- Georgia Bates
Internalised Oppression and Its Consequences
© Illustration by Alicia Lupieri
Oppression can take many forms. As a society, we may be oppressed for a variety of reasons including ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, gender, and others.
Oppressed individuals may begin to internalise the oppression and take at one’s word the negative and derogatory stereotypes of which they experience. Internalised oppression is the process in which an oppressed group uses the methods of the oppressing group against itself. Internalised oppression can lead onto conditioned oppression where people are conditioned to normalise behaviours which are prejudiced. Therefore, internalising oppression has the potential to destroy families, societies and communities and it is necessary to spread awareness on the effects of this type of oppression.
Internalised racism occurs when a member of a group targeted by racism, assumes a racist attitude towards their own group. Internalising and colluding with racist ideas has its own systemic reality and negative consequences in the lives and communities of people of colour. Internalised racism expands the privilege of white people and undermines the power of people and communities of colour. Research into the effects of internalised racism suggests that this kind of prejudice can be linked to declining mental health and cases of anxiety. Studies into the effects of this kind of internalised oppression showed a prominent correlation between internalising racism and the acceptance of dominant white cultures actions and beliefs with anxiety and distress in the context of racial discrimination. At the core of this correlation is struggling with self-identity in the context of race, by accepting the dominant attitudes and negative perceptions- thus causing internal mental conflict.
Internalised homophobia occurs when LGBTQ+ individuals internalise the idea that heterosexuality is the norm. Naturally, the constant enforcement of negative stereotypes on the LGBTQ+ community can lead to the internalisation of messages. There are inevitable consequences to periodically repeating homophobic attitudes within society in which heterosexual individuals will grow to believe the messages and treat LGBTQ+ individuals, accordingly, thus accepting and believing that heterosexuality is the ‘norm’ and colluding with negative stereotypes. These messages are then enforced onto people within the LGBTQ+ community and can cause a lifetime of impact on self-image as well as attitudes to other gay people.
Internalised misogyny is the prejudiced behaviour women project upon themselves and other women. Much like any other forms of internalised oppression, internalised misogyny leads to the belief that women are inferior to society and women should behave in this way. Patriarchal messages are enforced to the point where the idea that men are the dominant sex is taken as truth and leads to females oppressing themselves as a sort of coping mechanism.
© Image from @wellwecare
It is important to recognise the effects of internalised oppression. There is a multitude of research that shows the correlation between internalised oppression and declining mental health within minority groups. Research found that 95% of individuals who had internalised oppression facing mental health related issues and confidence intervals. A large proportion of non-European women use skin whitening products . Women are victim blamed and slut-shamed in accounts of sexual assault, as opposed to men being held responsible. Gay men and women have admitted themselves into conversion therapy because society has taught that being part of the LGBTQ+ is wrong and thus individuals need to be converted back to the ‘norm’ of heterosexuality.Often, persons are naturally oblivious to internalised misogyny which is completely comprehensible when many have spent their lifetimes enforced with negative stereotypes and connotations. Accepting that no individual is immune to the often prominent, anti-minority agenda that is enforced upn society is vital in the unlearning of internalised oppression.
Linked below are articles and online help forums that allow people to heal from different types of internalised oppression.
TED talks: Internalised Oppression- Naming and peeling away the layers of shame