Dear Liberal Allies – what your college courses on oppression didn’t tell you



I’m not angry or upset about anything in particular at the moment, but I thought I’d take a little time to write something out that had been bugging me about allies. It’s certainly not all-encompassing or totally comprehensive, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about in terms of being a good ally and a good neighbor, especially here on Tumblr.

Before you step in to help us out, I’d just like to clarify a couple things.

You and I, we may have taken the same seminars and maybe even read the same Audre Lorde excerpts or Ronald Takaki books, but know this: we learned very different things in very different ways 

For students of color, for gay students, for trans* students, for the children of immigrants and refugees, these classes aren’t always about learning new concepts when it pertains to us. It’s more about learning the names of things we already knew fairly intimately. Do you understand that? You learned it another way. You went in, you got this set of key words and a list of definitions. Your learning was, in all likelihood, “Here is this word. This is what this word means.”

For you, it was “Xenophobia: a strong fear or dislike of people from other countries.”

For us, it was “Xenophobia: the time that boy in my kindergarten class spat on me because I couldn’t speak English yet. Or when I saw that clerk yell at my mom in the grocery store because her English wasn’t clear enough. Or when USCIS had us confirm our American citizenship with the same set of papers seven times over the course of sixteen years because they wanted to confirm that we were, in fact, actual American citizens.”

For you, it was, “Racism: unfair treatment of people who belong to another race; violent behavior towards them.”

For us, it was, “Racism: that one time I saw that manager tell that sales girl to follow my dad around at Kohl’s. Or that one time my neighbor’s kid got shot by the police and they tried to cover it up by convincing everyone he was in a gang because he was Hmong, but we knew he wasn’t. Or that one time my dad told me I shouldn’t rollerblade to the library because I’m not white and it’s not safe for me.”

For you, it was, “Homophobia: a strong dislike or fear of homosexual people.”

For us, it was, “Homophobia: that time in the sixth grade when Ryan shoved me against a glass door and banged my face in it while yelling, ‘faggot!’ at me until the teacher stopped him. Or when my Catholic high school’s president told me that, though he loved me as a child of God, he still believed I was sinful when I suggested that we start a GSA.”

For you, it was: “Classism: prejudice or discrimination based on social class.”

For us, it was: “Classism: that one time when my best friend came over to hang out in high school and her parents didn’t want her to come over again because they didn’t like our neighborhood. Or that one time when my friends had no idea what food stamps looked like and I was too embarrassed to explain what they were.”

So while you were learning that these academically-framed phenomena were real problems, we were just getting little figurative nametags for awful things that we already knew. Your weekly vocabulary list was, to us, just a hollow shadow of our lived experiences.

So my point is this:

If you didn’t live an experience, then step aside. Because we knew this stuff before our professors told us what to call it. We learned it from the bottom up, you learned it from the top down, and that’s not even a metaphor.

When you step out of class, you get to be like, “Oh, awesome. I am learning how to be a good ally and a better human being. This will help me.” For us, it’s more like, “Ah, so that’s what they’re calling it nowadays. When exactly did they say change was going to come for us?”

So in practice, here’s what all this theory looks like: you don’t always have to speak. I mean, certainly, you should totally call someone out on their oppressive bullshit. But if you identify as male, you don’t get to tell people what is best for women as though you have that authority. If you’re white, you shouldn’t be trying to “uplift” people of color by the grace of your intellect or your words. Nobody’s looking to be ‘rescued’ or ‘pulled up from out of their unfortunate circumstances’ as you may be tempted to believe.

All anybody’s looking for in an ally is someone who knows that “empowerment” means taking a step aside in a place where you know you have privilege. And if it is, for example, a PoC-to-PoC conversation, a woman-to-woman conversation, a queer-to-queer conversation, etc. about this stuff, and that isn’t who you are, you don’t need to be chiming in.

Just take our word for it, let us talk, and let us vent. We’d like you to give us room, and if you have to be helpful, then help make room for us by giving up some of your proverbial social girth.

