“Family-Friendly” is a Thin Disguise for Discrimination: They are on the Wrong Side of History

“Family-Friendly” is a Thin Disguise for Discrimination:
They are on the Wrong Side of History

Who else is on the “wrong side of history” regarding expressions of and legal sanctions toward and behaviors sourced by prejudice, bias, discrimination, hatred against ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other social identity groups?

Adolph Hitler. Austria and Germany. George Wallace. Richard Nixon. Phyllis Schlafly. Anita Bryant. The United States of America. Several Catholic Popes. Margaret Thatcher. Great Britain. Mao Tse Tung. China.

The list is, unfortunately, endless, if we keep going into history and across the globe. Humans seem to have an unlimited ability to be irrational and small-minded.

Fortunately, we do learn. We do grow. Some more slowly than others, as we see all too often, but change we do. One of the main ways people change is through exposure, a personal “eye-opening” moment that educates them (“leads them out”) away from their irrationality and biases.

The other way is through enforcement, such as the enlightened few and the majority collaborating to change the laws that require citizens to change behaviors accordingly. When behaviors change, minds can follow: not always, and not completely, as we see with the laws of integration and other civil rights for Blacks in the USA NOT eliminating racial biases and racism, but these are certainly steps in the right direction.

The current social and political landscapes—right here, right now—are changing rapidly with respect to fairness, acceptance and legal rights for those with all sexual orientations and gender identities exactly as they did with racial intolerance in the 1960s.

As usual, some are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into this new way of being. They are simply not keeping up, are they? Laws often get “ahead” of some people’s mindsets. AREN’T WE LUCKY? The haters may keep on hating, but they have no legal, moral or individual “right” to impose their “opinions” any longer.

Some definitions, for those unclear on these concepts:

3definitions
from: http://littlelaughter.wordpress.com

bias-prejudice-discrimination-5-638
from http://pt.slideshare.net

Current circumstances:
I am an author who publicly proclaims myself a feminist. Anyone who knows me or reads me online or reads my books also knows I am Buddhist, Jewish, and bisexual, and I am vocally an anti-discrimination, anti-oppression activist.

I am also a reader who occasionally does reviews. Therefore, I do agree that each reviewer has the right to refuse to review any book we do not want to review. We do not have to give reasons, either.

However, I do not agree with the opinions, prejudices and biases this reviewer expresses when she gives some (but not all) of her reasons for discontinuing her reading of and refusing to review my book.

In fact, when we allow such actions to be fueled in these ways, not commenting, not confronting, we are aiding and abetting the institutional oppression rampant in literary circles. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is never truer than in these circumstances.

Some would say that she would have been off not saying anything, but since she did, here we are.

Read below and comment, please! http://www.sallyember.com/blog

After finding me on a reviews-seeking site, this reviewer emailed me, saying that she wanted to review all three books in The Spanners Series. She wrote a few days later, saying she had started and was liking my first book.

Then, the next day, this potential reviewer sent me this email:

From: xxx

I will not be able to review your books. I have just come to a part that is [sic] conflict with my site. I have a family friendly blog and your book contains content that my readers would find offensive. It would also put at risk some of my advertising spots on my site that demand only family friendly content.

I understand that you were just trying to get across the point about non-discrimination but your content concerning sexual affiliation will not work with my site.

Best of luck to you,

xxx

“Hi, xxx,

“I have no idea what you mean by ‘not family-friendly’ or ‘offensive,’ since my books are accepted by ‘[Facebook authors’ group],’ a strict group on Facebook which promises readers fiction that won’t make them recoil. For example, I use no swear words stronger than ‘damn’ or ‘shit,’ there are no explicit sex scenes, no gratuitous or obvious violence, and no traumatic scenes in my books: they are PG-13.

“If you are objecting to any mention of or acceptance of alternative sexual orientations and gender identities to heterosexual or straight people or cis-gender people, if that would be something you or your followers find ‘offensive,’ then, please: DO NOT READ MY BOOKS.

