Internalized Oppression

Anthropology, History, Psychology, Sociology and other related areas.

Internalized Oppression

Postby CanadysPeak on January 13th, 2012, 12:43 pm 

In sociology, and in psychology, there is a current theory about behavior by marginalized groups, called internalized oppression. I quote the least confrontational definition I find,

"In sociology and psychology, internalized oppression is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves.

For example, internalized racism is when members of Group A believe that the stereotypes of Group A are true and may believe that they are less intelligent or academically inferior to other groups of people.

Any social group can internalize prejudice."
from A Celebration of Women

Examples may be seen in domestic violence police calls, when the abused partner, in defense of the abuser, turns against the police. On a smaller scale, we see a similar behavior in the so-called Stockholm Syndrome, which some will recall as the cornerstone of the Patty Hearst defense. Another example (albeit more self-aware) can be seen in the YouTube video, Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls,



There are quite a few "Shit . . ." videos, but this one is also funny.

Internalized oppression theory tells us that the members of the marginalized group use these behaviors as a defense mechanism against otherwise unbearable cognitive dissonance. Thus, we cannot expect those marginalized people to "step out from behind their masks" unless they feel safe in doing so.

Those of us in the hegemony (I, for example, am white, straight, male, educated, have no significant disability, and so on) have no need for this behavior. Our task, it seems, is how to recognize the value this behavior has for those who do exhibit it, and how to also recognize the consequences to the overall society should marginalized members not have such a safety valve.

Yet, it all seems so unfair. Blacks can say, "nigger" and Whites can't. Women can demand equal pay and expect men to hold doors. Persons with deafness feel free to "sign behind the back" of hearing persons. We are outraged at the "one-wayness" of it all. After all, we "gave" Blacks the vote; what more do they expect?

The challenge, and the discussion I invite, is how we in the hegemony can be strong, assured, and charitable without being oppressive, arrogant, and condescending. How can we give others the "safe space" to step away from internalized oppression? Could we really vote Tanya "not guilty"?
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby Serpent on January 13th, 2012, 1:52 pm 

Here is a start:
Unless you are also in the top 0.01% of wealth and power, you are a member of an oppressed group, no matter how entitled and safe you feel. Consciously or unconsciously, you elevate some people as your superiors (i do mean elevate, because they would be nothing out of the ordinary without your support, without your assumption of inferiority) and you help to enforce their rule on the rest of the people. If you can work that out - recognize your position and function in the social scheme and see the mechanism of your own self-oppression and your oppression of others, then you get a clearer picture of their positions and some glimpse into their mind-set.

Then, look closely at the people near you: mother, nephew, friend, employee, neighbour - and think about their history. Try to place them on a mental diagram or grid (heck, draw a real one, why not?) of social relations. Listen for their estimate of self-worth from this new perspective, and give them opportunities to vent, and to depart from self-oppressive behaviours in your comforting. supportive presence.
** And then, ferchrissake do not abuse the power this will give you!!
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby CanadysPeak on January 13th, 2012, 2:10 pm 

Serpent wrote:Here is a start:
Unless you are also in the top 0.01% of wealth and power, you are a member of an oppressed group, no matter how entitled and safe you feel. Consciously or unconsciously, you elevate some people as your superiors (i do mean elevate, because they would be nothing out of the ordinary without your support, without your assumption of inferiority) and you help to enforce their rule on the rest of the people. If you can work that out - recognize your position and function in the social scheme and see the mechanism of your own self-oppression and your oppression of others, then you get a clearer picture of their positions and some glimpse into their mind-set.

Then, look closely at the people near you: mother, nephew, friend, employee, neighbour - and think about their history. Try to place them on a mental diagram or grid (heck, draw a real one, why not?) of social relations. Listen for their estimate of self-worth from this new perspective, and give them opportunities to vent, and to depart from self-oppressive behaviours in your comforting. supportive presence.
** And then, ferchrissake do not abuse the power this will give you!!


You make several good points. I am, no doubt, oppressed in some sense, yet I don't feel that, and don't find a need to behave as though I am oppressed. No matter the pecking-order in the hegemony, I am in the hegemony. I never carefully place my hands on top the steering wheel when a blue light comes on behind me. I never think to ferret out how much more the women on the job earn than I do. I never stand at a bus stop at 10 pm and watch the last bus not even slow down for me. Donald Trump or Milt Romney may determine how much money I have, but they cannot determine how I feel about my place in society.

The idea of thinking about a person's history is a very good one. I don't understand the point you make about this giving you power. Can you amplify that?
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby Serpent on January 13th, 2012, 2:37 pm 

I'm not saying that your introspection will make you a victim - only that it may give you some insight into how self-oppression operates, so that you may recognize it in others who are far more oppressed than yourself.

It's not reflecting on the more oppressed person's history that gives you power - that just gives you better intelligence. What gives you power is listening.
Listeners learn secrets. Sympathetic listeners learn the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of other people. And when those other people are already less entitled, less secure than you are, it's easy to hurt them.

On the other hand, helping someone improve their self-esteem, helping to liberate someone from oppression, is such a terrific boost to one's ego, if you become too good at it, you may have to wear lead boots to remain earth-bound.
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby mtbturtle on January 14th, 2012, 2:26 pm 

ah ok Stockholm Syndrome - I think of Patty Hearst
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby CanadysPeak on January 14th, 2012, 5:19 pm 

mtbturtle wrote:ah ok Stockholm Syndrome - I think of Patty Hearst


Tania, or Tanya. Do you know which is right? I think I used to. But anyway, she acted as required by the threat of further force and identified with her captors. Her reversion from that was so utter after her release that a former police officer fell in love and married her.
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby newyear on January 26th, 2012, 3:23 pm 

CanadysPeak wrote:In sociology, and in psychology, there is a current theory about behavior by marginalized groups, called internalized oppression. I quote the least confrontational definition I find,

"In sociology and psychology, internalized oppression is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves.

