“Five Faces of Oppression”
How it works
According to Iris Young’s piece, “Five Faces of Oppression” there are five different types of oppression, violence, exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, and cultural imperialism. These different types, according to Young, does not have to be from rulers. It can be from a democratic society and their rules and how they instill it on a group of people. For example, although a law can be passed to liberate women, it could also constrain people by limiting their access to many opportunities that can develop them as people.
In many cases, it does not have to be a law; it could be the social implications put onto women, that oppress other women. With this definition of oppression and the many ways to oppress someone, it is tough to escape an oppressive system without becoming an oppressor. The oppressive society women live with is something unavoidable. A person could be oppressed, and they would not even know it, because it is a part of this elaborate system that is difficult to change. In this complex world we live in today, although we may not think that we would do these things, women unintentionally may be an oppressor.
In Young’s piece, there are five different types, and each one has their extensive definition. An example I will use is a video by Samantha Bee called “Advice she Did not ask for” what is first interesting about this title is that it does not tell us who is receiving this said advice, but because it does not say who it is, it can be applied to any woman. Any woman could receive unwanted or unneeded advice that instills a stereotypical standard on them. This is precisely what happened to Hillary Clinton during the election. The election was wild from beginning to end, and it indeed showed the public’s colors. In many on the interviews conducted by many major networks, the interviewees were saying that Hillary must smile, or that she is smiling too much, or that her voice is too shrill. Not only do men consistently comment on her demeanor but so do women. Women unintentionally (or intentionally) oppresses women like Hillary Clinton with their expectations because women must be this type of person to be in any position in power. The oppressor can be women making or agreeing with comments that label women like Clinton as a person who should always be under scrutiny. To connect this back to Young, this oppression type would be cultural imperialism. In this case, these interviewers deem themselves as the ruling class in the world of politics, and they try to establish their ideology as a norm because to them, it is entirely absurd that Hillary Clinton is anything else than the way they want her to be. This means that these women, and men, are oppressors and they cannot escape this system because they believe a woman should be following a standard. If that mindset does not change, they will continue to be an oppressor.
In Crenshaw’s “Race, Reform, and Retrenchment,” Crenshaw defines a hegemonic rule. The hegemonic rule means to create the appearance of a unity of interests between the dominant class and the dominated. This means that although there may seem to be a connection between the dominant and the dominated, there is none. There is still oppression here. For example, in her piece, she talks about white women and feminism. Crenshaw says that when white women try to speak for black women, they do not see that they are privileged due to their race. The “single-axis framework” does not think about black women and their experience and they only think about how they can help all women, using their experience.
Furthermore, regarding rape law, white women fail to look at the history of black women and how rape was used to terrorize black women. This could be connected to the five faces of oppression because it is an unintentional marginalizing. Since white women are speaking for women by basing it on their own experience, it is impossible to include all groups that face that oppression. Also, in Crenshaw’s view, it seems that she is also calling white women oppressors because they are unintentionally oppressing black women by not including their experience.
According to Kate Manne in the chapter “Discriminating Sexism,” women are forced into a patriarchal system that limits their roles in society. Manne says that there is a difference between misogyny and sexism. Sexism functions as the justificatory branch of patriarchy and misogyny functions as the law-enforcement branch. This means that the typical enforcers of the patriarchal system use it to enforce demands on women. For example, having many roles such as “morally good” roles and have affectionate and caring roles. Sexism, according to Manne, is the defense as to why women should be treated as inferior. Misogyny is an act of dehumanizing a woman, and it explains how women’s inferiority should be enforced. This means that sometimes misogyny is used to instill patriarchal values onto women so they can follow a system to get to a specific position. This means that to Manne, women are oppressed because the patriarchal system men created. This also means that women may oppressor other women because they are following this said system. Women are not to blame for other women being oppressed by their feats because they are just following a system that was created by men, and women have no control over how that can change, so they sadly have to follow that system. This is an interesting agreement because it shifts the blame as the oppressors and the oppressed and how the system is the one that forced other women to be oppressed. However, this also proves that we cannot escape the fact that someone could be an oppressor because women have to follow this patriarchal system to move up the ladder. If they want a job that may prove themselves as capable people, they have to go through that oppressive system to do that.
In the video Love Advent, Emily Ratajkowski smothers herself with spaghetti to show that women should not be told how to eat. In another video called “TERFS” Tiffany shows how women criticize how women are told how they should eat by smothering her face in ribs. Both could be seen as acts of empowerment. Both show that women should not be told how to eat food because there is no feminine way to eat food. This act of empowerment is presented in two very different ways, even though these two women have the same idea. In Emily’s video, yes, she is trying to be the voice for other women to not care about how there is a stereotypical way for women to eat. However, this could also be seen as a case of unintentional oppression. Through this video of Emily, she uses her body to show that it is acceptable for women to not eat in a certain way, but her empowerment could be someone else’s oppression. There may be many other ways to show that women do not have to “eat feminine” to be taken seriously and women do not have to present their bodies to see that women do not have to eat a certain way.
Although it seems impossible to escape an oppressive society without becoming an oppressor, acknowledging the facts and respecting other people’s views is a start to combatting this complex topic. In bell hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Among Women,” hooks has a very positive outlook on how women can enact change while still being respectful to one another. Women, specifically bourgeois women in hooks case, have to understand that all women want to fight oppression, but we have to respect one another’s views, and we should not follow the patriarchal view that we have to bad-mouth other women. Respecting one another is the first step to fight sexist oppression. The way I see it, this shows that we can escape an oppressive system, but we also have to accept that women can be oppressors. Although we blame the system, blaming something does not change the fact that we can oppress other women. However, undersetting that we all share the same goal is essential and something that can bring change. Optimistic? Yes, but it is one step for a more significant cause.