Because the bottom line is that our academia has made a commodity of our lived experiences as teaching moments for you. And if you think your academic knowledge is more valid than our lived experiences, then you’re definitely not part of the solution.

Much love.

OMG I’ve been looking for something that explained the way I felt when people talked about oppression that was about me in those diversity classes

(via queersocialworker-deactivated20)


Rape, By The Numbers.


Rape, By The Numbers.

(via thenewwomensmovement)

People always ask me if fat shamers actually hurt my feelings, because it never seems like they do.



The truth is, fat shamers and concern trolls are like splinters. The immediate, gut reaction to someone hating your existence is quick and sharp. But that part doesn’t last for long. After it’s wedged its way inside you, it turns into a radiating annoyance. You know it’s there, you know it’s not leaving, and you know you’re going to have to dig it out. When you finally get rid of it, the pain is mostly gone, but you can still tell that it’s not fully healed. There’s still a small part that’s sensitive to the touch.

The difference is, you don’t get splinters multiple times a day. You’re not constantly having splinters forced into your body by your friends, family, strangers, doctors, television shows, magazines, movies, and books. You’re not constantly on the lookout for splinters because you know it’s just a matter of time until you get another one. 

But fat shamers and concern trolls are fucking everywhere. And you know what they have in common with splinters? They’re never fucking welcome. They’re never fucking helpful. They are annoying, they are painful, and they are invasive. 

When I get messages from fat shamers and concern trolls, I always respond with a lot of sass, and I always shut them down. Because I’m used to the pain for the most part. I’m used to the abuse, and the neglect, and the violence. But I shouldn’t be. This shouldn’t be considered normal, and it sure as fuck shouldn’t be considered helpful. Saidiya Hartman calls oppression “the terror of the mundane.” That phrase has stuck with me, because oppression is constantly normalized by phrases like “well if you don’t like the way you’re treated, you should change yourself to be what people want!” Or “well, it’s your fault that you’re oppressed. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and it won’t happen!”

In other words, yes, concern trolls and fat shamers hurt me. They hurt me as individuals, and as a whole. Because these people constantly reify thin idealization. They constantly reify a culture that puts thinness on a pedestal and aims to stop fat people from existing. They hurt me because some of them honestly believe that they are helping, and some of them love the feeling of knowing that they are hurting and killing others. They hurt me because they refuse to take responsibility for the violences they commit against me and others. They hurt me because I know they are hurting others who aren’t me. I’ve been working towards loving myself and sticking up for myself for years now, and it’s paid off. Concern trolls and fat shamers don’t affect me the way they used to. But I know the same can’t be said for others, and that’s scary for me. Because I know there are people out there who hate themselves as much as I used to hate myself, and I’m worried for their safety. 

But they don’t hurt me in the way they want to hurt me. They don’t make me think less of myself. They don’t make me want to change. They don’t make me feel that they are somehow more successful, attractive, or morally superior in comparison to myself. They don’t make me feel ugly. They don’t make me feel like a failure. They don’t make me feel like I shouldn’t be fat. 

The difference is the pain they want to inflict and the actual pain I suffer from. I’ve stopped believing the lies they tell me, so they can’t hurt me that way. The pain I feel is from knowing that it’s going to take a lifetime of work to ensure that myself and others can work against the lies we’re told about our bodies, and that makes me sad, because it’s not something that should have to be done. But it does have to be done, and I sincerely want to be a part of that. So I will be. Because that’s how I fight that pain - by actively working against it, and by showing fat shamers and concern trolls just how fucking ignorant they’re being. That’s my way, you just gotta figure out yours!

The. Best. Ever.


Funny how when white people talk about their own “liberation” (ex. american revolution) they all like “freedom isn’t free. It requires blood and war” but when referring to PoC liberation they want people to use peaceful tactics. Tell us that using force to gain equality or freedom makes us as bad as our oppressors.

