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+38
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Let's discuss systematic oppression.

I want to preface this by saying that while this springs out of a specific discussion that some of us had going in one of the Ellen Pao threads, the things I am about to say are not about Pao specifically (though I might use references to her as a currently popular example) or any Reddit drama. This is about some large structural problems in society, something that is oftentimes easy to shrug off on the internet owing to anonymity, amongst other things: this is about systematic oppression, what it is, why we should care, and why as active members of the vastest communication channels in the history of time (I'm referring to all internet communities and modes of discourse on the web) have more responsibility towards fighting it, not less.

I wanted to write this post after some very well-meaning comments in this discussion that I started raised my concern and I hoped to engage this community in a conversation about oppression. It's not a pretty or fun topic and it almost always challenges us to address our own role, big or small, in the process, often to a point of discomfort. But from the moment I joined this community a few weeks ago (shortly before the recent big surge) I got the feeling that the users here were intelligent and thoughtful and open minded; perhaps you all would be willing to have this conversation. Let's just say I would never make this post on reddit. That said, if this is not content suitable for the lounge, please feel free to move it around as appropriate.

Now, I am a sociologist. Perhaps that's putting it a bit strongly; I am a second year Sociology Ph.D. student. And a woman of color and immigrant student in the United States. None of this is to say that I am in any way more qualified to speak to the issues of oppression, just that I tend to (and have been trained to) notice it a tad more in ways that the average person might not. Here is the short version:

Any behavior that contributes to the culture of oppression, sometimes in seemingly insignificant or innocuous ways, perpetuates a societal structure of oppression.

Individuals are deserving of criticism of all kinds of reasons all the time and recently in the Pao context someone made the argument that people are just expressing their frustrations with her perceived failure as an entrepreneur via attacks on any aspect of her being they can tap at. I want to quote user blitzen but would like to emphasize that this isn't a criticism towards him/her in the slightest, it's merely an example that serves to explain something I am getting at here. I apologize if this makes the user uncomfortable and will be willing to remove it in said case.

I think of it like getting cut off while driving. You might be angry at the driver, and yell insults based on age, race, gender, looks, baldness, big nose, whatever… You don't hate this person because they are say, bald, but it's the easy thing to pull out and insult with.

There is an astronomical difference between delivering insults regarding features such as looks, baldness or the size of the nose versus aspects such as race and gender. Sure some forms of the former are better desired by some members of society than others, but they don't signify a deep history and continuing struggle for equality in a large social structure of power, where certain groups have always landed on the subversive. There isn't a culture of oppression around baldness. There isn't a history of oppression for bald people. So using insults pertaining to baldness is in no way, shape or form the same as using gender or racial slurs.

It isn't about the individual who is being subjected to said insults, it's about how it represents and reinforces the systematic inequality that are already in place; one many of us want to fight. I can't speak for everyone, but most of us probably would want to see a society where all groups are equal. If we turn a blind eye to racial slurs and misogynist statements, or shrug it off as inevitable, then continuation of oppression becomes inevitable. This stands very true in real life, but even on the internet. Perhaps sometimes even a bit more on the internet. The internet is a virtual sample of the population, a sample that grows larger and larger by the day and eventually might encompass the whole population (in 20 years, 100 years I do not know). The internet isn't really an exception the world we live in, it's largely the norm. So in order to eradicate existing forms of oppression, sometimes it's important to not accept forms of behavior just because it's being committed by an anonymous group in a virtual platform.

Another user mentioned something along the lines of the concept of "playing the [race or gender] card." This phrase gets thrown around a lot in many places, and I get what people are trying to say: perhaps that some individuals are prone to using their minority status as an excuse/a tool/a ploy? Society isn't a game of poker, and if it were,any sort of minority would be the last person to have a real ace up their sleeves. Not all accusations of racism or sexism are warranted, sometimes they are baseless in the given situation. But again, if we think about it with the entire social structure in mind, minorities have throughout their lives experienced various forms of oppression at various points, sometimes directly as an individual, other times as member of a group that he/she may not even directly identify it -- think of how black men are overwhelmingly more incarcerated than any other groups, think about the STILL existing gender pay gap in OECD countries, etc. There is no race card. There is no gender card. There is the occasional individual who in isolated circumstances gains the odd benefit of their position in society which is made up almost entirely of disadvantages.

I took the time to write all of this because I care about these issues very deeply, and have developed respect for this community in a very short time so even if my message reaches 1 user that may now think about systematic oppression in a way he/she wasn't before, I will have considered my time well spent.

And I am also curious to see if this gets a discussion going and what other people have to say on the subject! Let's continue to be a unique community by being respectful, and maybe we can also be one of the first online communities that does not accept or make light of any small behavior that perpetuates systematic oppression, offline or online. Thanks for reading!

3 years ago by sushmonster with 67 comments

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Conversation 8 comments by 6 users
  • CDefense7 (edited 3 years ago)
    +15

    Sure some forms of the former are better desired by some members of society than others, but they don't signify a deep history and continuing struggle for equality in a large social structure of power, where certain groups have always landed on the subversive. There isn't a culture of oppression around baldness. There isn't a history of oppression for bald people. So using insults pertaining to baldness is in no way, shape or form the same as using gender or racial slurs.

