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Oppression is the cruel or unjust application of power over another person or group. Many times throughout your college career, you will need to examine oppression in relation to one or more of the following areas:


Types of Oppression



  1. Social Oppression
  2. Political Oppression
  3. Personal Oppression
  4. Institutional Oppression
  5. Systematic Oppression

Social oppression is the most well known type of oppression in academia today. Social oppression targets groups of persons and oppresses them via institutional constraints or systems. Some examples of social oppression are:

  1. The Police
  2. Oppressive Laws
  3. Government Oppression
  4. Racial Oppression
  5. Sexism
  6. Political Repression

Internalized oppression is when members of an oppressed group or an individual embrace the oppressive attitudes of others. For example, racial oppression occurs when someone of a particular race embraces the oppressive stereotypes the those outside the group apply. Some of the most oft oppressed groups in American history were the slaves, women and Native Americans. Out of response to these groups being oppressed rose the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement.

Oppression Strides are Not Always Enough

Some groups, even though they have made strides against oppression, still remain in the grips of inequality. Although women are more commonly perceived as the victims of oppression and men are widely regarded as the beneficiaries of diverse gender privileges, oppression and privilege never derive solely from gender. Indeed, women from certain social groups—the wealthy, members of the White majority, those with political connections—often enjoy certain privileges that are denied to many oppressed men from, for instance, lower-income, ethnic minority, or sexual minority backgrounds. Gender is one of the most important determinants of privilege and oppression in American society. However, it is not the only important variable and its impacts are often mediated by other factors that result in situations where both men and women simultaneously experience privilege and oppression.

On an international scale, many third world nations fight oppression from dictatorships, governments that create institutionalized poverty through failure to recognize marginalized groups and militant sectors of the population. Promoting respect for human rights in other cultures and governments is challenged by the fact that the international realm is made up of different states that are not equally interested in or capable of addressing ethical issues like oppression. However, this challenge can be mitigated by promoting respect for the human rights to citizens of these states because they have a greater capacity to change and are more easily held accountable than are their respective governments.

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