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Iris Marion Young states in her article "Five Faces of Oppression" that "In its tradition usage, oppression means the exercise of tyranny by a ruling group" (Young 36). However, there are new usages of the word oppression. These include:
  • The disadvantage and injustice some people suffer not because a tyrannical power coerces them, but because of the everday practices of a well-intentioned liberal society.
  • Systemic constraints on groups that are not necessarily the result of a few people's choices or polices.
  • Causes are unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols, in the assumptions underlying institutional rules and the collective consequences of following those rules.
  • Refers to the vast and deep injustices some groups suffer as a consequence of often unconscious assumptions and reactions of well meaning people in ordinary interactions, media and cultural stereotypes, and structural features of bureaucratic hierarchies and market mechanisms.
  • In short, the normal processes of everyday life.
(Young 36)

Because it is mostly unintentional and is just the way of society today, does not mean that there are not intentional acts of harassment or violence on oppressed people.

Social groups are the groups in which we are divided into that determine whether or not we are an oppressed group. Social groups can be defined as "a collective of persons differentiated from at least one other group by cultural forms, practices, or way of life...have a specific affinity with one another because of their similar experience (or way of life) which prompts them to associate with one another more than with those not identified with the group...an expression of social relations...exists only in relation to at least one other group" (Young 37).

According to Young, whether or not a social group is oppressed depends on if it is subject to any of these five conditions:
  1. Exploitation: Oppression occurs through a steady process of the transfer of the results of the labor of one social group to benefit another. it enacts a structural relation between social groups. To bring justice when there is exploitation, here has to be a reorganization of institutions and practices of decision-making, alteration of the division of labor, etc.
  2. Marginalization: Refers to marginals, or people the system of labor cannot or will not use. It does not just refer to racially marked groups. It refers to the elderly, people who get laid off and cannot find work, young people, single mothers and their children, involuntarily unemployed, people with disabilities, etc. It is probably the most dangerous form of oppression. Because they are dependent, their basic rights to privacy, respect, and individual choice are generally suspended.
  3. Powerlessness: The powerless are those who lack authority or power, those over whom power is exercised, they must take orders and rarely have the right to give them. "They have little or no work autonomy; exercise little creativity or judgment in their work; have no technical expertise or authority; express themselves awkwardly, especially in public or bureaucratic settings; and do not command respect" (Young 43).
  4. Cultural Imperialism: Means to experience how the dominant meanings of a society render the particular perspective of one's own group invisible at the same time as they stereotype one's group and mark it as the "Other" (Young 44). It involves the universalization of a dominant group's experience and culture and its establishment as the norm. The dominant group "reinforces its position by bringing the other groups under the measure of its dominant norms" (Young 45). For the oppressed, this creates what young W.E.B. Du Bois called double consciousness: always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity (Young 45).
  5. Violence: Many oppressed groups suffer violence and live with the knowledge that they can have random, unprovoked attacks on themselves or their property at anytime. They know that there is no motive but to damage, humiliate, or destroy them. This violence can be petty harassment, physical assault, rape, death, etc. The social context surrounding these acts of violence makes them possible and even accaptable.