“And, by the way, discrimination, bias and prejudice are NOT ‘family-friendly’ to any families I would want to be connected with, ever. Use of that terminology to describe what you are perhaps claiming is absurd.

“Since more than 10% of every population of humans on this planet are actually gay, lesbian or bisexual and at least 5% are transgendered, whose families are you ‘protecting’?

“If what I am assuming, in fact, are your positions, I find your views to be extremely offensive, and so would most of the rest of the world, at this point in time. Marriage equality and sexual identity acceptance are legal in many countries, including this one, and discrimination is NOT.

“I welcome you and your readers into the 21st century any time you’re ready to come.

“If I have misunderstood, I apologize. Please explain. I would welcome your further description of what, exactly, is ‘in conflict with’ your site and specifics as to your presumptions about your advertisers’ objections to the content of my books.”

Sally

She responded:

From: xxx

What is offensive is that you mention any sexual affiliation at all. I would not blurt out in a book that I was heterosexual. I would not refer to sex at all. It is irrelevant and has no place in a family friendly book. You can have any sexual orientation you want and that is your business but I don’t have to and will not promote it on my site. The fact that you felt you needed to make a political statement with your book is your business but I won’t be a part of it.

As I said Good Luck to you but I will not be doing this review.

xxx

Curious as what others who might be “in her camp” would say, I posted our email exchange on the group site I am part of, the one I mentioned, above, and asked for opinions.

I received the following anonymized responses (I didn’t include them all; some are repetitive or off-topic).

Then, I wrote a few responses, below.
Why do I bother? Because Education.

stop_prejudice_now_prop_watermark
from: http://teachersteachfromtheheart.blogspot.com

“Need[ Facebook Group members]’ opinions, please! Just had this exchange with a potential reviewer and I’m burning mad. (She approached me, BTW, asking to review my books via a [reviews-seeking/reviewers-finding site] last week!).

“She emailed me this earlier today…” (same as above, posted)

FB group’s responses:

From AAA:
“She has the right to her viewpoint, and I don’t think she should be dressed down, scolded, or insulted for it. I thought your words were rather condescending and insulting.

“OTOH, she should have done her research first before approaching you, and rather than try to take YOU to task for what she didn’t agree with in your books, she should have just politely said ‘sorry, I was wrong, it’s not going to work out this time.'”

From BBB:
“The old saying I’ve tried to remember is not to lower oneself to another’s level in order to argue or debate. It’s not ever worth it.”

From CCC:
“It’s her site, she can do as she wishes, just as you are able to write about anything you want to. This enters into the forbidden realm of writers who snap at reviewers for not liking what they wrote. She didn’t give you a bad review on her site, which she could have. She simply declined to review at all. It could have gone a LOT worse for you.”

From DDD:
“Sally, I totally get where you’re coming from, having experienced this kind of reaction (my books include gay characters who are treated as normal people). I’m living vicariously through your email because I’ve wished I could say something like that to reviewers who’ve one-started me because of it. smile emoticon But I’m inclined to agree that it’s better to steer clear of these rhetorical boondoggles. I’d just let this go and get on with writing. Your audience is out there, but it’s not this lady or her blog followers.”

From EEE:
“It’s her site. She is entitled to her opinion and the way she manages her site. We have our rules here, but IMHO, even shit and damn are not family friendly. She was polite. I’m sorry that you were not.”

From FFF:
“I have to say also, the reviewer could have gone ahead with her review, as she’d promised you one. She could have been completely open and honest about her opinion, and put it on her public site.
“Instead, when she saw it was something that she didn’t believe she could endorse, she privately messaged you, letting you know that she’d have to back out.
“This was gracious of her to do.
“So to be treated badly was not something that I feel she deserved.”

From GGG:
“PG-13 does not constitute ‘family-friendly’ in my mind. I have a 9, 7 and 4 year old, and I don’t even let them watch most PG movies.”

