Green Books Campaign: Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice

November 10th, 2009 12:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

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It’s Time for a Green Book: 1 Day, 100 Bloggers, 100 Green Books, 100 Reviews

Today at 1:00 PM ET, 100 bloggers will simultaneously review 100 different books as part of the Green Books Campaign. Organized by Eco-Libris, the project aims to promote “green” books (i.e., those printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper) – many of which discuss “green” topics as well: environmentalism, climate change, wildlife protection, activism, “green” frugalism and food (including vegan cooking!) – are all represented in today’s carnival. You can view a complete list of participating bloggers and their books here, with campaign updates here. As participant #94, I’ll be reviewing Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice from CommonAct Press. (Stay with me here!)

I found out about the project rather late in the game, so there was only a handful of unclaimed books from which to choose. Normally I would have picked a title more directly related to veganism – in particular, The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book caught my eye, and although it was already taken, the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy anyhow; keep an eye out for a post or two in the coming weeks! – but given time and other limitations, I chose Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice. The monograph introduces students to anti-/oppressive terms and concepts – a useful exercise for anyone interested in social work and/or justice.

As I’ve argued here and elsewhere, animal liberation is closely tied to other, human social justice movements – if not traditionally thought of as a social justice movement per se. As advocates, it’s our responsibility to develop a working knowledge of prejudice and oppression in all their forms, and to avoid further marginalizing one group of already-marginalized animals on behalf of another. Practically speaking, this strategy can help us to build bridges (rather than burn them) and attract potential allies (rather than alienate others). More importantly, fighting for/alongside oppressed peoples – human and non – is also the right, the moral, the vegan thing to do. For these reasons, methinks A Glossary of AOP Terms is right at home here.

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Review: Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice, edited by Bill Lee, Sheila Sammon & Gary C. Dumbrill (2007)

Though compact, Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice packs quite the anti-oppressive punch into its 37 pages. Editors Bill Lee, Sheila Sammon and Gary C. Dumbrill (who are themselves social work educators) touch upon a number of terms and concepts that students will encounter in both theory and practice.

Through my own college studies (primarily women’s studies courses), as well as several years spent pouring over progressive blogs in lieu of the Democrat & Chronicle, I was previously familiar with many of these phrases: sexism, patriarchy, institutional racism, other(ing), relativism, dominant ideology. Even so, a few terms (service users’ knowledge, internalized oppression) were new to me.

Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice seems most appropriate for students taking advanced sociology or social work courses. (Indeed, a Google search for the book’s title reveals a number of course syllabuses in which the glossary is included.) However, these are terms with which all adults – particularly those taking up the mantle of “progressivism” – should be acquainted.

While the book’s breadth of coverage is generally good, there are a few areas of concern.*

First and foremost, I find it odd that there is no separate entry for transphobia. Instead, the term is mentioned briefly under the entry for homophobia:

Homophobia: Refers to an irrational fear or hatred of or discomfort with homosexual people or homosexuality (including lesbian, transgendered and transsexual people) that is often manifest in individual violence or structural discrimination. [page 15]

Transgendered and transsexual people are not necessarily homosexual, nor are transgenderism (sp?) and transsexualism forms of homosexuality.

Transgender: A general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to diverge from the normative gender roles.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as woman, man, or neither) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). “Transgender” does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them.

Transsexualism: A condition in which an individual identifies with a physical sex different from the one they were born with. A medical diagnosis can be made if a person experiences discomfort as a result of a desire to be a member of the opposite sex, or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of that gender identification.

Likewise, transphobia refers to discrimination against both transgendered and transsexual persons:

Transphobia: Discrimination against transsexuality and transsexual or transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity. [...] Many transpeople also experience homophobia from people who incorrectly associate gender identity with homosexuality. Attacking someone on the basis of a perception of their gender identity rather the perception of their sexual orientation is known as “trans-bashing,” as opposed to “gay bashing.”

While transphobia and homophobia often coexist, the two are discrete phenomenon. I’ve no idea why the editors of Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice would group the two together, particularly as doing so results in a rather retrogressive definition.

Also puzzling – though less troubling – is the omission of “misogyny” from the glossary.

The editors do include an entry for sexism:

Sexism: Refers to a set of social, economic, political, and cultural beliefs, attitudes, and practices that oppress women. Sexism is similar to racism in that each is based on notions of biological determinism and essentialism. [...] These characteristics are then used to rationalize the subordination of women.