(Source: neg-mawon, via shorm)


Dear Offended Former Follower:

It is not the marginalized persons’ job to speak of their experiences and truths in ways that makes their oppressors or their power structures comfortable and happy. Anger, towards oppressors, towards the shame and hatred leveled at us for simple existing while fat, towards the bullies who tear us apart and the expectation that we meet their violence with a smile and a nod, is an act of defiance. Expressing that anger is the first step for a fat person who starting to come to terms with their humanity and understanding that the injustices that the world is so happy to lay upon them are not the price of their weight but the result of living in a culture that condones bullying and assault as corrective measures. 

We’re angry because we realize we have a right to be. Anger is liberating. Anger is better than the guilt we’re expected to feel for inflicting our fatness on the world by merely existing in it. Our anger is empowering, and we’re not going to set it aside just because it makes you uncomfortable. 

(refers to this post)

Oh, the fucking fucks we weave! Or, on tone policing and activism.


Do you have to be downright hateful, condescending, and bitter about EVERYTHING? Seriously. You give every fatty (including myself) a bad name. You talk about breaking down unfair stereotypes, yet you perpetuate the “rule” that fat people are aggressive and bully-ish. And you’re just that, a bully. Every time someone asks a question on your blog, you call them names and treat them like degenerates of society because they aren’t kissing your ass. 

That being sad, thisisthinprivilege started out as a pretty benevolent blog, in my opinion. But over the course of time, it seems as though if you’ve gotten meaner, artetolife. It feels like this blog is now your personal tool to lash out against everyone. I think you’ve lost the message of your own blog; it’s not about belittling “thin people” (or others who don’t understand a fat person’s life), it’s about sharing instances of discrimination in order to fight against it. 

I just lost it after reading your hateful replies to yet another poster.

I got this in my inbox tonight, and don’t feel like crediting the contributor. It’s not really necessary, anyway.

There’s many ways I could respond to this. In my usual caustic no-bullshit manner — a ‘fucks’-laden post telling the person to stick it where the sun don’t shine, noting the obvious about tone policing marginalizing people (which has been addressed before and even several times tonight), note that me responding to a reblog or answering a question from someone coming into this space isn’t bullying, that bullying is the trollwaves that hit this blog weekly, not to mention the tumblogs and 4chan/reddit threads dedicated to trolling this blog and its followers

…but I think I’ll actually come out and talk about my tone. Because you know what? This blog isn’t ‘losing its message.’ It’s just hitting its stride. And I think that fucking scares the shit out of privileged people who want nothing more than for marginalized people to play by their rules of decorum so they can retain a sense of control.

Privileged folks don’t want marginalized folks to speak up, and want least of all for them to get LOUD. Loud enough, y’know, to actually be heard over the din of weight loss messaging and healthistic proselytizing.

Fat folks aren’t supposed to be loud. We’re supposed to apologize for our bodies as often as possible and certainly whenever asked. We’re supposed to reassure the offended non-fat, self-loathing fat, generally hateful, and other fatphobic wonders that, yes, we are losing the weight, sir! That yes, we are terrible and personify all those bad qualities of self ascribed to us, including being (and these are all things I’ve read): lazy, smelly, stupid, food-‘users,’ emotionally broken, lacking in willpower, bad parents; good for nothing but fueling vehicles with fat carved off our bodies, or being turned into horsemeat; deserve to be sent to workcamps to be starved, to have our children taken away from us, to be charged extra for daring to ‘willfully’ exist while fat until we lose the weight; should be executed and purged from society…should I go on? Let’s stop for now.

People like me are supposed to live in a world where abuse of fat people is not only encouraged, it’s a popular national television show — and expected not to get loud about it. Don’t make waves. Watch your tone. Don’t get angry, you’re losing your message! Don’t you know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Aren’t you worried about losing followers? Why are you so angry? Being an angry oppressed person is the same as being a hateful oppressor!

