Cases of oppression are common in modern society. The situation is brought about by the various inequalities existing among different people in the community. To this end, it is noted that individuals have varying access to resources, including power, economic influence, and social status (Csiernik, 2003). In some instances, those in power may use their privileged positions to exploit the individuals below them in the social and political hierarchy.
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In this paper, the author will analyze the issue of oppression in the context of Bishop’s presuppositions. A review and summary of Bishop’s definition of oppression will be provided. The author of the paper will highlight how they have experienced each of the various categories of domination. Other issues addressed in this essay include the different forms of oppression and why they exist.
Bishop’s and Textbook Definitions of Oppression
Life in modern society is characterized by several instances of oppression. The social situation is based on several biases. In their book, Bishop (2002) identifies some of the root causes of the biases that lead to the oppression perpetrated against some people in society. The Political Processes course seeks to expound on these biases and analyze how oppression manifests itself in a given community.
Definition of terms
In their text, Bishop (2002) is alive to the fact that oppression exists in all societies. The domination occurs with or without the consent of the individuals in the community. What this means is that there is no consensus between the oppressed and the oppressor. According to Bishop (2002), oppression encompasses power about the rights of the people. To this end, this form of domination is regarded as the abuse of power to enforce unequal relationships in society. In most cases, individuals are denied their human rights. In other instances, these freedoms are abused due to oppressive mechanisms prevailing in the community. To understand the oppression concept, Bishop (2002) introduces several elements that constitute systems of dominance. The systems of oppression, according to Bishop (2002), include the following:
- Sexism, and
Classism, as the name suggests, is a form of discrimination based on people’s social standing. Bishop (2002) advances the notion that societies are made up of a hierarchy of classes. Under this oppressive system, the dominant classes deny the subordinate clusters certain rights and values. Classism is the most common form of oppression in the modern world.
Racism, as a form of oppression, is understood from the fact that there is diversity in a society based on people’s biological differences. Bishop (2002) is of the view that certain societies are ordered in biological hierarchies. To this end, those perceived to be lower in the biological hierarchy are denied certain fundamental privileges by those occupying higher levels.
Ageism, as a system of oppression, derives its bias from the age of the individual. Bishop (2002) looks at this concept from the perspective of prejudice perpetrated against a group of people owing to their age. The society institutes certain parameters that lockout some groups from enjoying certain privileges, such as employment, due to their age.
Disabilities among individual members of society are non-changing variables. Bishop (2002) defines ableism as an oppressive system based on this concept.
Sexism is a form of prejudice based on genders. Bishop (2002) argues that sexism is used as an oppressive system to deny people of a certain gender given rights. Examples include the right to vote, which was a preserve of the male gender in early societies.
Societies are characterized by relationships that are cross-cutting with regards to definition and understanding. Homosexual and heterosexual unions are examples of such engagements. Bishop (2002) points out that some societies create oppressive systems against same-sex relationships. Such a system is referred to as heterosexism.
As an individual, I have experienced the oppressive systems listed above, either directly or indirectly. Bishop (2002) observes that classism is largely determined by economic status. During a trip to a foreign country, I was booked to the economy class. I received substandard services compared to a colleague of mine in the same flight who was in business class. I have also experienced racism given that police officers tend to suspect me of being an illegal immigrant. My Hispanic background contributes to such racial stereotypes. According to Brooks and Menard (2013), ageism is most common in employment circles. I have been denied several job offers owing to my lack of experience, which is partly due to my age.
I have a relative who is paralyzed and has to use a wheelchair. Unfortunately for him, there are certain areas of the city where his mobility is limited. Based on the description of ageism, many societies develop their infrastructure by disregarding the wellbeing of the disabled (Brooks & Menard 2013). On one occasion, I had to carry my relative up several flights of stairs since there was no ramp for his wheelchair. I have also suffered indirect sexism having witnessed my mother being denied employment at some point due to her gender. The company preferred a man and, as a result, our family suffered. Finally, I have a friend who is gay and who has faced discrimination based on his sexual orientation. Consequently, he is unable to enjoy the benefits of being in a marital relationship.
Effects of the Oppression Systems
The oppression systems have a direct effect on my thoughts. Brooks and Menard (2013) suggest that domination is a form of mind control mechanisms employed by the members in elevated hierarchies. As an individual who has experienced some form of oppression, I tend to feel inferior to Caucasians. My black friends erroneously assume that given my skin color, I am not discriminated against by the system. The relationship between us is usually cold at best.