Compare the concept of sexism with that of misogyny:

Misogyny: Hatred (or contempt) of women or girls. Misogyny comes from Greek misogunia (μισογυνία) from misos (μῖσος, “hatred”) and gynē (γυνή, “woman”). [...] In the late 20th century, feminist theorists proposed misogyny as both a cause and result of patriarchal social structures. [...]

Traditional feminist theorists propose many different forms of misogyny. In its most overt expression, a misogynist will openly hate all women simply because they are female.

Other forms of misogyny may be less overt. Some misogynists may simply be prejudiced against all women, or may hate women who do not fall into one or more acceptable categories. Subscribers to one model, the mother/whore dichotomy, hold that women can only be “mothers” or “whores.” Another variant is the virgin/whore dichotomy, in which women who do not adhere to a saintly standard of moral purity (Abrahamic) are considered “whores”. [...]

Misogyny is a negative attitude towards women as a group, and so need not fully determine a misogynist’s attitude towards each individual woman. The fact that someone holds misogynist views may not prevent him or her from having positive relationships with some women.

Conversely, simply having negative relationships with some women does not necessarily mean someone holds misogynistic views.

Though the two are intimately related – to such a degree that they’re often used interchangeably (guilty as charged!) – they are still somewhat separate constructs. (For a more nuanced looked at the differences between sexism and misogyny, see Misogyny Vs. Sexism by Nicholas Kristof.) It would be most helpful, then, for a glossary of anti-oppressive terms to include each.

Additionally, there are a number of terms that should have been included (particularly as many are related to other concepts in the book), but are not.

In the first group are terms that are primarily related to human-on-human oppression, including the following:

Androcentrism: The practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing male human beings or the masculine point of view at the center of one’s view of the world and its culture and history. [...]

The term androcentrism has been introduced as an analytic concept by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the scientific debate. Perkins Gilman described androcentric practises in society and the resulting problems in her investigation on The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture, published in 1911. Thus androcentrism can be understood as a societal fixation on masculinity. According to Perkins Gilman, masculine patterns of life and masculine mindsets claimed universality while female ones were considered as deviance.

Environmental racism: The intentional or unintentional racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities for the siting of polluting industries, or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. The term was coined and defined by the former Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. Environmental justice is the movement to reverse environmental racism.

Sizeism: Hatred, intolerance or stereotyping, usually of a human animal, based on his or her size, i.e., perceived fatness, thinness, tallness, shortness. Most commonly “sizeism” refers to discrimination against “overweight” people.

See also: Wiki’s entry on the Fat acceptance movement.

Fat phobia: Literally, a fear of fatness and/or “fat” people.

See also: Wiki’s entry on the Fat acceptance movement.

Lookism: Discrimination against or prejudice towards others based on their appearance. [...]

Lookism has received scholarly attention both from a cultural studies and an economics perspective. In the former context, lookism relates to preconceived notions of beauty and cultural stereotyping based on appearance as well as gender roles and expectations. Important economic considerations include the question of income gaps based on looks, as well increased or decreased productivity from workers considered beautiful or ugly by their co-workers.

[As alluded to in the Wiki entry quoted above, lookism does not stand alone; more often than not, it intersects with other "isms," including sexism, racism, classism, sizeism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. - Kelly]

When first approaching Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice, I didn’t expect that the editors would include nonhuman animals in the scope of their anti-oppressive work. Certainly, I hoped that they’d address animal liberation, if only tangentially – but I didn’t expect them to. Thus, I was disappointed – though unsurprised – to find a complete absence of anti-speciesist terms in the glossary.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, animal liberation isn’t necessarily considered a social justice movement. At least, not by those looking in from the outside. Even so, I think an argument can be made for including at least a few basic terms related to animal exploitation, if only because social workers may encounter clients who are affected by these issues, e.g., by their clients’ associations with nonhuman animals and/or animal advocacy causes. For instance, low-income people living in inner-city neighborhoods may have trouble finding healthy food to eat; doubly so if they adhere to a vegan diet. Likewise, social workers may serve working-class people who are left with few or no options for keeping their canine companions in the face of a “breed ban.”

In this vein are several anti-/oppressive terms that can be applied both to animal and human rights movements. Because of their significance and broad scope, I’m surprised that none of these made the cut.

Appropriation: In sociology, [appropriation] is, according to James J. Sosnoski, “the assimilation of concepts into a governing framework…[the] arrogation, confiscation, [or] seizure of concepts.”

