system of oppression.
Kyriarchy: the theory that individually we are all oppressed while we are all oppressors. While you may be a person who is historically marginalized you may also have a role and be a member of a group that is oppressive to others (e.g. while you are a person of colour, you may also be a man, an able-bodied person, upper/middle class, straight etc.) The idea is that no single oppression holds more weight than another, and that we all have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.