Fuck, don’t you get it? Tone policing is a tool of oppression. Setting and maintaining rules of decorum that the marginalized are expected to toe if the privileged are to deign to listen to them, even though we’re the ones getting bullied, trolled, and hated to death, is oppression. I do say ‘fuck’ a lot, and I do tell people who slime into my tiny corner of the internet to spew ignorant bullshit I’ve addressed a hundred times before to fuck off. Pretending that’s the same as nearly every article on the internet daring to mention weight being laden with comments about how fat people need to kill themselves or be killed already, is oppression.

If you come on here to tone police myself or the other mods, you are doing the work of the oppressors and I will not treat you with respect, but with the scorn you deserve.

If you come on here to ask willfully stupid ‘questions’ about why I should expect not to be oppressed because gosh, I’m fat, aren’t I? then I will not treat you with respect, but with the scorn you deserve. 

If you come on here to thinsplain because your little privileged world is being challenged and, oh my, those things you thought made you superior are actually unearned and are part of a system that oppresses others, I will not treat you with respect, but with the scorn you deserve.

If you come on here to trying to water down the harsh reality of the oppression fat people face, and pretend that we are dying, suffering, watching our loved ones suffer, being financially disadvantaged, threatened, shamed, and treated as subhuman under a system of fat oppression, then I will not treat you with respect, but with the scorn you deserve.





We don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist.”

Two slam poets with Brave New Voices deliver this fearless indictment of hipster cultural appropriation and all its collateral damage. 


Lol seriously though why does this not have more notes?! I can’t even pick my favorite part. It’s amazing, and flawless, and just… yes.

“Acting like you’re down because you say “fuck the system,” but in the same breathe are quick to gentrify the hell out of my hood.”

“Is that racist? Yes, that is. And we don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist; we know that according to you, we’re all part of the universe. But you have a tendency to treat animals better than humans.”

“We don’t need to hear your feelings about our issues. “To be fair, as a white person—-” “Nononono, shut the FUCK up.””


This is beyond worthwhile to put up a transcript for:

[Notes on this transcript: I’ve tried to use capitalized line changes to indicate when Kai Davis (left) and Safi Niara (right) switch off. When it’s bold, they’re both speaking. I thought it would be good for everyone to at least get an idea of what these two awesome folks are saying. PS- I’m Deaf and couldn’t hear half of it and had to speechread to get it so don’t jump on me if there are mistakes.]

Your horn-rimmed glasses,
Sweater hoodies,
Vintage leather Oxfords,
Authentic woven Guatemalan book-bags,
And your crafty, handmade, wooden iPhone cases,
Tell me you are none other than a self-affirming,

Dear dirty hipsters,
It’s bad enough, I see you every day on the same corner of the park,
Smelling of week old piss,
Jamming with some dope Rastafarian drummers,
Dancing off beat,
Bein’ all integrated and shit!
Hugging trees… hugging trees, and smoking them in the same breath, hair dreadfully resembling locks.
Acting like you’re down because you say “fuck the system!” but in the same
breath are quick to gentrify the hell outta my hood!

When you call them on it,
They say things like “I don’t see color,”
“Oh my god, I didn’t even know you were black until just now.”
What you meant to say was, “I’m choosing to deny your personal identity and heritage in order to make me feel more comfortable.”
“But, I’m comfortable enough to say ‘nigga’ with my black friends,
And by the way, I have black friends
They’re quick to suck a culture appreciated- appropriated;
Act like it’s an act of love and solidarity, when really you just turn it into organic, alternative, indie, vomit!

“Yeah, I listen to rap music–
I love A Tribe Called Quest
And this is the part where me and my homies give you the side eye.
Why do you think that’s okay?
You don’t get cool points because you’re 13%
Native American.”
You don’t get points for slumming it in the hood when you still clutch your purse every time you walk past a black man;
When your privilege is still the most prominent thing about you.
And butchering African songs,
Buy yourself Indian garb-
Is that raaacist?
Yes, it is.

