Oppression: the Scariest Changeling

Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression” defines oppression within the context of justice and injustice. She asserts that oppression is too broad a term and requires more specific subdivisions. For this reason, Young proposes five types of oppression – exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. According to Young, exploitation diminishes the power of workers at the same time that it increases the power of the capitalist. Marginalization refers to the process of excluding people from the system of labor. This process causes material deprivation and happens to people who are dependent on others or the state.

This article is the first reading of our class and seems to be placed here to set the tone of the class’s discussions. Dystopias are human constructions of societies that are unsavory because they are founded on some type of oppression. By giving us a foundation in the permutations of oppression, we will be better equipped to identify them as we read texts that explore dystopian ideas. For example, I know that The Handmaid’s Tale is an example of a feminist dystopia because there are examples of oppression throughout the series. Moreover, the new society practices cultural imperialism because it shifts women to the space of the oppressed. The women in the society of Gilead are victims of exploitation because the men have increased their power in society at the same time that women have been diminished to the point where they exist solely for reproduction of humans. One could argue that modern America is a racial dystopia because of the way people of color are treated in society. In the American capitalist society, people of color are exploited for labor and for their culture. Also, most obviously, people of color experience the cultural imperialism of a society that attempts to convince them that their culture is deviant and inferior. Furthermore, this reading connected to my readings I completed for another one of my classes. In both readings, the authors point to capitalism as the root of all forms of oppression. Both authors acknowledge the unique oppression that women experience regularly because of capitalism.

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