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Prepared by Dr.

Noelle Leslie dela Cruz


Associate Professor, Philosophy Department De La Salle University

Discussion questions for Oppression by Marilyn Frye

Iris Marion Youngs Five Faces of Oppression


Twelve common types of oppression

What is the difference between

being miserable/being limited or hindered/being frustrated and being oppressed? Think of a situation that is an example of being caught in the type of birdcage Frye describes. Can a persons confinement in such a birdcage be seen only by viewing the larger situation, as Frye claims?

Marilyn Frye

Frye says that the action of a man

opening a door for a woman is part of an oppressive structure. Do you agree? Frye believes that mens inability to cry is not a form of oppression. Does she make too little of this constraint on mens behavior? (Minas 2000: 10-16)

Marilyn Frye

The five faces of oppression,

as formulated by Iris Marion Young, refer to a comprehensive set of categories and distinctions that cover all oppressed groups and the ways in which they are oppressed

Iris Marion Young

A social group is a collection

of persons differentiated from at least one other group by cultural forms, practices, or way of life. Groups are an expression of social relations; a group exists only in relation to one other group.
Iris Marion Young

Oppression is traditionally understood as exerted by

a tyrannical power over a subordinate group

Hebrew slaves in ancient Egypt

However, oppression has since been redefined to

include the disadvantage and injustice suffered by people due to the everyday practices of a liberal society

The stays of Scarlett OHaras corset are tightened, in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind

The same person can be a

member of an oppressed group and a privileged group, e.g. a white woman In this structural or systemic notion of oppression, an oppressed group need not have a correlate oppressing group. Cf. Michel Focaults idea of the modernization of power

Michel Focault

In Jeremy Benthams idea of a model prison, there is

only one watch tower in the center of a circular set of glass-enclosed cells. Inmates actions are regulated by their subjective sense of being seen.

Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know that he does not see it. Someone who, being placed differently, does see it, does not know the other does not see it. Cf. Marilyn Fryes birdcage metaphor for structural or systemic oppression

Exploitation - the process by which the results of the

labor of one social group is transferred for the benefit of another E.g. The exploitation of black slave labor rationalized in part by heathen African religious practices

Marginalization - the process by which people whom

the labor system cannot or will not use, are expelled from or denied useful or productive participation in economic and social life, often resulting in material deprivation and dependency E.g. The marginalization of denominations outside the Protestant mainstream (Amish, Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists)

Powerlessness - inability to participate in making

decisions that affect the conditions of ones lives and actions; lacking in authority, status, and sense of self; limited concrete opportunities to develop and exercise ones capacities E.g. The political and legal powerlessness of Japanese American Buddhists to resist or avoid forced internment during World War II

Cultural imperialism - the process by which the

dominant symbols, activities, or meanings of a society reinforce the perspective of a dominant group while making invisible, stereotyped, or marked as other the perspectives of subordinate or targeted groups. Includes the presumed universality of the dominant groups experience, culture and religion E.g. The cultural imperialism experienced by Native American Indians relocated onto reservations and forcibly assimilated by Christian denominational mission boarding schools

Violence - random, unprovoked attacks against members

of (targeted or subordinated) social groups and their property, with the primary motivation to damage, humiliate or terrorize, and in a social context in which this violence is tolerated or even enabled by accepted institutional and social practices E.g. The violence visited upon individual Arab and South Asian Americans in the rapid acceleration of harassment and hate crimes from the mid-1970s up to and following 9/11 Source: Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2010

Sexism Heterosexism Cisgenderism Classism Racism Colorism Ableism

Lookism Sizeism Ageism Nativism Colonialism Speciesism

Oppression by Marilyn Frye, in Gender Basics (2000) ed. by Anne Minas The Five Faces of Oppression by Iris Marion Young, http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/youn g.pdf Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2010