What is oppression?

Oppression is when societal norms are used to define everyone’s identity, regardless of whether the same conditions are applicable to the individual. Intersexuals are oppressed when they are pressured to change themselves to fit into male-female gender categories.

Society frames intersexual genitalia as an undesirable aberration from the norm that must be rectified. Intersexuals are expected to reconstruct their genitalia to cosmetically appear male or female. Medical authorities recommend parents to raise hermaphrodite children as one gender and not the other. These are examples of oppression – people use societal norms to justify preventing intersexuals from creating their own unique gender identity.

Our dependence on norms are reflected in the language that psychologists, writers, etc. use. They describe intersexuals as having “manifest sexual problems” (Colapinto 233), even though their genitalia are not truly “problems” until society frames them that way. Medical experts predict that intersexuals will “break down under the strain” (Colapinto 233) or, if they’re lucky, find out that “adjustment to unusual genitalia is possible” (Fausto-Sterling 95) – as if it is necessary and difficult for people to “adjust” to the genitals they’ve always had. In reality, genitals play a “strikingly insignificant” (Colapinto 234) role in one’s gender identity and self-image. Intersexuals’ gender identity issues, if any, likely stem from constantly being told that their genitals are abnormal rather than the abnormal genitals themselves.

Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 78-114. Print.

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