Oppression is one of those words sure to bring an uneasy feeling to the pit of our stomachs. I’ve never met anyone who ever wanted to be oppressed. That said, I can’t imagine that anyone would ever go around stating how much they want to be an oppressor when they grow up. In America, as Americans, we become almost angry when we hear that there is a group suffering from oppression. I can’t speak for the entire country but at least here, in the Northern CA. bay area, most people hate that idea that any one person or group would try to control another person or group. What I find disturbing is how oppression is so unacceptable and yet it’s still so present on our day to day life.

I imagine you’re thinking that I may be discussing some political idea today. Let me be clear. No, I’m not referring to politics. Give me second and I’ll explain what I’m talking about. In order to understand this concept or though, we must be clear on what oppression is and how it works. Sure, oppression is about control over someone or some group. That part is easy. Anyone can go to Webster’s dictionary and get that definition. However, parents control their kids and that type of control does not fall under the category of oppression. We have laws in our society that tell us that driving drunk is not ok. These laws are in place for the purpose of protection. This places a form of control over those who drink but still this is not oppressive. Oppression is far more complicated. Oppression is a lot sneakier.

The oppression that I’m referring to is systematically embedded into our way of life for the sole purpose of control. What does that mean? Well, even though this is going to sound really sneaky, dishonest, manipulative and right down wrong, it is rather simple. Oppression is systematic. That means that is takes place like clockwork. It works all on its own without you having any idea that it is doing anything. It’s part of the big picture. Oppression works parallel to everything you do without ever stopping you and letting you know about its presence. Try to imagine the human body and how we have different systems. When we go running and become agitated, we begin to breathe faster and harder. While this is taking place, our heart is beating at a much faster rate. Our blood is pumping faster though out veins. The human body we call home begins to work harder and therefore our body temperature rises. This causes for our sweat glands to release sweat to cool us down, lower out temperature and control our body heat. All these different systems are working and yet we don’t ever really stop and think consciously about everything that is going on. Our mind is focused on how long or how far we are from accomplishing our goal and completing out work out. Well, Oppression works like all those many systems in our human body. It’s happening around us every day and we never stop to think about it.

Oppression is also embedded in to our way of life. What this means is that is part of our way of life somewhat like cotton is part of your shirt. We look at your Ed Hardy T-shirt and we don’t see cotton. However, we know is there, present in every inch of that fabric and vintage design. When you think of the interweaving of our day to day life, oppression is just like that cotton in the T-shirt. The only deference is that oppression is present for the purpose of someone else controlling us and the cotton in the shirt is not. However, it is right in front of our eyes and we don’t see it. The majority of us don’t even know oppression it’s there and fail to recognize it.