And we don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist; we know that according to you, we’re all a part of the “human race.”
But you have the tendency to treat animals better than humans.
We know you hipsters like cats with ironic pet names
Like Ernest Hemingway
Or Zooey Deschanel.
I just hope to God you don’t feed it meatless,
Toxin free
Kibbles and bits,

You’re as intolerable as an Odd Future lullaby.
We don’t need to hear your feelings about OUR ISSUES!

“To be fair… as a white persoon–“
Nah! Nah! Nah! SHUT THE FUCK UP!

You’re constantly biting at our ears with unwanted opinions.
You’re blogging Tumblr posts concerning your liberal perspective.
Not to mention your ability to multiply, gathering followers in every second hand bookstore
Leafing through anarchist literature, claiming you’re an activist–
KONY 2012!

Walking past the poverty in your own city towards a donation box for mythical African children
Because all that continent needs is another ivory savior who’s convinced Africa is a country.

I’d rather eat my own face,
Chew raw venison,
Than listen to you tell the same story about how you don’t listen to CD’s because you’re strictly vinyl.
I’m sure these points will fly above your ninety dollar haircut,
Designed specifically to make you look like a vagabond.
And I’ll walk down the street and see another one of you
Crank up your dubstep mix tape,
Sip on your raspberry seltzer water.

I’ll call you a douche,
You’ll call me “reverse-racist,”
Then hopefully you’ll cry hipster tears of sorrow,
Sauntering towards the next removable trend, so when the suburbs call, you can answer properly,
Just as long as it still affirms your individuality–
Because being cool, while not being cool, is almost as cool as being yourself.

(via vizzzibility)


But the Euro-American feminists, being part of the dominant culture, deal with Hispanic women - and other racial/ethnic women - differently from the way they deal with each other. They take for granted that feminism in the USA is THEIR garden, and therefore they will decide what manner of work racial/ethnic women will do there.

By the time I began to experience all this, I had learned much about the dynamics of oppression and prejudice and I could understand what was going on. However, what took me totally by surprise was the inability or unwillingness of the Euro-American feminists to acknowledge their prejudice.

Most feminists ‘believe that because they are feminists, they cannot be racists.’ Euro-American feminists, like all liberals, sooner or later, have come to the point at which they are willing to ‘acknowledge that racism exists, reluctantly of course, but nobody admits to being a racist.’

While whitewashing - pun intended - their personal sins of racism/ethnic prejudice in the restful waters of guilt, they continue to control access to power within the movement. Euro-American feminists need to understand that as long as they refuse to recognize that oppressive power-over is an intrinsic element of their racism/ethnic prejudice, they will continue to do violence to feminism.


— Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “A Hispanic Garden in a Foreign Land,” Mujerista Theology. (via lo-cotidiano)

(via whitefeministcollectionagency)

If your “body acceptance” creates lines around what is acceptable that is not acceptance. Using health as an excuse to reinforce oppression is harmful and bullshit.

Let’s be real here.

If you are the type of person that feels like you have the right to shame another person. To participate in a violent act like the mental trauma shaming, discrimination and oppression causes. Your lack the moral fiber necessary for me to dignify you my time and makes me feel no connection to you. 

It’s that simple.

(Click for the full text version of this post with anon questions/comments)

There are numerous things that I need to address from your message since it is rather long but I first need to state that this blog is not a space where you should feel comfortable in your privilege. This is not a space where I am going to go easy or not challenge people to have a deeper understanding of their place in the world in relation to others. While I am happy that you enjoy my blog asking me to change the tone of it is not only an attempt to silence me but is your privilege speaking for you. Having privilege means that you are able to not even pay attention to the advantages you have from that privilege. It means that you can live in ignorance by not going into spaces that will challenge you, make you uncomfortable and make you feel bad.