    This is a good way of wording this. It often seems hypocritical for women to be offended by a man calling her a cunt or bitch when she can call him a dick. But the fact is, women have had a very recent history of being oppressed (and still are). The same goes for calling a black person a nigger and a black person calling a white person a honky or cracker. Black people have a recent history of oppression (and still are), so it means a lot more.

    So, bring up another subject from reddit, how does calling someone fat fit in to this? Does it depend on the circumstances? Where do these slurs fit on the scale? Have obese people been oppressed?

    Thanks for the opportunity to explore this topic!

    Edit: I'd be remiss not to link Louis C.K.'s take on offensive words (NSFW language).

    • sushmonster (edited 3 years ago)
      +9

      There is a growing body of academic literature on fatshaming and fatphobia, and the question of how that fits into the discourse of oppression is very open to debate. Generally, I would say most of us agree that it is distasteful and wrong to mock, ridicule and bully people because of their weight. It is definitely a form of discrimination that should not be tolerated. That said, I can't place my finger on where it falls in terms of oppression. I would be uncomfortable saying that this is less important than issues of race and gender, but perhaps less rooted in deeply conditioned historical social structures in the same way?

      • skully
        +5

        As a fat person who has ridden the yo-yo a few times, I can definitely say I face more discrimination while fat. Does it rise to the level of oppression? I can't say yet. I think if society keeps going in our current direction it will become oppression.

        • CDefense7 (edited 3 years ago)
          +4

          As an overweight man (also yo-yo a bit) in the United States, I don't experience discrimination more or less depending on weight. I also don't think that society, at least in the United States, is trending in the direction of oppression of overweight men. Now for women, I would more likely believe it.

          "More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese." - source

          I think that it is hard to claim oppression of a group that is over 2/3rds the population.

          Again, women are certainly treated differently. And again, I'd be remiss not to link one of the most amazing clips of the show Louie. "So did the Fat Lady"

          • skully
            +4

            I think how much you see may depend on where you are. I feel like I experience less of it when I travel to the middle of the country, as opposed to CA or NY.

            When I'm fat I have to dress better or I get treated worse. Soda refills are easy to get as a thin person, no matter how I'm dressed, but when I'm fat and dressed sloppy my soda goes empty a lot. People on the street will politely move out of my way if I'm neat and tidy while fat, but they'll just ignore me coming if I'm sloppily dressed. When I'm fat and dressed sloppy I'm confirming every stereotype people have of a lazy fat slob and that often carries over into how they treat me. (Side note: this gives me a very small window into what it must be like to be black, and have to actively fight the stereotypes of your race. I channel these experiences and thoughts into building empathy for them.)

            I agree with you that women have it worse. After the birth of our child my wife would get comments like, "I didn't even realize you were pregnant" which ends up being depressingly similar to the situation in the video you linked. In their mind they're paying a compliment, "oh, you didn't even gain any weight!" but all my wife hears is, "you were fat and got fatter so I didn't even notice." At that point the only socially acceptable thing she can do is smile and say nothing, even though she really wants to just lash out and burst into tears.

    • Kalysta
      +4

      Considering that the majority of Americans are currently overweight, does it change the significance of fatshaming any when it's a minority group (i'm assuming most of the fatshamers are of lesser weight) doing the oppressing?

      • skolor
        +5

        No.

        Systematic oppression does not in any way need to be directed from the majority group to a minority group. Take, for example, South African Apartheid, where a minority white population was oppressing multiple other ethnic groups. If we're talking about systematic oppression, all that matters is that the relatively small group with power in the society feels and acts negatively towards a some group of Others.

        As far as weight goes, there is apparent some research which indicates being overweight significantly impacts your ability to climb the corporate ladder, which is a common theme among other oppressed group. It obviously isn't the same as race or gender, as someone who is overweight can (in some cases) change their weight, while someone who is Black can't change their skin colour, but they are definitely similar issues.

    • rokkshark
      +2

      I don't know. In America at least, I would equate calling a man a dick with calling a woman a bitch. I often see 'oppression' listed as the reason why insults and discrimination can go one way, but not the other. At that point, it doesn't seem like people want to right a wrong, but they want revenge.

      I don't have a staked interest in calling people bitches or dicks or whatever, but isn't stating that it's not ok for one group to do something because of their gender/race/religion discrimination? How is it not?

Conversation 16 comments by 6 users
  • jonthecyclist
    +8

    think about the STILL existing gender pay gap in OECD countries

    I thought that this was debunked as being false/non existent (US Specific)

    Another user mentioned something along the lines of the concept of "playing the [race or gender] card." This phrase gets thrown around a lot in many places, and I get what people are trying to say: perhaps that some individuals are prone to using their minority status as an excuse/a tool/a ploy? Society isn't a game of poker, and if it were,any sort of minority would be the last person to have a real ace up their sleeves.

    But there is an ace up the sleeve. Sometimes women & POC go into situations in the wrong knowing that if something happens to them they can either cry racism or misogyny and their voices will be heard even though they are the antagonist. I saw a news story yesterday that painted a picture far from what this video showed. Lastly I feel that you might be subconsciously aware that people now (being far more PC) will be more inclined not to disagree with you because you stated that you are a female and a POC. Do I believe that information was necessary? Personally, no. Let your statements start from a neutral standpoint. Putting that information changes how people read and respond to your statements. Myself included.

