Summary and Critical Analysis of “Five Faces of Oppression”

In “Five Faces of Oppression,” the author discusses the ambiguity of oppression in political discourse.The ambiguity of language is explicitly displayed in how different groups, whether those social groups that are fighting for a visible platform in society or hegemony discourse and ideology, have varying perspectives on what is considered oppression. Oppression can not be defined as a blanket definition that essentializes all social groups into the same experience. The author discusses individualism and identity confined to culturally shared attributes, beliefs, and consciousness. The author thus defines the five categories that determine the realistic burdens of oppressed social groups: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. While all oppressed social groups are not exposed to all five of the categories of oppression, fitting the criteria of just one compartmentalizes that group into an oppressive complex. 

2. The reading is from the twenty-first century and applies to the political and social climate of this year, as I’m sure the years to follow as well. The publication year and place definitely influences my reading of a text, especially the year. Historically, worldviews evolve as the centuries progress, so it’s important to read and understand texts within their historical context. Readers should not try to construct the logic of the author to fit within a modern framework. It completely depletes the author’s credibility and work. However, this isn’t the case for Iris Young. The author hits on a lot of big points, which are quite obvious and objective. The fact that the author is a White feminist and socialist, she definitely has authority to speak from her experience of oppression. However, coming from a reader who has experienced all five of the categories that the author has presented, I think she speaks a little too reserved, given the controversial subject of oppression. The section where the author discusses the conscious and unconscious agents of oppression is the epitome of white privilege. The conscious agents are White individuals who use their privilege as means to maneuver around the world with belief of superiority and entitlement. The unconscious agents I would say are nonexistent. In other terms, those agents do not acknowledge white privilege, yet use it to gain access to impenetrable spaces inaccessible to non-White individuals. This form of colorblindness is the new racism, only more subtle. It may not have been intentional, but the lack of accountability presented in this section is disturbing. I also was taken aback by the author’s attempt to align identity and group as an inextricable unity. I don’t believe individuals rely on groups necessarily as a way of identifying themselves because of shared attributes and culture. I believe it solely depends on self-consciousness. In regards to violence, I do like how Young discusses how political discourse on violence is measured in most part by the systemic and institutional practices in place, rather than individual acts of violence. I believe a society can be adequately measured by analyzing the type of laws and criminal justice systems in place. Those systems are most often created at the expense of social groups that do not have a direct hand in implementing their voices in the construction of government.   

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