From HHH:
“Unfortunately, I have to agree with what many others here have commented. In addition, I have to point out that you ASSUMED her problem with your book was the fact that there are gay characters. She simply wrote that she came ‘to a part’ that conflicted with her site. The thing that may have bothered her could’ve been profanity, or whatever else is in your book. It can be dangerous to reprimand someone for their stance – especially since she could always turn around and decide to write a poor review, or even one-star your book.

“On a personal note, I write both Christian AND secular stories (things that would give Junot Diaz a run for his money in the department of shock value). So I can honestly say that even the words you listed are not ‘family friendly,’ meaning appropriate for all ages. As far as homosexuality is concerned, I have a #LiveAndLetLive philosophy on life. That means that I do not judge someone else for their lifestyle choice. However, that doesn’t mean I want my six year old reading about it. Again, it’s a subject not necessarily appropriate for all ages.”

From Me:
to HHH: “She came right out and stated what her concerns were. I didn’t assume what she objected to at all. I assumed her reasons, because she did not state them. Also, I did not expect any 6-year-olds to read this book; it’s way too complicated and sophisticated. PG-13 is the rating i always state. Thanks for your comments, though.”

From JJJ:
“Wow. And she was so polite…”

From Me:
“Since when are expressions of bias, prejudice and discrimination ‘polite’??? If her objections were obviously about my having Jewish or Black characters, would you be defending her ‘family-friendly’ smokescreen???”

From JJJ:
“She made her reasons for choosing not to include your work on her site clear to you in a very polite manner. Tolerance works both ways.”

From Me:
“To JJJ and others here: I appreciate all your comments, but for some of you, I am disappointed. SOME don’t seem to know the difference between being ‘impolite’ and being against someone else’s being discriminatory, Number 1.

“Number 2, it is not the job of those who are not being tolerated to return such intolerance with tolerance. I was not ‘impolite’ to her: I was direct and I expressed my thoughts and feelings. I did not call her names, I did not insult her.

“Remember: she VOLUNTEERED to read my books and had already sent me an email prior to this saying how much she was enjoying the first one. Then, she came to a part she didn’t ‘tolerate,’ which she and her groups, of which some of you are obviously members, seem to think it’s just fine to insult and demean. That is plain wrong. She doesn’t have to like it. She could have just said “It’s not for me” and DNF or not even written me. But, she chose to ‘explain.’

“Those who are not heterosexual or cis-gender do not deserve to be treated as if we are threats, are wrong to be ‘this way,’ or by our very existence, are ‘problems’ for ‘families.’ We ARE in families!

“I will defend to my dying day the right of all who are discriminated against to object strenuously to such discrimination, wherever it appears, however ‘nicely’ it is phrased.

“Maybe some of you are too young or didn’t have these experiences, but I grew up in Missouri under Jim Crow laws. I grew up with signs on stores and country clubs that said : ‘No Dogs, No Jews, No Niggers Allowed.’ Should I have greeted those racists with ‘tolerance’????? I am a Jewish, female bisexual. Our country is in the exact same place now with LGBT rights and biases as it was then with Jews and Blacks.

“Remember when women weren’t treated as ‘humans,’ weren’t allowed to vote, sit with men, drive, own property? Would you all be so ‘tolerant’ if she had said her ‘family-friendly’ group doesn’t want to read books with autonomous female characters, that all women be subservient to their families’ males to be considered ‘family-friendly’? Whoever doesn’t see the connections, here, I’m sad for all of you.”

From JJJ:
“Comments about the relative politeness of exchanges of views are not an automatic acceptance of intolerance or prejudice. In fact they are no comment at all about the relative merits of the content of the exchange – just the manner in which comments have been delivered.”

From Me:
“Thanks for all of your ideas, comments, and responses, here. Group. I am sorry that some of you still believe that strongly worded disagreement is ‘impolite,’ but we’re going to have to agree to disagree, there. Best to you all.”

hate-crimes-305
from: http://www.calgary.ca

Okay, Followers/Readers and Other Peeps: Weigh in! What do you believe/do?

Please leave comments on this blog! Thanks! Best to you all!