    • sushmonster (edited 3 years ago)
      +8

      What do you mean "debunked"? As in there is recent statistical evidence stating otherwise? Can I ask for your sources? Because I'm certain that's inaccurate. Here is one recent source on the subject. If you prefer in-depth academic analysis, I can show you some journal articles as well.

      Sometimes women & POC go into situations in the wrong knowing that if something happens to them they can either cry racism or misogyny and their voices will be heard even though they are the antagonist.

      Yes, and so many times straight white men go into situations in the wrong knowing that if something happens to them, they are statistically more likely to get away with it because of their position of power. There are also straight white men who don't receive the advantage of their group. Just like some minority individuals get the occasional advantage. I addressed this in the OP. But none of that is the point. The point is the sum total of negative experiences on the structural level faced by members of the minority groups vastly outweigh the occasional positive benefits. The imbalance is so huge and institutionalized that "race card" and "gender card" is a meaningless attack on an individual.

      Finally, I mentioned my status as WoC not to get showered with agreements, rather to indicate one of the reasons why I care so much about these issues and notice it in ways maybe not everyone else would. It was important for me to mention that, but I surely wouldn't want it to obscure peoples' responses.

      • jonthecyclist
        +5

        Unrelated question: Is there a way to see if/when someone has replied to a comment you made? Thanks

        From your source:

        This analysis looks at the hourly earnings of all full- and part-time workers. It does not make adjustments for job title, status, and etc. but looks at the issue in the aggregate.

        Without taking into those things into consideration particular study is useless.

        The imbalance is so huge and institutionalized that "race card" and "gender card" is a meaningless attack on an individual.

        But it's not a meaningless attack. There are many instances where calling someone out on their attempt to use their race or gender to gain the upper hand is not an attack but a reality. Even in your example the "straight white men" (very specific choice of people) they are trying to use those same cards!

        Finally, I mentioned my status as WoC not to get showered with agreements, rather to indicate one of the reasons why I care so much about these issues and notice it in ways maybe not everyone else would. It was important for me to mention that, but I surely wouldn't want it to obscure peoples' responses.

        I see what you mean.

        • eilyra
          +5

          From your source:

          This analysis looks at the hourly earnings of all full- and part-time workers. It does not make adjustments for job title, status, and etc. but looks at the issue in the aggregate.

          Without taking into those things into consideration particular study is useless.

          A point I've seen brought up in similar discussions previously regarding the wage gap, is that can't it partially be explained by structural biases present in society? If a group of people are either less likely to be chosen for promotion or encouraged to seek jobs which pay less, wouldn't this contribute to creating a wage gap even if wages might be similar if we strictly look at cases where experience, education and title match?

          • jes710
            +7

            Maybe I'm being too particular, but my problem with this sort of argument is that while it does provide an explanation for a wage gap existing, it still doesn't provide evidence that there is a wage gap. This can have some negative consequences when trying to understand the issue in general and when trying to formulate policy to solve it.

            Let's say hypothetically that there was a study that compared earnings while making adjustments for job title, status, etc. and finds there to be no gap in the earnings that men and women make (This study that I linked below essentially says this, but I'm still unsure of this claim until I find more support for it ). However, there exists a large amount of evidence for structural biases that negatively affect women in the workplace. Is there a pay gap in a strict sense? No. Does this mean that gender in the workplace is an issue that should be ignored? Absolutely not. However, instead of saying that women make 77 cents on the dollar and arguing for equal pay, advocates really should focus on structural issues similar to those you mentioned.

            • loch
              +4

              I don't know any definite numbers (iirc its closer than 77 cents to the dollar) but in any event, a lot of the wage gap doesn't come from systematic sexism in the workplace from an employer's perspective- meaning the employer intentionally is sexist and pays women less despite having equal or better qualifications than men and/or equal/better work put in. Stigmas affecting women also come in the form of the encouragement to take lower paying jobs- not because they're lower paying, but because they're "traditional female" roles (schoolteacher, nurse, etc.) as opposed to high paying jobs that men are encouraged to take- STEM is probably the most prominent role. Women are more likely to major in humanities due to encouragement, or lower paying business majors- like Marketing as opposed to Finance. That's one reason, among others, for a wage gap.

          • jonthecyclist
            +3

            I don't see where women or others are encouraged to take lower paying jobs/roles. Quite the opposite in fact. However, such a bias is impossible to detect. Does it happen? Probably so. But looking at the facts it shows no disparity between the genders. If a business knew that it could get away with paying women less than an equal male counterpart, wouldn't they exclusively hire women to save money and raise profits?

            • eilyra
              +5

              I don't see where women or others are encouraged to take lower paying jobs/roles. Quite the opposite in fact.

              I do agree that active public initiatives are trying to get women into higher paying jobs & roles, but doesn't this also bring up the consideration why such initiatives are necessary? If they're created because women are underrepresented in such roles, what has caused this difference?

              If a business knew that it could get away with paying women less than an equal male counterpart, wouldn't they exclusively hire women to save money and raise profits?

