2SLGBTQIA+ Toolkit to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Anti-Oppression and Power Flower Exercise

2SLGBTQIA+ Programming (Basic)

While you are reviewing this module, please consider the concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. This module focuses on defining oppression and sets the foundation for seeing how the systems of oppression are connected.

Learning objectives
  • Understand what is meant by oppression
  • Illustrate an understanding of what Anti-Oppression Framework is
  • Understand the different types of oppression (race, gender, class etc.) and how they interconnect

Troye Sivan Speaks to LGBTQ Youth About Being Homeless:

Definitions

The following definitions are from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

  • Anti-Oppression: Strategies, theories, and actions that challenge social and historical inequalities and injustices that are systemic to our systems and institutions by policies and practices that allow certain groups to dominate over other groups.
  • Equity: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.
Equality, Equity, Justice
  • Oppression: The unilateral subjugation of one individual or group by a more powerful individual or group, using physical, psychological, social, or economic threats or force, and frequently using an explicit ideology to sanction the oppression. Rarely is a person solely oppressed or solely privileged but that using an intersectional lens, we have both depending on the space we are in. 
  • Power: The ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs.
  • Privilege: The experience of freedoms, rights, benefits, advantages, access and/or opportunities afforded some people because of their group membership or social context.

All of these acknowledge that there are inequalities in our society that are rooted in the view that some groups enjoy unearned privilege and others suffer because of unearned privilege.

What is Oppression?

Oppression is generally understood as the domination of subordinate groups in society by powerful (politically, economically, socially, and culturally) groups. It entails the various ways that this domination occurs, including how structural arrangements favour the dominant over subordinate group (Mullaly, 2002:27).

Systems of Oppression

Here is a chart that walks us through the systems of oppression. It has been adapted from Youth Environmental Network’s Green Justice Guide.

System or Form of Oppression: 'Race' Oppression Gender
Oppression
Class Oppression Sexual Oppression Ability Oppression Age Oppression
Assumed Norm: White Men valued above women Cis people valued above transgender  and non-binary people Middle-upper class Heterosexual Able’-bodied Adults’
What is considered to be marginal or not the norm: Non-whites or people of colour,Indigenous people, mixed race people Cis women, Transgender, and intersex people Transgender and non-binary people The poor and working class (i.e. specifically blue collar workers. This category does not include people who are simply working) Homosexual or queer folks ‘Disabled’ people Children, youths, and the elderly (seniors)
Name of the discrimination based on this system of oppression: Racism Sexism and transphobia Transphobia Classism Heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia Ableism Ageism

Missing from this chart is religious oppression. Please take a few moments and answer the following questions:

  • What is the assumed norm?
  • What is considered to be marginal or not in the norm?

Visualizing Oppressions — Power Flower Exercise

The goal of the power flower exercise is to determine the identities that have privilege in our Canadian society and where we as individuals fit. This version of the exercise is adapted from: Wenh-In Ng’s A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower. 

Process

Download and print the “Power Flower” image (or if you are creative you can draw your own Power Flower on a piece of paper). In the innermost petal/section list the identity categories (e.g. race, gender, sexuality etc). On the middle petal write your personal identity (e.g. white, cisgender male, gay etc). Finally on the outermost petal write the social identities that experience privilege in society.

Download a Power Flower here.

Here is a sample of what a completed Power Flower looks like.

Power Flower

 

This exercise is a good way to help us visualize systems of oppressions. Here are some questions to reflect on as you review your completed flower:

  1. How do your social identities relate to those who have societal power? 
  2. Do you share certain identities? 
  3. What does this exercise illustrate about oppression and power structures? 
  4. Who holds power and who does not? 

What we consider the norm and what we think of as the "other" is based in oppression. Something as trivial as hair and what we value as a society is deeply rooted in historical oppressions. For example, there have been several media reports of school children being sent home or suspended because their hair was not deemed suitable for school. Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion

Oppressions are like jigsaw puzzles or lego pieces where the different forms connect together and support each other and they do not occur in isolation. For example, a gay man of colour faces homophobia and racism, just as an older trans woman endures ageism and transphobia.

It is important not to rank or rate oppressions. Why? From the Youth Environmental Network, ranking oppressions:

  • Leads to disputes over which forms of oppression are the worst and least severe;
  • Fails to recognize how different forms of oppression intersect or work together to oppress people;
  • Avoids looking at structures of power and privilege because people end up spending time arguing over which forms of oppression are the worst instead of focusing on how power structures divide struggles against racism from struggles against sexism (e.g. ‘divide and rule’ strategies);
  • Overlooks the fact that all forms of oppression are harmful and unjust, and it fails to recognize that the best strategy to end oppression involves tackling all forms of oppression at once.”

Sources:

 

Aran, I. (2013, November 26). Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://jezebel.com/florida-school-forces-black-student-to-cut-hair-or-face-1472062679

Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved from http://www.crr.ca/en/library-a-clearinghouse/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1

Mullaly, R. (2002). Challenging oppression: A critical social work approach. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press.

Ng, W. (n.d.). A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower”. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://lgbtq2stoolkit.learningcommunity.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/flower-power-exercise.pdf

Shelton, J. (2013, November 20). LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness. LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness Town Hall. Lecture conducted from National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, Toronto.

Youth Environmental Network. (n.d.). Green Justice Guide. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://antiracist-toolkit.users.ecobytes.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Green-Justice-Guide-Part-1.pdf