Subtle Oppression

life cereal

It’s hard to prove, but the effects are undeniable

Prejudice and discrimination are easy to spot when you’re denied a job you’re overqualified to do, your home loan is mysteriously denied, or anytime you’re told you don’t get something as soon as they learn your minority status. But there are more subtle ways of keeping you from equal treatment.

Consider a dress code. It seems superficial and harmless enough with an initial glance. But what if you’re a Muslim woman committed to wearing a hijab as part of her religious practice? What if you notice a prohibition about nose rings right after you pierce your nostril? What if you can’t afford the new clothes the dress code requires? Any chance for excluding you for lifestyle, religion, or economic class in there?

Consider how redlining has been legal for so long. Redlining is the practice of marking out zip codes and neighborhoods that if you live in them, you will automatically be denied a loan. The bank or other lender will make vague excuses that your application seemed too risky, but their real motivation is to make sure people of color don’t get to move into more affluent, mostly white neighborhoods.

What if your treatment could be attributed to other factors? That’s what they want you to think. Consider things as innocuous as whether as the only out homosexual in your office, you are the only one never asked to represent the company on business trips. You are encouraged to retire early, and you are the only one offered the option because the rest of the office is at least twenty years younger than you and keeps treating you like you’re fragile.

And what if you see one publication after another simply announce they wanted their ADULT fiction to be rated PG? No swearing, no violence, no sex is allowed if you want to sell your work there. How could that be discriminatory? It’s just a simple style preference, isn’t it?

That is the defense bakers have used when they’ve been asked to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The reason PG-rated adult publications are discriminatory is because they de facto exclude much of minority literature, because if many minority authors speak about their culture, it will have swearing, violence, and sex. Only a comfortable, upper-middle class, white suburban life can be described without those things. Since when do adults need to be protected from those things?


I hope you enjoyed this post, and if so, please check out past posts that also cover social issues facing artists: Subversive Fiction, Portraying the Other Gender, No More Happily Ever After, and Why do straight parents keep having gay kids?

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