1) Should we authors all just “be polite” when confronted with reviewers’ prejudices?

2) Should we authors “be silent” when potential or actual reviewers express their biases and refuse to “serve” us at the “review” lunch counter because our books or characters don’t meet with their “approval” (don’t have a right to exist)?

3) Is it incumbent upon us all not to allow any reviewer to give or imply that their personal, political, religious or other biases as/are sufficient “reasons” for refusing to review a book? Or, do you recommend letting that go unchallenged?

4) Does simply having LGBT characters make a book “unfriendly” to “families” and/or inappropriate for youth?

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Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.: written in response to Black, Bisexual, and Buddhist: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is not afraid to embrace who she is. by Kimberly Winston, August 05, 2015
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel relates that she “often sees surprise in the faces of the students as she is introduced.” She believes this is due to the fact that “she doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.”

ZenjuPic4
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, photo from TRICYCLE article in online Buddhist magazine, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

She recently published: The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender, known here as “her second book of dharma, or Buddhist teachings, published in February by Wisdom Publications. In it, Manuel, who follows the Zen tradition, calls on Buddhists not to ignore those ways they may be different, whether it’s because of their color, gender, or sexual orientation.”

She and others call this idea a “‘multiplicity of oneness’—–[which] is somewhat controversial within Buddhism, where the teachings have tended to focus on moving beyond the physical to find the spiritual. But Manuel and a handful of other Western Buddhists—–including a number of African-American teachers–—are embracing the idea as crucial to enlightenment, a state free from anxiety that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.”

Manuel and I have a lot in common, so I felt moved to respond to this article about her and her teaching, her writing and her spiritual life. I resonate with some aspects; others are quite different for me.

Manuel is 62; I am about to be 61. That means we are contemporaries who are natives of the same country.

She reports that she “has had a multiplicity of lives, all of which inform her work.” My C.V.—my academic and total resume—is over seven pages long. I have also moved over thirty times, having lived in states on both coasts, the midwest and the southwest of the USA. These varied aspects of my professional and personal lives must constitute a “multiplicity,” don’t you think?

Her personal history includes “violence, poverty and prejudice,” which my life contains, also. Heavier on the violence and prejudice than the poverty, for me, but all were there.

Manuel states that she has “been an activist since the tumultuous 1970s”; I started being a vocal, active feminist activist while still in grade school, moved into anti-war and anti-nuclear power activism, continued with feminism and got into reproductive rights activism and other issues as well. I started earlier by about 10 years, but then we both kept on keeping on.

Manuel says that she “has also known fear and rejection because she is bisexual,” but I mostly do not have that experience, perhaps because I didn’t “come out” publicly as bisexual until the 1990s, when it seemed almost no one cared anymore and I was a confident adult with a supportive community and family. I did lose a female friend in college in the early 1970s when I clumsily invited her to be my lover, but usually I did not experience either rejection or fear due to my sexual orientation. Not everyone I approached agreed to be my lover, but their rejections had nothing to do with my being attracted to both genders. So, our lives diverged there significantly.

She “was raised a Christian but discovered Buddhism in 1988,” whereas I was raised Jewish and discovered Buddhist in the early 1980s. However, I had already been meditating in the Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) tradition since 1972. Similar, but not the same, here.

Mostly, though, we share significant components of our cultural, personal and historical location and background. The major difference is that she is Black and I am White/Anglo. Our other intersecting social identities create affinities that few other commonalities could, especially since our experiences led us both to become immersed seriously and deeply in Buddhist practice.

Appallingly, however, she had the misfortune to have had a couple of Zen teachers who “suggested if she ‘dropped the labels’ of ‘African-American,’ of ‘bisexual,’ of ‘woman,’ she would ‘be liberated.’ That is ridiculous and has nothing to do with authentic Buddhism. I’m sorry she had those teachers or allowed them to affect her. Obviously, by trying to accomplish this (the impossible), she was not “liberated.” Furthermore, these attempts did not ease her suffering; in fact, she reported that she became more unhappy.