As already indicated, I have experienced discriminations based on ageism and heterosexism. The two are some of the barriers that I encounter in my daily life. Bishop (2002) indicates that employment and social life are integral aspects of human existence. Individuals enjoy certain rights and privileges with the help of these concepts. Due to ageism, there are certain employment opportunities that I miss out on. Separately, owing to my friend’s sexual orientation, it is difficult for me to interact freely with people of my gender. They tend to associate me with his sexual orientation. The developments impede my social life.
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Being an Oppressor
Advantages of an Oppressor
Oppressive systems arise due to the many cases of prejudice and denial of privileges. Oppressors are known to perpetuate violence and advance discrimination against target groups (Bishop, 2002). However, most people do not appreciate that some of these oppressive systems are beneficial. For instance, when the lower classes are given low-quality medical services in public hospitals compared to those in higher echelons of the social ladder, they are forced to seek alternatives from the privately-owned facilities. The same acts as an economic advantage to the elite class, which has privatized healthcare.
My Role as an Oppressor
As an oppressor who propagates ageism, I have found my acts to be beneficial at times. According to Bishop (2002), ageism is common in the employment sector. It is common to find companies seeking to improve performance by offloading aged employees from the workforce. Regardless of the biased treatment of these employees, the results are beneficial to the companies. Some of these employers prefer employees who are my age, but who are experienced. The situation is an indication of how I may benefit as a result of my age.
My Membership to Groups and my Role as an Oppressor
As a member of the Hispanic community, there are several groups that I belong to. Bishop (2002) observes a trend where persons tend to seek refuge in their communities when attacked by others in society. My worldview has been shaped by the struggles I have to go through. The opinions shared by other members of the community are that struggle is the only way through which we can access education and other privileges. The reason is that access to state scholarship is skewed in favor of the Caucasians. Separately, associating myself with a community of same-sex couples has made me realize that equality is possible. My membership in these groups has made me realize that most of these prejudices can be broken. All it takes is an aggressive commitment to bring them to a halt.
Analyzing Chapter Five
In chapter 5, Bishop (2002) talks about the similarities and differences between the various types of oppression. According to Bishop (2002), some of the differences entail the hidden benefits of oppressive systems. Bishop (2002) also mentions the common grounds between these clusters of domination. In this section, the various aspects of oppression are discussed in length:
Similarities between the Oppressive Systems
There are certain parallels between heterosexism and ageism. For example, Bishop (2002) points out that at the core of all oppressive systems is the element of prejudice. The element is shared across all repressive structures. Some jurisdictions come up with laws that spite same-sex unions. The situation is similar to sexism, where women are denied certain privileges due to their gender.
With regards to ageism, redundancy in companies is assumed to be caused by people who are old. It is noted that this is not entirely true. However, some members of a society experience a violation of their rights. Another element of similarity between the oppressive systems touches on indoctrination. According to Bishop (2002), some societies make it a norm to oppress those perceived to be from low cadres.
Differences between the Oppressive Systems
The primary variation between the oppressive systems entails the element of power. In most cases, oppression is carried out by the ruling elite. However, such aspects as sexism and heterosexism differ from classism and racism. Bishop (2002) argues that the latter two are brought about by the ruling elite, whereas the former two can exist without a power structure in place.
Separately, there exists a disparity in the manner through which the different oppressors enjoy their privileges. Csiernik (2003) points out that some groups of oppressors are known to award privileges to the high entities. However, in cases of heterosexism and sexism, the privileges tend to vary. One may find economically able individuals who are unable to access certain rights, such as marriage and employment, due to heterosexism and sexism. Regardless of these variations, it is important to appreciate the relationship across the entire strata of oppression in any given society
Oppressive systems are meant to propagate satisfaction for the members of the community who believe that they are superior to others. To this end, it is possible to find societies that encourage the existence of certain oppressive systems. In light of this, Bishop (2002) makes reference to ageism and classism. In most societies, the upper and middle classes control the economy. Such parameters are unlikely to change. It follows that many oppressive systems, such as ageism and classism, will persist. Bishop (2002) finds that the economy is the common ground between the different formations.