According to Tracy B Strong it contains the Latin root proprius, which, “carries the connotations not only of property, but also of proper, stable, assured and indeed of common or ordinary.” She elaborates: “I have appropriated something when I have made it mine, in a manner that I feel comfortable with, that is in a manner to which the challenges of others will carry little or no significance. A text, we might then say, is appropriated when its reader does not find himself or herself called into question by it, but does find him or herself associated with it. A successfully appropriated text no longer troubles the appropriator that it has become a part of his or her understanding, and it is recognized by others as ‘owned,’ not openly available for interpretation (logic)interpretation.”

According to Gloria Anzaldúa, “the difference between appropriation and proliferation is that the first steals and harms; the second helps heal breaches of knowledge.”

[Such as when human animals appropriate the suffering of nonhuman animals in order to describe a situation in which the former find themselves – without questioning the plight of the latter, thus tacitly endorsing their exploitation. See, for example, Women, Cows, Speed Bags, and Steaks: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others. – Kelly]

Reappropriation: The cultural process by which a group reclaims—re-appropriates—terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group. For example, since the early 1970s, much terminology referring to homosexuality—such as “gay,” “queer” and (to a lesser extent) “faggot“—has been reappropriated.

Reclaim: A reclaimed word is a word in a language that was at one time a pejorative but has been brought back into acceptable usage—usually starting within the communities that experienced oppression under that word, but often also among the general populace as well.

This can have wider implications in the fields of discourse, and is often described in terms of personal or sociopolitical empowerment.

[For example, this is the only context in which I approve of the words “bitch” and “cunt” (with the added stipulation that one must also be aware of the (anti-)speciesist connotations of employing the former). Naturally, not all feminists/vegans agree. – Kelly]

Intersectionality: A theory which seeks to examine the ways in which various socially and culturally constructed categories interact on multiple levels to manifest themselves as inequality in society. Intersectionality holds that the classical models of oppression within society, such as those based on race/ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, class, species or disability do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.

Kyriarchy: A neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

Last but not least are terms specific to animal exploitation and liberation. Again, I’m not at all surprised that these are not included in Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice – but I think they’d make a nice addition, all the same.

In addition to vegan and vegetarian (as well as, perhaps, lacto-ovo vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, flexitarian, dietary vegan, environmental vegan, ethical vegan), we have:

Speciesism: The assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. The term was created by British psychologist Richard D. Ryder in 1973 to denote a prejudice against non-humans based on morally irrelevant physical differences. “I use the word ‘speciesism’,” he wrote in 1975, “to describe the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against other species … Speciesism and racism both overlook or underestimate the similarities between the discriminator and those discriminated against.”

The term is mostly used by animal rights advocates, who argue that it is irrational or morally wrong to regard sentient beings as objects or property. Philosopher Tom Regan argues that all animals have inherent rights and that we cannot assign them a lesser value because of a perceived lack of rationality, while assigning a higher value to infants and the mentally impaired solely on the grounds of being members of a specific species. [...] Some philosophers and scientists argue that speciesism is an acceptable position as a form of human supremacy.

Anthropocentrism: The belief that humans must be considered at the center of, and above any other aspect of, reality. This concept is sometimes known as humanocentrism or human supremacy. It is especially strong in certain religious cultures, such as the Old Testament stating that God gave man dominion over all other earthly creatures.

Ecocide: The destruction of large areas of the natural environment by such activity as nuclear warfare, overexploitation of resources, or dumping of harmful chemicals.

Heedless or deliberate destruction of the natural environment, as by pollutants or an act of war.

Breedism: Hatred, intolerance or stereotyping of a particular breed(s) of dog, e.g.: so-called “aggressive” breeds such as pit bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers; or supposedly “genetically inferior” mix-breed dogs, i.e., “mutts,” “mongrels,” “tykes,” “curs” and “bitzers.”

Is there a term I’m overlooking? Let me know in the comments!

ETA: the five participating bloggers who log the most comments on their reviews will win an audio copy of Al Gore’s Our Choice, along with a 3-month subscription to BookSwim. Help me win, peoples!

As for the book’s “green” cred, it’s printed on 100% post-consumer paper.

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* All definitions appear in blockquotes for emphasis. Entries excerpted from Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice are singled out above the excerpt, with the page number appearing in brackets within the blockquote. Definitions taken from Wikipedia and other online sources are identified by a hyperlink at the beginning of the blockquote. I had trouble locating satisfactory definitions for a few of the terms, so I cobbled together my own. These are still blockquoted, but contain no hyperlinks or page numbers. Additionally, my own notes on specific (quoted) terms appear in brackets at the end of the blockquote.

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One Response to “Green Books Campaign: Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice

  1. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) Says:

    This sounds like an interesting reference guide. thanks for the green book review.

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