Understanding privilege does not mean that you are a bad person or that you are worthless but by telling me that I am the one causing you to feel this way you are placing blame on me for how you manage your emotions. This shit isn’t rainbows and sunshine, oppression is hard. It is deadly and it changes people’s lives for the worse on a daily basis. People without privilege do not have the luxury of asking someone to stop oppressing them or to turn their computer off and ignore that they are being oppressed. It doesn’t work that way.

One of the main issues I am seeing is that you are confusing privilege with bad shit that happens. These are distinctly different and while all people have horrible things that happen to them the amount of privilege you have changes the basis for those problems in many cases. It also fuels numerous other problems that a person might face during their lifetime That doesn’t mean the issues you have are not important or do not matter but are different.

So to answer your question about taking things easy when discussing issues surrounding privilege and oppression, no I won’t. Asking me is an attempt to silence the words, lives and experiences of marginalized people. You are doing it from your place of privilege to even feel like you have the right to come into this space and ask me to change it.

Just some advice for addressing / acknowledging privilege though. You should be angry that you have more than other people. You should be angry that you get to ignore that you have privilege. You should be angry that someone else is harmed because you have privilege. Anger is far more productive than feeling hurt by people making you acknowledge the privilege you have. Anger will allow you to try and lift up more marginalized people. Anger will allow you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

I live by the belief that if talking about privilege makes someone feel comfortable you are doing it wrong. It should be uncomfortable. 

(Made rebloggable by request)





Thin privilege is structural, it doesn’t care why people are thin. Getting called names for being thin isn’t comparable to what fat people have to face. At the very least, being very thin isn’t seen as some kind of moral failing. Being very fat…

This is honestly my problem with the conversations surrounding this privilege.

You treat the issue like racism or sexism or ableism or heterosexism or classism. You treat it like one group is privileged and not hurt by the objectification, and the other group is totally oppressed.

You don’t treat it like the double-sided sword that it is.

Hold the phone. All oppression is a double-sided sword. Oppression is bad for society, in a direct and profound way for oppressed groups, and an indirect way for privileged groups. For example, thin privilege intersects with male privilege, equivalently, fat discrimination intersects with sexism. That’s a huge part of what was shown in the poster that placed women side-by-side who on the one hand spent their time helping others or creating things, and on the other hand spent their time being professionally or personally objectified.

The patriarchy is bad for everyone: men are told they need to objectify women and that their worth lies in acquiring the highest status trophy woman (or number of trophy women), that they can’t emulate so-called ‘feminine’ traits, and so on. Yet, male privilege exists, and women are oppressed. 

Fat discrimination is bad for everyone: thinner people are objectified and policed to stay as thin as possible, and told that if they ‘slip up’ or ‘let themselves go’ at any time they will lose their humanity. Also, there’s a competitive, nasty aspect of being thin which means thin people get lashback for embodying the ideal the rest of us are told to strive for at any cost (much like the a large-breasted, white, blonde, thin-waisted, young female gets lashback for being the ‘attraction ideal’ that the rest of us are told to strive for at any cost). Yet, thin privilege exists, and fat people are oppressed. 

What is it going to take to convincingly argue that fat people are oppressed? Our children are getting taken away from us. We’re being barred from organ transplants, joint surgeries, fertility treatments, adoption, immigration. We’re being discriminated against in pregnancy and subject to high-risk surgeries at much higher rates than thinner women. We’re being sold dangerous, deadly, long-term ineffective body-mutilating services by our own doctors. There’s a ‘fat tax’ on health insurance, flying, clothing oneself, furniture and athletic equipment. There are social barriers to us dating, joining clubs, going out dancing, going to restaurants, going outside. We’re subject to damaging messages about people like us when we consume nearly any kind of media at all (in a very media-pervasive age). And it’s only getting worse and will continue to get worse as the ailments and expense of an aging population are increasingly blamed on fat people (like they have been for the past decade, at least). (some references!)