              I don't think they'd get away with it overtly, no. But if there are differences in perceived performance due to biases, that may affect how careers progress for different individuals and over time create a gap. This, of course is insidious because it's subtle and hard to prove. I personally don't have experience with dealing with these matters, so I sadly can't even provide personal anecdotes (which I recognise aren't hard proof, but may provide indication at times).

        • sushmonster (edited 3 years ago)
          +5

          You get notified when someone replies to your comment! Your notification icon changes from gray to white, that's how you know if you have new notifications.

          Even in your example the "straight white men" (very specific choice of people) they are trying to use those same cards!

          It's very important that I communicate this effectively: that was very specific because that very specific group is in possession of power (political and structural) and so they don't have to use any cards: in a macro sense, they win by default (in the context of U.S. and similar societies).

          • jonthecyclist
            +5

            Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it.

            They win by default (in the context of U.S. and similar societies).

            Even if this is so, it doesn't mean that race or gender cards don't exist.

      • jes710
        +3

        Could you post some recent journal articles that provide some statistical evidence in your case? As jonthecyclist mentioned, the study you linked provided a grossly oversimplied analysis from a statistical perspective. Here is a journal article that essentially concludes that the uncertainty in estimating the wage gap is so large that the gap itself can be written off as statistical noise. This is not to say that gender discrimination in the work place does not exist, but purely that there exists no wage gap in a statistical sense. Additionally, this study also was based off of 1998 census data, and it would be interesting to see an application of their model to more recent as well as older data sets.

        • sushmonster
          +1

          Here are a few from 2015 mostly pertaining to OECD countries:

          - http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=016438411065463;res=IELHSS - http://cje.oxfordjournals.org/content/39/2/441.short - http://wol.iza.org/articles/wage-compression-and-gender-pay-gap

          Statistics always has noise. I work with a lot of data, I can confirm that there is only so much truth to the results of a multiple regression. But it's easier for me to believe the measurement for the pay gap have merit to it, given all the other structural gender biases in existence.

          • jes710
            +3

            Unfortuantely I can't access the article about Australia or the CJOE article, but the world of labor article you linked still seems (they didn't give many details on the emperical work they did, which always tends to makes me uneasy) to calculate the gender pay gap based on an aggregate pay averages. Is this really the best way to go about this, as it has some obvious issues in its analysis? As much as I'd like for structural gender bises to give sup-par statistics merit, that's not exactly how science works, and probably is not the best approach when trying to develop an accurate concensus about these issues. I'm not saying we need as complex as a model as the article I linked, but I'd be very interested to see some work that tries to take an approach somewhere in the middle.

      • 0x536e61707a75
        +2

        Article:

        Even though women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as professional and managerial positions, women as a whole continue to work in lower-paying occupations than men do.

        As you seem to have a considerable amount of knowledge on this topic, I inquire about the wage gap. If the majority of a gender were to lean toward jobs that pay less, human choice is the factor in which determines the claimed "wage gap". How does this constitute unbalanced payment?

    • eilyra
      +3

      Lastly I feel that you might be subconsciously aware that people now (being far more PC) will be more inclined not to disagree with you because you stated that you are a female and a POC. Do I believe that information was necessary? Personally, no. Let your statements start from a neutral standpoint. Putting that information changes how people read and respond to your statements. Myself included.

      Hmm, interesting point. I must admit to having forgotten she mentioned it by the time I started formulating my reply, but it is certainly something that may affect the responses of some. However isn't a reaction to such a statement also part of the discussion in a sense? Isn't that a indication that subtle biases exist in this area and as such doesn't that allow the reader to reflect on such issues?

      • jonthecyclist
        +3

        You make a very good point. My reasoning is that by mentioning is that it usually brings "positive bias" to the argument.

Conversation 8 comments by 5 users
  • skully (edited 3 years ago)
    +7

    Thank you for writing this, it's a very important conversation to have.

    One of the things I struggle with is how do I, as a white man, respond to bigotry (edit: or other oppression) I see online? When it's one of my friends (and over the years I have called out- and lost- friends who didn't see the problem with making bigoted jokes because "it's not like I believe that") I can bring some social pressure to bear, but how do I respond when it's some asshole trolling? I tend to fall back on "don't feed the trolls" and using a site's moderation tools when available. But what do I do when I run across something like /t/racerealism? The posted articles don't obliquely break site rules, but they're breaking the spirit of the rules.

    I also wonder what I, as a libertarian, can do to bring people around to the view that systematic oppression (which doesn't require any government involvement to propagate, although government is most often responsible for propagating it) is not compatible with libertarian philosophy. Learned helplessness will do more to prevent people from trying to exercise their natural rights than any outright ban ever could, and a populace where entire groups are afraid to exercise their rights is not a libertarian society no matter how you look at it.

    • sushmonster
      +6

      Wow, some of the articles of /t/racerealism are really quite problematic. You make a good point about violating the spirit of those rules! I think this is perhaps the wrong community for users of that tribe and they will (hopefully) be fazed and filtered out by members of the community. I also want to add: I was strangely pleased to read that you are a libertarian in support of social justice and inequality! Like everyone else, I come with my own set of prejudices, and as a "left-wing" (dislike this term) socialist...even straight up Marxist in some ways, I have come to unfairly associate libertarianism with right-wing philosophies, including those very much governing oppression. But it's always nice to be reminded of your own prejudices, and see people that challenge them! So I thank you for opening my mind up the slightest bit today. :)

      • skully
        +4

        The mod of /t/racerealism hasn't posted anything since, so I'm hoping that you are right.