Eventually, she discovered on her own what Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism (my tradition) has always taught: embrace everything, cling to nothing. While bushwhacking her own path through Zen traditions that were not friendly to her, she arrived at, in her words: “’complete tenderness’—–the experience of walking through her pain, knowing it, living with it, but not being controlled by it—–by confronting her suffering caused by her upbringing and identity as an African-American bisexual woman.”

I challenge this idea, though, that her suffering was “caused” by her identities at that point. I would conclude instead that her suffering was exacerbated early in her Zen journey by the ignorance and arrogance of those Zen teachers who misdirected her, then aggravated by her willingness to follow their misdirections for too long. It isn’t who she was that was the problem; it’s he ways a few teachers positioned who she was with respect to her spiritual path that caused her pain.

Despite being misled by some teachers, Manuel continued within Zen all the way to becoming ordained as a Zen Priest, when she was “given the name ‘Zenju,’ which means ‘complete tenderness.’” She now leads a small, all-female sangha that meets where she lives, in Oakland, California (near San Francisco), many of whom are also identifying as women of color.

I’m glad she found a way through all that, but it was so unnecessary. There are many USA-based Zen sanghas, some right near her that I am personally aware of, in which she would not have had those experiences. We could say it was her karma to have had those encounters, and we’d be correct, since everything we experience is always due to our karma.

But, it is not inherent to the nature of Zen or Buddhism to treat students in those ways. I need to emphasize this truth, since it appears from this Tricycle article and perhaps her book (I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure) that it is inevitable that students of backgrounds similar to hers will encounter prejudice and extreme difficulties due to their social identities everywhere they go in Buddhist communities. Simply not true.

I have observed, though, that too many Buddhist communities in the USA and Canada are populated by a disproportionate number of middle- and upper-class Whites/Anglos in comparison to the number of participants from other ethnicities and class backgrounds. I’m glad to say that these imbalances have been recognized by most leaders and other members: many sanghas are doing extensive outreach to rectify them.

I don’t know if Manuel’s Oakland Zen sitting group is deliberately all women or intentionally mostly women of color; perhaps it is open to everyone, but her being who she is, as the teacher, attracted more practitioners similar to her. That does happen, that spiritual teachers attract students who see themselves as similar to their teachers.

The only similarity that actually matters, though, is that we are all human and we all need to train our minds, develop more compassionate hearts, and liberate ourselves from delusions that cause suffering. Therefore, I believe deliberately segregating ourselves by gender, class, background or any other social identity is a mistake when it comes to creating and maintaining spiritual community. I know there are specific occasions when such segregation can be useful or necessary, but mostly, let’s not.

Clearly, the Buddhist path works well for Manuel and she believes it can work well for other women of color, bisexual or not. In that, we agree.

The Buddha supposedly taught over 84,000 types of meditation so that each individual who wants to practice will be able to find a path that works. In a large enough community with sufficient numbers of paths and teachers, I’m sure that is possible: everyone who wants to learn to meditate in the Buddhist tradition could do so.

Northern California, USA, is such a locale, with dozens or even hundreds of Buddhist teachers and sangha options scattered throughout the rural, suburban and urban areas, each slightly or very different from the other. I used to live there and I miss it a lot.

St. Louis, Missouri, USA, is not such a locale. It is not bereft entirely of Buddhists or Buddhist communities, but there is none in my exact tradition. I find that I am not so interested in attending the groups that are dissimilar. I enjoy meditating on my own just fine. I do miss my sangha and those important, guiding interactions, but not enough to join some other group, yet.

Meanwhile, this female, bisexual Buddhist who was raised Jewish and is White/Anglo is meditating and attempting to liberate in this lifetime alongside or including, but not despite, my social identities. I am lucky to have occasional conversations with my spiritual teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, by telephone, and regular contact with geographically distant sangha members via SKYPE, social media and email.

May all beings benefit. I wish you all the best in your practices.