Companies that are owned by the elite tend to prefer efficiency. As such, ageism will be propagated in such a way that it becomes acceptable to the individuals. Similarly, Bishop (2002) advances the notion that certain classes will create comfort zones for themselves. In both cases, the common ground is that the society functions best with the institutionalization of both oppressive systems. On their part, heterosexism and sexism find common ground in that sexual prejudices are widespread in society.
Analyzing Chapters Six and Seven
Changing Oppressive Systems
Oppression becomes acceptable once members of the public get comfortable with the status quo. According to Bishop (2002), several changes can be made to do away with oppressive systems. In the first case, Bishop (2002) argues in favor of changing the education system. Religion is seen as a major channel through which sexism, heterosexism, and ableism are advanced. The change in this regard is meant to ensure that members of the society access education that is devoid of religious overtones. However, in a bid to avoid discrimination against religions, the study of these faiths should be made optional. That way, society will begin to reevaluate the prevailing biases without external influences.
Another change entails liberating people from the oppressive systems using the information they consume. Bishop (2002) argues that issues like racism and classism are brought about by the skewed nature of information fed to the public. For instance, movies that depict Asian females as sex slaves and Hispanics as casual laborers perpetuate the predetermined hierarchy of race in society. An effective move to counter this will entail carrying out a campaign to advance the principles of equality within the larger spectrum of the society. The case applies to classism since perception is created to the effect that economic inequalities are legal bases for violation of rights.
Ableism and ageism are other key areas that can be reformed through an effective public awareness campaign. The important element is that such campaigns are intended to counter predetermined notions in various societies. According to Bishop (2002), agitation is one of the most effective mechanisms through which change can be realized. To this end, the agitation should be advanced aggressively.
Changing to Become an Ally
Regardless of the oppressive mechanisms prevailing in a given society, it is possible for individuals to ‘ally’ themselves with the exploited masses. Bishop (2002) argues that such a move is one way of ending oppressive systems. However, the hostility associated with these groups is the main obstacle that prevents the oppressed from interacting with their oppressors. The first form of change to be carried out to deal with the situation will entail stopping the exploitation of privileges brought about by the oppressive systems. Bishop (2002) observes that many beneficiaries of these structures enjoy the privileges without direct oppression. Avoiding the exploitation of these benefits is a sign of goodwill to foster the said alliances.
Another effective change will be the collaboration between the oppressors and the oppressed to phase out institutionalization of the systems. Bishop (2002) regards legislation as an effective channel through which this can be achieved. The minority groups can work together with the oppressors to formulate laws that will ultimately end the oppressive mechanisms. Another change will restructure the manner through which people interact. Oppressors should begin engaging with the oppressed in a manner that illustrates equality. Such a move allows people to embrace the spirit of equality. In the long term, they will do away with prejudices based on race and other factors.
Partnership with Clients
The text by Bishop (2002) makes an interesting argument that supports the idea of forging alliances. Diversity is a common constant in many societies. As such, there is a need to create bridges to meet the goals of different members of society. Bishop (2002) supports the creation of alliances in spite of the inevitable nature of oppression in society. Information from the text is invaluable concerning partnerships, which are a key aspect of the empowerment approach. One such area focuses on the need to drop hard-line stances.
Prejudices lead to oppressive systems like racism. Bishop (2002) argues that the idea of one race being superior to another is an example of a hard-line stand. Building alliances will ensure that partnerships are developed to do away with such situations. In the book, Bishop (2002) advocates for the need to appreciate the hierarchical orders existing in a given society. To this end, such an understanding allows one to appreciate the fact that equality and equitability are not the same. The realization will assist in fostering partnerships through empowerment. The reality is that one party has to be powerful than the other for the mechanism to work.
In this paper, a critical analysis of oppression was provided from the viewpoint of Bishop and their writings. It was revealed that coercion and domination is a common feature in many societies. The author of the paper determined that they had played the role of both oppressor and oppressed at one time or the other in their life. The experiences have an impact on how the author interacts with other people in society and with clients in their professional life. Also, some similarities and differences were evident between the researcher’s personal experiences and the various forms of oppression.
Bishop, A. (2002). Becoming an ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
Brooks, S., & Menard, M. (2013). Canadian democracy: A concise introduction. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Csiernik, R. (2003). Responding to the oppression of addiction: Canadian social work perspectives. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.