        I will be honest: it is hard to admit I'm a libertarian sometimes. I'm well aware of what the stereotype is, and there is a large minority of vocal people who fit that stereotype. I'm glad I have a safe space to share my views without being attacked for being libertarian on one side and not being libertarian enough on the other. :)

    • douglas77
      +6

      But what do I do when I run across something like /t/racerealism?

      I really like /u/AdelleChattre's approach in this snap: cool-headed arguments. Sure, this might not be able to reach OP, but no one reading that thread will afterwards think about taking the advertised blog seriously. And maybe that's a much better outcome than simple censorship would ever have been able to generate.

    • TransDictator
      +1

      The main problem with this subject, is that it is inherently American-centric.

      As an egaliterian the themes surrounding this subject are so very willing to search for boogiemans. Which leads to a lot of segregation from people that feel attacked for a thing they have never felt a part of.

      Personally, I find the notion of white privilige a bit on the silly side. It focuses less on the problems that grow rampid about the stereotypes that are ankered in truths. And I mean this as much for the impoverished rednecks as the uneducated black ghettos.

    • jonthecyclist
      +1

      how do I, as a white man, respond to bigotry (edit: or other oppression)

      You respond as every other human should. I don't see how your race matters when you are online if nobody knows what it is. If you see racism, either respond (carefully) or report. Your statement reads (to me personally) like you should watch how you behave because of you are white and "privileged", which seems to be a growing trend.

  • [Deleted Profile] (edited 3 years ago)

    [This comment was removed]

  • ToixStory
    +12

    This is so well-written, I'm not even sure if I have anything to add to it, other than saying that this is a very important message that should be read by everyone. I do think on the internet it's all too easy to let prejudices run free due to a lack of social constraints. In particular, if a person we don't like happens to be from a different group, as evidenced in the Ellen Pao fiasco, racial and gendered insults and prejudices come out in full force.

    Thank you very much for writing this, it's one of those messages I'll be thinking about not just today, but for some time to come.

    • sushmonster
      +8

      No thank YOU for reading, and your kind comments. It means a lot to see such positive response to such a heavy and uncomfortable discussion!

    • [Deleted Profile]

      [This comment was removed]

  • eilyra
    +9

    So, I believe I can add something, specifically related to anonymous interactions over the Internet. A general theme I've noticed in several places, such interactions tends to have the other party assume you're white & male. Now this probably has to do with the demographics of the English speaking Internet, but still it does tend to show a marginalisation of other identities.

    Now there have been attempts at explaining why this might be a good thing (4chan, so crude language) though that argument fails to recognize that making a part of your identity know online shouldn't be seen as attention seeking. It also appreciate the way it reduces women to objects of desire (again, crude language).

    I personally haven't encountered this same discussion around race as much, possibly because it's a topic that doesn't get discussed enough or maybe it's something that can't be noticed through Internet communications as easily (e.g. if VoIP gets involved at some point, one's gender is generally revealed, race probably less so if there isn't an accent). Admittedly it's also something I'm not personally touched by, so that may contribute to my ignorance on the subject, so any sources are appreciated!

    P.S. Thank you for the very nice write-up! Hopefully I managed to contribute to the discussion. :)

    • sushmonster (edited 3 years ago)
      +5

      Admittedly it's also something I'm not personally touched by

      I think it's really great that this thought occurred to you. Have you ever heard of the concept of the invisible knapsack of privilege? It's a concept designed not to critique but rather explain one's inability to see one's own privilege. You recognize yours, which makes you more socially conscious than others who might not. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion; I'll check out those links when I'm not at work. :)

      • douglas77
        +5

        Wow, thanks for that link! Some of those are really insidious, and until now I was not aware of them, like

        18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

      • eilyra
        +2

        Have you ever heard of the concept of the invisible knapsack of privilege?

        Don't think I've encountered that before, no. It was an interesting read, thank you. Always interesting to see what things one may take for granted that may not be and may help with recognising when such thoughts inadvertently creep up on you.

  • StarFarts
    +9

    As someone brand-new to this community, I just want to express how refreshing it is that this is a discussion that can be had openly and thoughtfully in the main space of the site without all of the immediate hate and vitriol that I am used to seeing when this type of subject is brought up in places like Reddit.

    • 0x536e61707a75
      +1

      I agree. This type of discussion would have been downvoted to oblivion on Reddit. I'm actually rather interested in both sides of this issue. Would you mind sharing your thoughts in regard to systematic oppression?

  • namo (edited 3 years ago)
    +7

    As a Finn, it's been somewhat difficult/different to grasp the history side of oppression. I usually think that racism is always just as bad, be it from white to black or black to white. It's unreasonable to judge people by something like the color of their skin or what they have in their pants.

    But this got me thinking about discrimination against Sami people in the close history of Nordic countries, and I get it. If there were a derogatory name for them, and there probably is, I'd never use it as I really am sorry that my culture did what they did to them. Racism from me to them would be worse.