Buddha thinking creates happiness

Internalized #Oppression: We All Have It Going On

What is “Internalized Oppression” and why do I claim we all have it going on?

If you have spent a lot of time in political activism, psychological growth, advocating for social justice/progressive causes and feminism, anti-racism, anti-Semitism and other anti-oppression movements of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and continuing, as I have, you would know what I’m talking about and have lived long enough to have unlearned some of the IO we all have. Or, you could have come to learn about IO some other way. If not, or if you’re interested in my perspective and some personal stories, keep reading.

I was first trained in 1977 in Massachusetts via the Movement for a New Society’s (MNS) Nonviolence Activism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_for_a_New_Society

The members of MNS consciously sought to develop tools and strategies that could be employed to bring about revolutionary change through nonviolent means. The three-part focus of MNS included training for activists, nonviolent direct action and community. The main location for MNS activity was in West Philadelphia. Other locations included Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Tucson, Western Massachusetts, and more….MNS was unusual in combining feminist group process, broad analysis of interrelated people’s struggles including class and culture, and personal empowerment techniques ranging from music and street theater as political organizing tools to Re-Evaluation Counseling.

I was also trained via Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC) in Massachusetts and New Hampshire starting in 1978 and continuing through 1986. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Re-evaluation_Counseling]

RC has ambitious social and environmental objectives, including, “The transformation of society to a rational, peaceful, non-exploitative, classless form world-wide. The preservation of all existing species of life and the re-creation of extinguished species. The preservation of wilderness areas and the creation of a completely benign environment over most of the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere. The exploration of, and eventually becoming at home in, space.”

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was part of the “Clamshell Alliance,” a successful anti-nuclear energy group utilizing MNS and RC techniques and principles. We “Clams” prevented the second “tower” of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, power plant from being built. This and many other “affinity groups” like it across the continent worked throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s to dismantle the stranglehold the nuclear energy capitalists were gaining on energy production in the USA and Canada. We have them/us to thank for how few nuclear disasters there have been in the USA due to there having been fewer power plants built than proposed.

Nuclear_power_is_not_healthy_poster

MNS and RC were the grandparents of most modern USA and global social justice movements movements; believe me). Their teaching techniques, training exercises, formats for consensus decision-making, use of nonviolence, understandings of social justice issues and oppression and methods for transforming individuals as well as groups have been incorporated into almost every type of social and political change movement around the globe, including Arab Spring and Occupy.

They taught me about Internalized #Oppression (IO): We All Have It Going On.

Intersectionality thrives via IO, because the overlapping strength of each oppression with insidious inroads into us and each other creates the systemic continuance of them all.

intersectionality
image from http://decolonizeallthethings.wordpress.com

For example, Height-ism. I am short and getting shorter. For a Jewish/Eastern European-roots female born in the middle of the last century, it’s not uncommon. I stopped growing at age 12, at 5′ 1.5″, at which point I was considered somewhat tall. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t going to keep growing, since everyone around me seemed to be, nor that I was short, until we were being arranged in poses for photos for the high school yearbook in the beginning of my senior year (I know; how could I not know? Well, I just wasn’t thinking about my height). People kept telling me to “get into the middle” or would call out: “Short people in front,” pushing me forward. I looked around in shock: “Oh! I really am short!”

I then spent the last four decades comparing my size to many other people’s and always being shocked at who else was actually my size or smaller, because they all appeared to be SO SHORT but I didn’t see myself as that short. In my inner voice, I was contemptuous, ridiculing, and otherwise snobbish about their smallness, as if I were magically exempt from such derision. Luckily (?), I kept these thoughts to myself.

Randy Newman (amazing singer-songwriter and social commentator) did not keep HIS thoughts to himself. We should all be grateful to him…. We need to laugh, sometimes, at how ridiculous prejudice and bias are, without forgetting how damaging and dangerous these ideas can become when enacted or spoken.

randy-newman-short people

That is classic Internalized Oppression (IO): Version 1) believing ourselves to be outside of/better than/not really representative of the groups we actually belong to, we deride our identity group by condemning other members of it; Version 2) we condemn ourselves for traits considered to be endemic of that group.

