Young’s Five Faces of Oppression: Dissected

The Five Faces of Oppression written by Iris Young attempts to define and describe what oppression is and how oppression can appear in different forms. Young talks about oppression in order to highlight what injustice looks like in the United States in opposition to justice. To start off, Young points out the many groups who may experience injustice such as Black Americans, Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, gays, lesbians, and old people. She then goes on to describe what social groups are and why they exist which she concluded that they often exist as a result of oppression and pondered if groups should be dismantled. Young then gets into the meat of the article which describes what the five faces of oppression are and what they look like in society: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence.

Iris Young’s article is very interesting to see how it can be applied today since it was originally written in the early 90s. Taking that into context, it is clearly known that society and thoughts have changed quite a bit since then in a more general sense. Even so, the point still stands that in the United States there are many groups who still suffer injustices today and such injustices can be described as oppression and often fit into Young’s model of the five faces of oppression. On a personal level I would fit into Young’s description of social group identity as an African American woman.

Being black in America, when she talked about oppression’s face of cultural imperialism it hit the hardest for me. This was the face that struck the hardest because examples of it are seen in my life everyday and I am constantly in a battle of keeping my own culture while not investing in it to the point to where I fear that doing so will keep me from being marginalized which is another face of oppression that she mentioned. Cultural imperialism was described as when a society establishes one culture as the “norm” who thus controls how the society should effectively progress and communicate as a whole. The result of this is that those who are not normally apart of that culture is often stereotyped for their culture and is seen as strange or less because of it. From my personal experience in the United States, this is often seen where Caucasian or European culture rules the society and is viewed as civilized, intelligent, and beautiful while black culture is stereotyped and looked down upon as ghetto, aggressive, uneducated, and unattractive. From just this one face of oppression, it is an essential piece for this class because of the feeling and experiences that it creates for the oppressed. Such negative feelings are one of the backbones of a dystopian society in both literature and in the real world.

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