What is Oppression?

Oppression is often the use of authority in an unjust or cruel fashion that results in the oppressed feeling physically and/or mentally burdened. Last week’s readings focused heavily on the mistreatment of intersexed and transgendered persons. These persons systematically experience psychological, emotional, and physical troubles, all of which are evidence of oppression. In many cases this oppression is sanctioned by structures that function as authorities in our society. For example, a medical authority sanctioned the removal of Cheryl Chase’s enlarged clitoris, which resulted in both mental and physical troubles and violated her ability to have agency over her body (Fausto-Sterling, 80). In Whipping Girl, Julia Serano explains her experience transitioning and her anxiety and frustration with other women’s denial of her experience as a woman (Serano). In each of these situations these people encountered obstacles that restricted their self-expression. In both cases the nature of the oppression functioned as part of a greater mechanism for the enforcement of the gender binary. Obviously from the statistics that we have seen in class and other readings it is clear that the gender binary also adversely affects cisgendered persons. It seems almost difficult to fathom anyway in which the gender binary functions as a liberatory system, rather than an oppressive one.


Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” (2000)

Julia Serano, “Experiential Gender” (2007)


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