Big Question: What is oppression?

When society fails to give voice to every one of its members, it oppresses. When society employs inaccurate and offensive representations of minorities, it oppresses. When society endorses one pole of a binary over the other, it oppresses. For example, oppression occurs when woman are treated as objects and “other forms of her self-representation” are “thus silenced” (Cornell 3). Treating women as such “sexually viable commodities” (Cornell 3) undoubtedly discourages them from speaking up. It is similarly oppressive to present black men as eternally violent and threatening: “Historical representations of Black men as beasts have spawned a second set of images” that paints this demographic as “criminals or deviant beings” (Hill Collins 158). The most oppressive act of all, however, is to promote one social group—namely, white males—over all others. This white patriarchal dominance suggests that those unequally represented must “submit to White male authority” (Hill Collins 154) in order to have their voice heard. Most upsettingly, as society continues to tailor to the needs of the white male “gaze” that bell hooks speaks of in “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” it only continues the oppression of those less privileged. hooks’ observation that, “power as domination reproduces itself in different locations” (115) should thus serve as a warning. For not only is oppression the suppression of certain people’s voices, but also it is the perpetuation of control by a select few.

Hill Collins, Patricia. “Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity.” Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005. 149-80. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

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