With both versions, we perpetuate the cultural and institutionalized oppressions that already run rampant, adding strength to stereotypes and assisting the oppression machine to keep churning out misery. We collude with and give power to the oppressors by “owning” their perspectives. IO is so difficult to uncover or recognize that we actually believe these viewpoints are our own opinions, developed on our own, independently of anyone or any influence: that’s how deluded we are.

So it goes.

How does IO play out? Via sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, ableism, ageism, homophobia/heterosexism, transphobia, classism, etc., oppressions reign supreme. When those within these oppressed groups further and enable the oppressors’ aims in putting us down by loathing ourselves and each other for being members of said groups, that is IO at work.

Example: SEXISM: When women/girls, as individuals of an oppressed MAJORITY, FEMALES, adopt society’s negativity towards females, what happens? We then display “our” views of females by scornfully talking about other females at almost every age (and not just because of differing political positions, intellectual differences or disagreements). Worst of all, IO leads women to be the main enforcers/ perpetrators of some of the worst harm inflicted on female children and other women (genital mutilation, forced child marriage, sex trafficking, bride-burning, foot-binding).

Women/girls who live with unmitigated IO will be motivated to compete unfairly, gossip, spread rumors, backbite, jockey for position, believe in scarcity (zero-sum games) and operate in other ways that undermine each other rather than collaborate and support one another. We “sell out” our own gender in a usually unsuccessful attempt to gain favor from men or stand out as superior to other women.

IO rots “sisterhood,” pitting heteronormative (“cisgender”) women against gender-queers and lesbians, motivating lesbians to exclude female bisexuals. IO inspires white women to believe whatever the oppressors tell us if it seems we may “some day” reach feminism’s goals, such as when white men told suffragettes that abolition was “more important” than women’s having the right to vote, that women should “wait our turn”: most white women accepted this.

When women find it acceptable (not speaking up AGAINST this means you find it acceptable) for females to be labeled “bitches,” “whores,” “sluts,” “tramps” and whatever other derogatory monikers current trends are utilizing to put strong, powerful, sexually active, empowered women down, then that is also IO operating within and among us.

Tina Fey anti-sexism
image from http://www.hercampus.com

IO is in place when a coach tells a mixed-gender or all-male group of athletes to “stop playing like girls,” and the girls on the team or at the location spew hate on the weaker members, continuing the damage caused by this coach.

When mothers, female teachers, any females who interact with young people, dichotomize the children based on supposed gender-based traits so that the girls are positioned by other females as less important, less competent, less valuable, and are forced to be less active or presumed to be less able than the boys, that is IO in action.

Example: RACISM: Racist IO occurs when those from oppressed ethnic/racial groups have “oppression derbies” to evaluate (usually not in public, but with social media, increasingly in public) the relative status of each individual of that group by applying arbitrary, oppressor-based criteria. Furthermore, we devise ways to determine who has the least number or degree of whatever traits of that group are currently despised (curly hair, darker skin, slanty eyes, large noses, thick or thin lips, argumentative/interrupting speech patterns, accents, higher intelligence or perceived skills in particular areas, glasses, other physical features such as stature, body type, breast size, etc.). Then, we assign higher value to those who “pass” or who are taken for NOT belonging to that group over those who display more/stronger group-identified traits. IO wins, there.

no racism
image from http://www.sodahead.com

IO manifests when Black people tell themselves or others (or have TV shows/movies/ music videos/ books which demonstrate) that “lighter skin” is “prettier” or straighter hair is “more professional.”

Best first-read to unlearn racism? A classic, by Professor Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
http://www.artsci.washington.edu/natsci/Search-committee-materials/unpacking-invisible-knapsack.pdf

ETHNOCENTRISM/ANTI-SEMITISM: When Jewish families determine that their child’s teenage nose is “too large” and encourage or require their child (usually a female) to have plastic surgery to “fix” (break and reshape) their noses, that is IO imposed by the parents onto the children. Similarly, hair-straightening, skin-lightening, lip-thinning or plumping and other feature-changing attempts all stem from some type of racist/ethnocentrist IO most of the time.

