what is anti-oppression?

Oppression is the use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or privilege the oppressor. Social oppression may not require formally established organizational support to achieve its desired effect; it may be applied on a more informal, yet more focused, individual basis.

The Anti-Oppression network seeks to recognize the oppressions that exist in our society, and attempts to mitigate its affects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.

Basically there are certain groups in our society and communities that hold power over others based on their membership in those groups. For example, if you were to look at the demographics of the CEO’s of any major corporation, city council, parliament etc. you would notice that most if not all of these positions of great power are populated by white (publicly straight) males. On the flip side, if you were to look at the demographics of janitorial staff or fast food workers you might notice that these positions are populated largely by persons of colour, specifically women of colour. When studying the statistics of those receiving social assistance, or state aid, you would also notice that the vast majority of those in our communities living in this poverty are folks with disabilities and the elderly.

Black people | Women | People of Colour | LGBT2IQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, 2spirit, Intersex, Queer people | Seniors/Elders | Folks with disabilities | Low-income people | People of Indigenous ancestry | Children/Teenagers/Youth | Fat folks | Peoples with mental health struggles | New immigrants/Refugees | ELL – English Language Learners | Marginalized animal species | etc. (Certainly there are more, and communities like LGBT2IQ are problematic where as oppression exists where the more privileged believe their needs are greater than others)

Personal Responsibility

Practicing anti-oppression work in real terms is not only confronting individual examples of bigotry, or confronting societal examples, it is also confronting ourselves and our own roles of power and oppression in our communities and the bigger picture.

Though you may be a person that would never think to ever say anything racist/sexist/classist etc., by not realizing the power that you hold, and how your actions affect other people you will inevitably fall into sustaining and contributing to a larger system of oppression.


The theory of kyriarchy is that all systems of oppression are interconnected and form a larger, overall system of domination. This means that individually, in some aspects of our lives, we may experience marginalization and lack of power, while in other aspects of our lives we have privilege and power.

While you may be a person a part of an identifiable group who is historically marginalized (a person of colour, for example) you may also have a role and be a member of a group that dominates in power in society (while you are a person of colour, you may also be a cisgender man, an abled person, upper/middle class, straight etc.).

The idea is that, while hierarchies are formed within systems of oppression, no single oppression holds more weight than another, because they cannot exist without each other. This also means that we all have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.


(The information above was taken – in part – from this page. It is very similar to much information online.)


for a more comprehensive definition of oppression and other terminology check out: https://theantioppressionnetwork.wordpress.com/resources/terminologies-of-oppression/

10 thoughts on “what is anti-oppression?”

    1. Thanks, looks useful. What changes silence – eye contact, a smile, “tell me more”, what else?

  1. Breaking our personal barriers is the first stage to resolving oppressions, for instance, smiling and eye- contact. very basic things !!!

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