For example, internalized racism is when members of Group A believe that the stereotypes of Group A are true and may believe that they are less intelligent or academically inferior to other groups of people.

Any social group can internalize prejudice."
from A Celebration of Women



Good subject, Canadys. Are we to assume that when you refer to groups, they are organised and have an objective? Or, do you mean minority groups in general?
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby CanadysPeak on January 26th, 2012, 4:22 pm 

newyear wrote:
CanadysPeak wrote:In sociology, and in psychology, there is a current theory about behavior by marginalized groups, called internalized oppression. I quote the least confrontational definition I find,

"In sociology and psychology, internalized oppression is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves.

For example, internalized racism is when members of Group A believe that the stereotypes of Group A are true and may believe that they are less intelligent or academically inferior to other groups of people.

Any social group can internalize prejudice."
from A Celebration of Women



Good subject, Canadys. Are we to assume that when you refer to groups, they are organised and have an objective? Or, do you mean minority groups in general?


I understand groups to mean marginalized groups rather than minority groups. For example, the Shiites are the majority in Iraq, but have been marginalized. The Sunnis, on the other hand, were a minority, but formed the hegemony until recently.
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby Sisyphus on January 27th, 2012, 5:55 pm 

This article might be of interest here...

Exploring the Problematic and Subversive Shit People Say [Meme-ology]

Created by Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey (and boosted by the star power of Juliette Lewis), “Shit Girls Say” went viral by taking a male perspective on common things “women” do and presenting it as humor. Internet forums filled with comments like “Omigod, all my friends do that” or “that is so me.” The sketch proved to be so popular, there are now three episodes, probably with more in the pipeline.

However, everyone wasn’t laughing at “Shit Girls Say.” Quite a few people noticed that the “girls” referred to in the top video were a certain type of woman, an experience that was not shared by all. Others noted that the humor that made the video funny was actually rooted in sexist stereotypes.

Source: http://www.racialicious.com/2012/01/19/ ... more-19853
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby weakmagneto on April 20th, 2012, 12:05 pm 

The challenge, and the discussion I invite, is how we in the hegemony can be strong, assured, and charitable without being oppressive, arrogant, and condescending. How can we give others the "safe space" to step away from internalized oppression? Could we really vote Tanya "not guilty"?


As part of one of the biggest marginalized groups in my country, I think the hegemony can give others "the safe space" to step away from internalized oppression is by wholly understanding what being a victim of it is really like. Sadly, I live in and see the effects of "Internalized Oppression" everyday. I see it in posts made by Facebook friends (lateral violence), acts by loved ones (internalized racism), violence within families and communities (Elder abuse), suicides (have known too many who have taken their lives) and substance abuse.

I grew up without an indoor toilet, spent summers hauling water, lived in crowded and stressful conditions, lived in an alcoholic home, was a victim of racism many times over, and victim of violence and abuse. Dysfunction was normal for me. Many people living with the symptoms of internal oppression view these things as normal and accept it. I used to have the "Nothing is going to change anyways. Nobody cares, so why should I." attitude.

Victims of internalized oppression feel powerless and try to grab power over another in anyway possible. I see it in violence statistics, passive-aggressive behaviours, suicide rates, sexual abuse statistics, substance abuse statistics, etc.

It took me a long time to work toward "stepping out" of internal oppression, but I am not fully out of it nor will ever be. It took me quite awhile to begin my healing journey and recognizing things for what they are. Fortunately for me, I was given strong values and received some good teachings. I no longer see myself as a victim but a survivor. I have worked hard to reconcile with the past but I made the conscious choice of not living in it. I hold myself accountable for the choices I make and no longer blame others.

I remember being ashamed of my heritage and wishing I were "white". I remember looking in the mirror and hating my reflection. When you continually hear the worst about your people and are constantly put down because of it, not because of the person you are inside, you start believing them. I had very low self-esteem well into my twenties. It took a lot of learning (most of it self-initiated and researched) before I became comfortable with who I was. Sometimes though, that little self-hating girl's voice still haunts me. But it is within my power to listen to or to stifle it.

I move forward with the hope of sharing my healing journey so those ready to heal may learn from my experiences and as a means of preventing others from starting painful journeys. In my own family, I have tried my best to eliminate dysfunctional cycles so it stops with my generation. I try to empower my children so that they are healthy balanced individuals who love themselves and are proud of where they come from and who they are. I am far from perfect, but then again, who is?

I try to live my life by giving support and encouragement to others, volunteering with groups whose cause I believe in and giving a hand up when I can. I try to use my skills and talents toward empowering others. I smile at others whenever I can. People, in my mind, are human beings first, we are all related. In my effort to be the best person I can be, I try to understand and help whenever possible because in the end, what you leave behind may be something as small an act of kindness that may be passed down and carried through future generations.

I don't know if this helps to address your question...
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Re: Internalized Oppression

Postby CanadysPeak on April 20th, 2012, 2:13 pm 

Don't wish yourself White. Because of my skin color, I am White as soon as I am more than fifty miles from my birthplace (There I am mixed). It's nice to be White when I apply for a job, get stopped by a cop, or go shopping, but it's the privileges rather than my color cohort that I find desirable . I have to say that, when it comes to affairs of the soul, being White sucks. Most of them have puckered butts and dress funny. Stay with your roots, say your own poems, and raise your children well. Speak up for justice and don't take any crap off those who would put you down.
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