Now we know how oppression works and I’m sure you are probably wondering how oppression can do this to us. After all we are smarter than to let anyone or anything control us. Right? The answer is also very simple. It happens extremely subtle. A series of small changes occur over an extended period of time. After all do you remember the running example? When we run is not like we immediately run out of air and begin gasping for a breath. The same thing happens with oppression. Let’s look at something that we can all relate to and identify oppression. When we looking at relationships from the outside looking in, it is rather easy to notice oppression at its purest and strongest form. The vast majority of relationships are oppressive in nature. Don’t get mad or upset. This is just the nature of things. Right? Not… After you’re done reading this, you will be able to identify oppression. Do you remember the old GI Joe cartoons? Well, it’s true knowing is half the battle. Once you can identify oppression in your relationships you will be able to consciously make changes to eliminate it. To illustrate this, I will use the girl meets guy scenario. If you are a guy and you met a girl, you’ll simply have to reverse the concept and see how it applies to you. Ok, so Imagine that you are a girl and you are out with your girl friends on a Saturday night. You are wearing a cute, short, strapless cocktail dress with those sexy heels you love so much. Your hair is looking silky smooth and feels feather soft to the touch with a sexy bounce. You are feeling confident as if your presence demands attention. Life is good and you know it. While hanging out with your friends at a trendy spot, you meet that guy. You know that fit, sophisticated, educated, confident, charming, good lucking kid that makes your heart skip a beat. You exchange some laughs and phone numbers and go home excited about seeing him again. A few days later, you go on a date and find yourself experiencing a wonderful connection. Before you know it, it’s been a few weeks and you have been spending all your free time together. You find yourself going to the movies on Friday nights. Maybe, on Saturdays you find yourself enjoying candle light dinners at home followed by magical one on one time in comfortable casual clothing next to you fire place. Sundays you find yourself spending time at a local park, laying on fresh cut grass, playing discovery on all your ticklish spots. Six months later, your girls friend calls you and asks to hang out with you. You know, the friend you were hanging out with that fabulous night you met your boyfriend. She misses you and wants to go out. After all, you want to hang out and tell her all about the wonderful guy who has made the last six months enchanting. You and your girl friend make plans to go out the very next Friday night. After you hang up the phone, you call that nice guy you’ve been dating to tell him that this upcoming Friday you have plans. To this he replies “hey that’s great”. “Have fun”. Friday after noon comes, you and your boyfriend have dinner and you tell him how excited you are about hanging out with your friends. After diner you ask him to help you pick out what to wear. You walk into your closet and pull out a cute skirt, a nice pair of heels and a sexy silky top. He takes a look at it and tell you “I’m not so sure about the way these cloths make you look”. “They are cute but I’m not so sure”. So you look at him and go back into your closet to pull out a 2nd arrangement. His response is rather negative. “It’s seems like your are trying too hard”. “You realize that you are just hanging out with you friend”. You reply, “really?”. “Yes”, “try something a little more casual”. Now you find yourself second guessing your choices and eventually find your way to some cool jeans and a somewhat cute top. You take off and have a blast with your friend. You go back to your regular routine for another six months. Then one day, he comes over to your house right as your arriving home from work. You step out of your car and he notices how sexy you look. However, rather than complimenting you, he gets a little upset and asks “why are you so dressed up for work?” After a small argument he tells you that he is sorry for acting stupid. It’s just that it makes him a little uncomfortable when he sees you trying so hard. It’s not like you have to impress anyone at work. Right? To this you simply respond reassuring and agree that its really stupid that you dress up because you basically spend 8 hrs of your day facing a computer in a 8×10 cubicle. You do this because you want to be the good girl who is caring about her boyfriend’s feelings. Another month goes by and you been wearing comfortable jeans and sweatshirts to work. That great friend calls you again and wants to makes plans to get together with you. This time you suggest meting for coffee. You end up getting together for lunch and coffee and come home rather happy to have seen your friend. When you get home and you share your day with your boyfriend, he reacts rather uncomfortable about you hanging out with your friend. He tell you all about how he can’t understand the importance of your friendship. It’s not like you even see this person regularly. It’s been seven months sense the last time you seen her. Six more months go by and you are now so used to not seeing your friend that you hardly remember why you were ever friends with her in the first place. You’ve been wearing jeans and Ed Hardy T-shirts to work with your hair pulled up on a pony tail because there is no real reason to dress up. Right? Besides, why cause any problems and upset the nice guy you are dating. It’s not like you have to impress anyone at work. You are in a relationship. After all, this is what it is all about. Settling down and being responsible is just a part of growing up. You are simply growing up. All the girls out there wish they had found a nice guy who treats them as sweet as your guy treats you. I mean he spends his weekends with you. He cooks and brings your flowers once a month. He makes your whole family laugh at family gatherings. Your neighbors love him. He charms everyone. He is smart and has a great job. Now, let’s imagine a series of small changes such as the ones I’ve described over the course of 5 years. Can you see how one day you might wake up in the morning wondering why you can’t remember the last time you attended your gym. Maybe even worst, maybe you can’t imagine why you ever attended your gym in the first place. Ohh… and by the way, that little cute, short, strapless cocktail dress you wore the night you met him? Yea, you never wore it again and you don’t even remember ever having it. That cute skirt you were going to wear that time you were going out with your friend? You donated it to goodwill about 3 yrs ago because it had been in your closet collecting dust. You needed the space for all the jeans and cool sweatshirts you wear now. As far as friends go, you have friends. They’re his friends. Your friends are all the people you’ve met through him or with him over the course of 5 yrs. After all, this is what life is all about. Right? Couples should hang out with couples. Having common couple friends only strengthen your relationship. Right?

I’m thinking you get the picture. Maybe you might even reflect on your life and find out that you have lived through this or are living though this now. Maybe you have lost a friend who met that nice guy one night when she was hanging out with you. As much as I hate to say this, this is a perfect example of oppression at its truest, strongest and rawest form. I have no shame and telling you that these types of relationships take place every day. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much you paid for college. Some of the smartest people I know, have at some point or another, found themselves in an oppressive relationship. It’s important to understand that the oppressor, most of the time, doesn’t consciously want to be an oppressor. They simply take on that role because of insecurities and passed life experiences. They do this seeking protection of their own feelings. Their behavior is driven by the fear or getting hurt.

When you look at your relationship, as you navigate through it, ask yourself, “am I the oppressor or am I oppressed. Once you define your role, if you are the oppressor, make a conscious effort to let go of any fear and refrain from controlling those who you love. Try not to restrict but rather encourage them to fallow their passions and express themselves as the individuals they are. Learn to appreciate them for who they are. When they are feeling confident, sexy and strong, you should feel confident, sexy and strong for them. Become supportive of their choices and learn to become a unit with them for the purpose of making each-other strong. Help them grow. Help them become a better person and find pride in knowing that no matter what happens, you helped them become their own person. If you are the oppressed, you face a harder challenge. It’s up to you to talk to you other half and educate them. It’s up to you to identify oppressive behaviors and be strong enough to not allow a resting point for oppression in your relationship. You can do this by simply communicating with them about what you are noticing. Letting your partners know how this makes you feel. Pointing out their behavior in a constructive manner can go long way. Remember that they want to change. No one really wants to be that ex that girls talk about at coffee shops.

I truly believe that sharing information can really change the world. I encourage you to not be embarrass if you’ve experienced this in your life. Share it and teach those around you. In case you’re wondering… Yes, I have experienced this both as the oppressor and the oppressed. Remember knowledge is power and power is the ability to create positive change.