239 years ago today, the United States had decided that it was time to expel its oppressors by force. All other means had been attempted, it was the last resort. Sometimes, that’s what it takes to get rid of an oppressor. Often, force is the tool of the oppressor. It is used to get an individual, group, or state to carry out the will of the person using it. Oppression by force can also be described as: kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, violence, slavery, forced labor, and many more. These descriptions are not limited by gender. They are not limited by location. Many people reading this may think that slavery doesn’t happen in the Western world anymore. It was abolished 149 years ago in the U.S. and never to return!
But those people would be wrong, grossly wrong. We tend to assume that the moniker “trafficking in persons” is applied solely to women and girls who are used for sexual exploitation. There are 27 million people who are victims of trafficking and who are used for modern day slavery (http://www.cicatelli.org/titlex/downloadable/human%20trafficking%20statistics.pdf). There are 12 cases in the state of Florida alone where people are being brought to justice for slavery (http://ciw-online.org/slavery/). These things are happening under our noses because we cannot see and sometimes we choose not to see.
Oppression is a word that is often used to speak of gender issues. Men oppress women. Women oppress men. People oppress people who are different and weaker. Oppression shouldn’t be discussed in gendered terms for the sole purpose of assuming one’s privilege or demanding they check it. Everyone reading this has privilege. It is nearly impossible to have an internet connection and the time to sit online without being privileged for that. You are also oppressed somehow. Your oppression may not be trafficking. Your oppression may not be because of your gender. Your oppression may not even by a physical or tangible thing. To many American women, oppression comes in the form of a constant barrage of advertisement whose sole purpose to relay that she is not good enough or pretty enough without their products.
Force is a tool of the oppressor, and anyone can wield it. Men can be raped, beaten, and killed by anyone. Violence against women has many campaigns that are championed by many people. Trafficking in persons is an age old phenomenon that is constantly fought by those who are really aware of it. Force as a tool of the oppressor is happening all around us, every day. It is constantly in the news all around the world. It can only be stopped with help. There are organizations dedicated to stopping t his oppression, and then there are the people who stop it every day. There are the friends and strangers who step in before a woman gets taken away by a would-be rapist. There are neighbors who intervene in domestic violence.
This may not be a gendered issue, and some may believe that it therefore should not have a place in a blog about gender. I chose to discuss oppression, and therefore force this week, because it shouldn’t be a gendered issue and it is often treated as one. If we are going to be fair to all genders, we need to remember that there is more to force and oppression than that which is perpetrated against women. We need to be aware that oppression is a bigger issue than who gets a scholarship or affirmative action.
For a closer look at modern day slavery:
Here are some organizations fighting to end oppression:
There are many more and I try to keep links to them on Pinterest here:
There is more to oppression than force, so join me next week for a look at oppression by coercion.