    Using the Finnish version of the n-word, "neekeri", doesn't carry the same load, but it usually does mean that you're either over 80 years old, or a finnish version of a redneck, "juntti".

    All in all, I think it has everything to do with cultures, and nothing to do with colors.

    Also, it's pretty great that you got only 1 downvote (while that too is just wrong by sites rules). Looks like Snapzu is the place you can have a real discussion ;)

    • sushmonster
      +1

      I just addressed the issue of context elsewhere in this thread. Reiterating:

      Thank you for raising the question of context. Since my remarks were born out of a discussion specific to a U.S.-specific contexts, I was referring to the structure of the U.S. (and similar societies) in the OP specifically. I agree that who is the minority depends on the context of culture, history and geography. But I stand by what you refer to as "some kind of flowchart hierarchy" because there always is one. The players might change based on context, but there is always a specific group in possession of power. The subversive group is almost always oppressed in some fashion. Might I suggest reading some Foucault on power?

      Also, agreed about Snapzu completely! It's a great community. Not everyone agrees with me but I haven't been viciously attacked or down-voted into oblivion; everyone is respectful!

  • Xeno (edited 3 years ago)
    +5

    I'm glad you took the time to create a post like this. As someone who is considered a minority in a couple ways, it's difficult to talk to people about these issues and I avoid them more often than I approach them. Phrases like "playing the race/gender card" often seem used to avoid and shutdown conversations like these, almost defensively.

    It's natural for individuals in the majority to get defensive when they are told they have a systemic advantage; I think it takes a much bigger person to look at the whole picture and understand the advantages and disadvantages society has made for them regardless of what innate identifiers they fall into.

    More recently, I got ballsy enough to talk to one of my friends about gender issues and was surprised by how receptive and understanding he was; this was so fundamentally different from other interactions I had when I was younger. It can really mean a lot when people outside of the disadvantaged group, especially those with society driven privilege, are able to acknowledge certain situations. Like you were saying, even if this sort of dialogue opens up the door for one person to think differently, critically and notice some systemic problems in our society, it's totally worth it.

    Thank you for creating such an eloquent post sushmonster!

    • sushmonster (edited 3 years ago)
      +5

      It can really mean a lot when people outside of the disadvantaged group, especially those with society driven privilege, are able to acknowledge certain situations.

      This UN campaign addresses exactly what you're getting at and you are completely right in thinking this way! Glad you liked the post! :)

  • native27 (edited 3 years ago)
    +4

    A discussion. Okay. As a newcomer, I'd like to hear this community's thoughts as to the cause(s) of systematic oppression. Then, once we have a view of the cause(s), perhaps we can entertain ways to remedy.

    My thoughts (one of them): I notice that people belonging to groups who experience systematic oppression sometimes participate in behavior that may be said perpetuate the oppression of other people/groups. I am no exception, so calling out myself, here, pretty much. I can participate in the oppression passively, by doing nothing, as you say -- not calling out others -- or by some sort of active behavior. Either way, passive or active, that participation is -- at its core --based in fear.

    • GiantWalrus (edited 3 years ago)
      +6

      Which systematic oppression, where? Directed by whom, against whom? In order to do what? Why?

      Any discussion of "systematic oppression" that characterizes "systematic oppression" as if it's some kind of cancerous disease that spreads everywhere in homogenous form is going to be flawed from the get-go. The strategies used by the post-Reconstruction American South to keep poor blacks and poor whites at each others' throats are going to be much different from the much softer strategies used by modern Hollywood to make Asian people feel like second-class citizens, and both are going to be much different from the much harder strategies used by the Ottoman Empire to hold occupied Bulgaria.

      Acts themselves are value-neutral without that greater context. One group might be on top in one area, and another group in another; a Croat shooting a Serb might be a valiant freedom-fighter on one side of the border and a bloodthirsty oppressor just ten miles away.

      Or the rest of the hierarchy might vary; for example, Jews got a much warmer welcome in the American South than they did in the North (because "at least they weren't black") even though the planter class stayed on top. A Jewish person trying to organize a mob to go after an Irishman might be administering well-deserved vigilante justice in one area and keeping the uppity poor down in another.

      Oppression might be situation-dependent; a white prisoner calling a black guard a "n*gger" might be an act of defiance in a prison system intended to dehumanize and degrade felons to the point of breaking.

      There can even be systems of overlapping oppression; "Tutsis" might oppress "Hutus" by being wealthier and controlling the economy of a country, while "Hutus" might oppress "Tutsis" through democratic power structures and/or by being more numerous and better armed.

      The OP, I think, ignores all this in favor of some kind of flowchart hierarchy, where "the minorities" are on the bottom and the more "minority" you are, the more oppressed you are by all areas of society (which of course all act in concert), and the less likely you are to have an "ace up your sleeve." That's a fundamentally flawed way of looking at things.

      • neg8ivezero
        +6

        Hm. I think your judgement of OP's opinion is a bit harsh but I also find a lot of common ground here between us all.

        Would it not be agreeable for us all to say that name-calling, stereotyping, and bigotry is morally reprehensible and should be avoided?

