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Expanding on Marilyn Frye’s “Oppression”, Reaction Paper Example

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Reaction Paper

After reading Alison Bailey’s essay in Chapter II “Understanding Oppression and Privilege,” I felt as if Bailey was send out a challenge to all of her readers, due to the fact that this essay is extremely well-written and at times difficult to understand. Bailey certainly seems to know her subject matter quite well and also appears to be very familiar with Marilyn Frye’s theories on oppression and how it relates to privilege. Obviously, the target audience for this essay is women who over the centuries have faced great oppression as a result of what Bailey refers to “white, heterosexual, male privilege oppression” which came about because of paternalism or a social system based on male power and influence. This challenge, as far as Bailey is concerned, is based upon her idea that “any understanding of oppression is incomplete without recognition of the role privilege plays in maintaining systems of domination,” being systems designed by men with the goal being to control women by oppressing them as a social group (Bailey 165).

As socialized human beings, we have been manipulated into believing that certain individuals or groups of individuals deserve more privilege than other individuals or groups, such as white males having more privilege than black males, or that the wealthy deserve more privilege than poor individuals. Either way, as Bailey points out, oppression is a “structural phenomenon” or a structuralized system that “devalues the work, experience, and voices of members of marginalized social groups” like African-Americans, orthodox Jews, and especially today, gays and lesbians. Thus, as Bailey reminds us, these individuals or groups experience oppression “because they are members of particular social groups” that lie outside of the “privileged” society of white males and the rich (Bailey 166).

Overall, the oppression that individuals and social groups experience every single day creates a sense of non-belonging and a feeling of worthlessness. I have personally experienced this oppression several times in my life, such as not being invited to a party because I wasn’t “cool” enough, or did not fit in with the crowd as in school because of being somewhat introverted. This relates to Bailey’s observation that privilege is an “unearned asset” (Bailey 167) or some type of advantage that certain individuals or social groups have over those who are disadvantaged because of their economic level, race, religious beliefs, and gender preferences.

One particular trait mentioned by Bailey concerning this “unearned asset,” such as a person having the privilege to socialize with important people simply because of being wealthy, never really occurred to me before reading this essay–that some advantages are “more easily earned if they are accompanied by gender, heterosexual, race, or class privilege,” meaning that a person of a particular race or ethnicity would be fully accepted by his/her peers, while an outsider of a different race or ethnicity would be excluded.

Overall, Bailey’s essay demonstrates that privilege and “unearned assets” could not exist if it was not for the current “systems of domination” that rely upon their ability or privilege to oppress one social group in order to advance their own agendas or in some instances their way of life. Therefore, even though privilege appears to be completely engrained in our current social system, the only way a person could make a difference  would be to monitor his/her own privileges in order not to oppress another person or a group. Of course, this is not an easy task, but if a person gains as much knowledge and understanding on privilege and oppression as possible, then it would certainly help them to be on the lookout for ways to alter their behavior in favor of an individual or group that society has deemed as worthy of being oppressed.

Works Cited

Bailey, Alison. Privilege: Expanding on Marilyn Frye’s “Oppression.”

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