Example: ABLEISM: Those with different physical/mental abilities or disabilities position ourselves “above” as many others classified in this way as possible, striving to be seen and appreciated for our strengths, but not giving that same respect and value to those we place “below” us. This classification of individuals within an oppressed group by members of that group is also classic IO in action: we do the oppressors’ work for them.

When a paraplegic calls a quadriplegic a “crip,” that is IO. When we who are older and becoming more hearing-impaired respond with impatience to someone else who can’t hear well, or are self-deprecating about our own inability to hear clearly, that is IO.

AGEISM: When adults presume younger- or -older looking people are teens or elderly and therefore treat them with less respect, that is oppressive. When WE, as members of a targeted age group, have similar negative attitudes because of someone’s actual or presumed age, IO is taking charge.

Telling ourselves (and anyone else) that we/they are less capable, worthy, competent or otherwise valuable because of our/their age (whatever it is) is also IO at work.

HETEROSEXISM: When gay men deride other gay men for being “too faggy” or a “flaming ‘queen,'” or lesbians call other lesbians “bulldykes” or “lipstick lesbians” based on their appearances, that is IO. Being down on ourselves as bisexuals, believing we are “unclear” or people who “can’t make up our minds” means IO has taken over.

Some people believe that oppressed groups can “reclaim” derogatory labels, like “nigger,” “dyke,” “fag,” “kike,” “bitch,” “‘ho'” and others by using them among “ourselves,” but I strongly disagree and so do those who work within the oppression-reduction movements. Using the slave-owners’ terms for the slaves among the slaves does NOT “empower” them: it makes them colluders.

WordsThatHurt
image from http://goodmenproject.com

You don’t “liberate” a derogatory term by using it repeatedly. Instead, we give the oppressors and bigots permission to use horrible names for us publicly and strengthen those terms’ cultural importance because we use those names, too. I don’t use them at all, anymore.

IO gets its main power from us. When we hear messages repeatedly that we aren’t “good enough,” regardless of who we are and how we look, from advertisers that want to sell us products to “make us look better,” these messages creep into our psyches. We then exacerbate and facilitate this brutality onto our own self-esteem when we buy into the ideas that we aren’t attractive because of IO operating on our subconscious.

Example: AGEISM and SEXISM plus LOOKS-ISM: Women and men do not “need” to remove body hair to be “attractive.” Believing that body-hair-free men or women are “sexier” is a social construct, one not followed by most of the world and only recently followed even by modern adults. Body-hair-free adults look more like pre-pubescent children. How is that look perceived as “sexy” by anyone who is mentally healthy?

What can we do to eliminate or reduce Internalized Oppression?

Perhaps you’ll be willing to go on a hunt, excavating your own internal messages and searching for those that are oppressive in order to eradicate or neutralize them. I hope you will.

no isms allowed
image from http://www.industrialantioppression.blogspot.com

Read! Listen to Podcasts or watch videos on this topic: there are thousands of ways to recognize and then unlearn the messages we have internalized that build onto institutionalized oppression.

self-worth
image from http://ink361.com
PEGGY McINTOSh’s article

If your self-improvement efforts are not immediately successful, don’t be discouraged: it can take decades to “unlearn” the oppressive viewpoints which have been inculcated into us all. Just keep trying to notice them and not believe them: that’s a great start. Also, if there are workshops, classes, or other opportunities online or in person (better) to unlearn racism, sexism, etc., or to learn about social justice and oppression, please avail yourselves of them.

It’s never too late to become less biased and to learn to advocate more positively for yourself as well.

Next, don’t allow statements that perpetuate IO to go unchallenged. Speak up. Speak out.

Silence = assent is not just a bumper sticker.

oppression wins via silence
image from http://www.decolonizingyoga.com