        Regardless of how such and such specifically effects so and so, we can see that resorting to picking at someones race, creed, religion, sexual preference, or social status is a weak way to argue a point, offensive, demeaning, and frankly childish. Can we not all agree that these types of actions should be frowned upon in society? Can we not also agree that we have a moral obligation to rise above such behavior and set a better example?

        I think so.

        • 0x536e61707a75
          +4

          This would be perfect, however bias would still remain within those who have had traumatic encounters with the aforementioned biased group. You can't just wish away bias in society. If such changes were to be fate, society as a whole would have to agree to and enforce this idea.

        • GiantWalrus
          +3

          Yeah, I'm for it. Mean people suck.

      • sushmonster
        +3

        Thank you for raising the question of context. Since my remarks were born out of a discussion specific to a U.S.-specific contexts, I was referring to the structure of the U.S. (and similar societies) in the OP specifically. I agree that who is the minority depends on the context of culture, history and geography. But I stand by what you refer to as "some kind of flowchart hierarchy" because there always is one. The players might change based on context, but there is always a specific group in possession of power. The subversive group is almost always oppressed in some fashion. Might I suggest reading some Foucault on power?

        • GiantWalrus (edited 3 years ago)
          +5

          I've read a couple of his essays, but haven't found them particularly compelling. I think he tries to imagine a forest where there isn't one, and misses the few, very large, trees right in front of him.

          I honestly think that's a symptom of problems with the sociological field as a whole. The necessary education is a huge, expensive barrier to entry, and there's a lot of competition for not very many and not very well-paying jobs, so it ends up becoming a rich man's (or woman's) field because only they can afford to play. (Anecdotally, all the sociology grads I met through law school were by far the worst of the "jet-setting" crowd, though you may have had different experiences.)

          As a result, oppression becomes a nebulous social force that manifests itself in the problems faced by rich people, rather than something generally perpetuated by rich people. So we have this weird scenario where oppression isn't the state's governor telling you that "your kind" isn't fit to rule yourself, and disbanding your elected government, like happened to (poor and black) Detroit. (Or at least there's no interest in talking about it that way.) And oppression isn't the local chemical company seeing you as subhuman scum and negligently poisoning your water supply, like happened to (poor and white) West Virginia. (Or at least there's no interest in talking about it that way.) Instead, oppression is the supermarket cashier being rude to you -- clearly because she has a biopolitical motive to control you.

          It really, really seems like rich people have latched onto a justification for being able to say "I'm oppressed too." It's better than "I have to pay more taxes," but only very slightly.

          • neg8ivezero (edited 3 years ago)
            +3

            Your view is fascinating. I can't say that I am compelled to agree but it is fascinating, none-the-less.

            In an attempt to address your post, I am going to lay out my interpretation of what you stated, please correct me if I have misrepresented your views:

            1. So, in a way, you believe in the "flowchart" of social hierarchy much like OP does but instead you see the rankings of this chart defined in dollar signs rather than color, gender, etc.

            2. Your argument states that personal action, attitude, and speech is trivial by comparison to larger, more powerful forms of oppression like that seen in law, business practices, and governing bodies of all kinds

            3. Addressing Societal Oppression as a problem in the context of everyday communication is merely a way for wealthy people to find something to complain about and/or make themselves a minority for the benefits of getting special recognition, sympathy, and/or political gain.

            Assuming that I have correctly understood your post, I think you have a valid point in that it may not be the highest priority when it comes to fighting against oppression but I think you may have missed the larger picture that it feeds into.

            There are still many civil rights issues that minority groups face in law, governing bodies, religious institutions, businesses, etc. These things are real and not subjective. An example: Atheists cannot hold public office in South Carolina and many other states. This is obviously oppression. Communication plays into these oppressive policies and circumstances by feeding the minds that agree with them. Many people don't mean it when they tell a racist joke, but a racist person who hears that joke may actually feel validated by it. The same is true in the context of the Ellen Pao controversy. If someone attacks her race in anger with no real racism meant, it may re-affirm another person's racism. This is what I believe OP was hitting on when she stated:

            Any behavior that contributes to the culture of oppression, sometimes in seemingly insignificant or innocuous ways, perpetuates a societal structure of oppression.

            Online posts and random comments here and there may seem innocuous and/or insignificant but they actually give validation to people who want to advance an agenda based on oppression.

            • 0x536e61707a75
              +1

              I concur, however how will these racist jokes die? One may think that they are not throwing fuel onto the fire and continue to do so. At what point should this behavior be curbed?

  • Holymanta
    +4

    Excellent post,I really agree with a lot of the points you made. Especially the part where if you just let offensive remarks and actions slide, and just say "it happens anyway" then the suppression grows because it's become the norm. I think it's a person responsibility to call out others when they are doing this.

  • spaceghoti
    +3

    Nicely written, thank you. :)

    Culture and privilege are like moving through air to us. They're so ubiquitous that we don't even notice them until something goes wrong. When was the last time you thought about the fact that you've moving through a gaseous medium, that it has weight and mass? The same goes with culture, interacting with people in ways that are so familiar to us we don't even notice we're doing it. Expecting things to just work or not work for us as a matter of course.