Yes, other groups have it worse (and historically much, much worse). But since when does talking about one form of oppression cancel out another? Why shouldn’t we try to understand the entire system of oppression and privilege, being activists where we see fit and respecting the activism we don’t participate in directly? Why does saying ‘thin privilege isn’t like classism’ mean that thin privilege is therefore not a thing, or that people who talk about thin privilege aren’t also talking about class privileges in another forum (or even the same forum, since there’s intersectionality)? 

Fat discrimination, and hence thin privilege, are real. Oppression is a double-sided sword: it’s directly very bad for the oppressed, and indirectly bad for the society as a whole, and has side effects that can mean bad outcomes for the privileged. 

"Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive simpletons."

PostBourgie (via sugaryumyum, meow-sense)

"So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression."

» The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good Social Justice League  (via pussy-envy)

To the anon who just messaged me about tone in calling out privilege.

(via tough-titty)

(via tough-titty-deactivated20121030)


Kyriarchy and kyriarchal are handy words in intersectional feminist and social justice language. They define the uneven distribution of basic rights broadly; they show that privilege and power injustices do not only exist in the case of men benefiting at the expense of women. Kyriarchy goes beyond patriarchy to recognize the way systems of inequality work together to hurt everyone.

Kyriarchy are the structures of domination working together as a network - not just one group dominating another. Its branches include but are not limited to racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, ageism, and ableism. In a kyriarchy, our kyriarchy, this kyriarchy, different forms of supremacy on different axes are independent and interdependent.

Kyriarchy gets at the nastiness of privilege by implicating all of it: Almost everyone holds unfair advantages and disadvantages granted by the kyriarchy based just on who they are.

Kyriarchal describes actions that promote the kyriarchy. It is the adjective form of kyriarchy; it describes actions (and other nouns - words, attitudes, habits) that back up, reflect, or otherwise contribute to existing power structures. It can refer to an individual exercise of privilege, or it can refer to actions that reinforce an intersection of oppression.

If you’re not familiar with kyriarchy, you may know the second-wave word it modifies, patriarchy. Patriarchy and patriarchal are staples of feminist lingo; it’s a common way to refer to sexist actions and systems.

So why do I prefer kyriarchy to patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a strictly defined term: it’s just about sexism. And that has its uses. But focusing on only sexism can undermine our understanding of how colossal and all-encompassing the functions of privilege are. Feminism is not just about sexism, because women as a group are not solely oppressed on the axis of sex. Used overbroadly, patriarchy defines social power as belonging to only men, and denies the oppressive advantages that women can hold.

Kyriarchy is more descriptive of the approach I try to take to feminism. The word considers all parts of the oppressive structure we live in evenly - no one oppression is worse or better or more important than another. We are all subject to kyriarchy, and we all benefit from kyriarchy; we all share the burden and the blame in different measures and proportions. (The previous statement may not be universal, but it’s close.) But with patriarchy, only men are profiting and only women are subjugated; only women are acquitted of responsibility and only men are admonished.

In intersectional discussions, patriarchy is usually too narrow: patriarchy puts the emphasis on solely sexism and erases other experiences of injustice (particularly the various oppressions men bear). Kyriarchy allows for the complexity of abuse that this world can bring down on al l bodies; it allows for both how we suffer from and participate in its tyranny.

Kyriarchy is not my word; it was coined by radical feminist theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. In her book, Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation (published by Orbis Books in New York in 2001), Schussler Fiorenza defined kyriarchy as:

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.

The best explanation of kyriarchy I’ve read comes from Lisa Factora-Borchers of My Ecdysis, who studied with Schussler Fiorenza. In her post, Factora-Borchers writes:

When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down… So when we talk about woman asserting power over other womyn, we’re talking kyriarchy. When you witness woman trying to dominate, define, outline the “movement” or even what an ally should be - that’s the kyriarchal ethos strong at work.

To read more ‘Why I use that word that I use’ posts from the blog Deeply Problematic on blogspot, click here.