    It's a very human attitude because it behooves us to ignore the familiar while we focus on our goals. Wasting energy on examining every thought or action gives us less time and resources to address other concerns. And yet it's to our benefit to occasionally step back and take stock of our circumstances, re-examine all those things we take for granted. It can help us improve not only the lives of others but our own.

  • wekjak
    +3

    I pretty much agree with everything you've said. The question of how to deal with the problem, however, is a minefield. I'll be the first to admit that I think racism and sexism is disgusting behavior. It should opposed. But, there also needs to be places where an open exchange of ideas is readily available, and people with common sense need to be vocal in those arenas, openly challenging prejudice and hatred in a cool and rational manner.

  • rigel
    +3

    Really great analysis, thanks for writing that out. I would like to echo another comment here that said it was very refreshing to see this kind of thoughtful post.

    I think it's really unfortunate when issues like this happen, not only because of the social implications and the social injustice that is perpetuated from the slurs, misogynistic statements, etc; but also because those disgusting parts end up totally overshadowing the genuine criticisms. When there's a big group of people that oppose something, you'll probably only hear about the controversial, hateful, hurtful, etc kind of behavior that happens in that opposition, even if the people that say those things only make up a very small portion of the group. Peaceful, thoughtful protests aren't gonna get the same publicity that starting a riot will. And that is an unfortunate part of the modern shock-value-centered culture.

    I really hope that the genuine concerns and criticisms of Pao don't get overshadowed in the news coverage by the disgusting and hateful minority.

  • MelonLord
    +2

    Sure some forms of the former are better desired by some members of society than others, but they don't signify a deep history and continuing struggle for equality in a large social structure of power, where certain groups have always landed on the subversive. There isn't a culture of oppression around baldness. There isn't a history of oppression for bald people. So using insults pertaining to baldness is in no way, shape or form the same as using gender or racial slurs.

    This part caught my attention, and I don't really agree. The context is how a user said insults are drawn off of whats easy at the time, so I don't see how you can equate a meaningless insult about race with a symbol for anything with a deeper meaning or intention. If someone were to say to me, "You dirty wetback," I wouldn't think anymore of it than if they were to say, "You ugly SOB." I know, and I assume everyone else does, that an angry asshole is just an asshole, no matter what they are saying. My race usually has nothing to do with them being angry or rude any more than my attractiveness does. What that user was saying is true, in my opinion, because these spur of the moment insults are not intentionally symbols for oppression, and if the symbolism is not intentional, then it holds no meaning.

  • neg8ivezero
    +2

    I really applaud your bravery and positive attitude, it is truly inspiring- I don't know that I can match your level of eloquence and thoughtfulness, but I will do my best to make some kind of effort:

    It isn't about the individual who is being subjected to said insults, it's about how it represents and reinforces the systematic inequality that are already in place; one many of us want to fight.

    This is your key. In my humble opinion, the truth and real thesis of this whole topic lies in that one sentence. If we want to effectively remove societal oppression, we need to identify our target and it is NOT people, it is language. The key thing to remember is that most people using this language and contributing to the oppression have no idea that they are doing that and many share your feelings on equality and oppression.

    The problem with addressing this in online or real-life communities is that often times people are lumped into a villainous role with their language, and no one likes to be vilified. This happens most frequently when the person who addresses the oppressive language is on the opposite side of the debate.This is an unproductive way to broach the subject, as it makes people put up defenses immediately.

    The more successful method, in my opinion is to promote accuracy, and being concise. After-all, isn't it more effective to say "Ellen Pao has proven time and time again that she is not the right person to run Reddit. Her lack of communication, empty promises, and apparently callous treatment of employees is pulling Reddit in a direction that I do not agree with." than it is to throw out racial, gendered, or other offensive language? Name-calling doesn't solve anything and adults should know that but by trying to enlighten them on the moral implications of their words when you stand in opposition to their thesis, immediately paints you as someone talking down from a moral high-horse.. Being accurate is inherently more effective to any argument than name-calling and we should be above that regardless of societal oppression.

    All that being said, I think the best way to go about all of this is to speak out only when you agree with what you believe the person is ACTUALLY trying to say; this way you can voice their concerns in a more appropriate and accurate way and your criticisms with their use of oppressive language will not be seen as a way to belittle their argument but rather a genuine concern that they are not addressing the real issues. It is the differences between a teammate trying to make the team more effective VS. an opposing team giving your team criticism.

    Just my two cents- I think your cause is worthy and I agree with it, I just think it will get lost in a debate about something else if it is coming from the opposite side of the table in any given situation.

  • Katherine (edited 3 years ago)
    +2

    I wholly agree with this, and thank you for putting it so eloquently. However, this kind of discussion can only get us so far. What I personally would really like to see on Snapzu are snaps -- articles, opinions posts, studies, news stories, photos, anything -- that speak to this issue and/or take an inherently anti-oppressive stance. I'm seeing a lot of agreement here, and a little disagreement, and I think this conversation is an excellent start. But I think we need the classic "show rather than tell" that makes a good narrative, and to actively move in a direction that implicitly assumes an attitudinal shift -- "practice what you preach," and all that -- and it doesn't need to wait 'til we all agree.

    You mentioned you're doing a Ph.D. in Sociology -- I'd love to see what resources you can find and share.