Glossary of Terms

  • Ableism

    The institutional and interpersonal oppression of people who have mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. In an ableist system, those individuals who are considered “able-bodied” have privilege and power.

  • Adultism

    The institutional and interpersonal oppression of young people, based on their age, by care givers and society. The core belief of adultism is that older people are more intelligent and therefore have more power.

  • Ageism

    The institutional and interpersonal discrimination of people based on their age. Ageism is rooted in the social myth that elderly people and youth are inferior to adults.

  • Biphobia [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    The interpersonal fear or hatred of bisexual people. Biphobia can exist within gay, lesbian, tansgender, and heterosexual communities.

  • Bisexual [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A term used to describe a person who has relationships with both men and women.

  • Capitalism

    The economic system we live under in which rich people gain power, privilege, and profit at the exploitation and oppression of working class people. Under capitalism, the means of production (factories, land, machines, etc) are privately owned by a wealthy minority and the production of goods and services happens for their profit. Decisions regarding supply, demand, price, distribution and investments are made by private interests in the "free market".  In other words, it’s a system of social production and private accumulation. Because capitalism constantly produces more stuff with less and less human labor, capitalism is inherently unstable and prone to crisis over time.

  • Capitalist Class [Class ]

    The Ruling class within the system of Capitalism, sometimes referred to as the bourgeoisie. These are the private owners of the resources and technology needed to run the economy (factories, raw materials, etc), the resources needed to move products from place to place (trucks, airlines, ships, etc) and the methods of mass communication (newspapers and television stations etc). Members of the capitalist class privately own businesses that employ and exploit middle and working class people to gain a profit. As the ruling class, Capitalists not only control the economy, they also have the most power to influence the State (politicians, policy, judicial processes, etc) and ideology (through media, education, etc). Examples include major corporations, CEOs, etc.

  • Classes [Class ]

    A person or group’s relationship to how wealth is generated and how the economy is managed.

  • Democracy

    A form of organization or society in which power is broadly shared and people have the ability to actively participate in decision making.

  • Exploitation

    The use of a person or thing in an unfair or cruel manner to the benefit of another person. In economics, the term is used to describe the process by which one person profits from another person’s labor without offering them fair compensation.

  • Feminism

    A broad set of social movements and ideologies aimed at establishing and defending the political, economic, cultural, and social equality of all genders.

  • Gender [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    What a society or culture defines as the “appropriate” behaviors, roles, and personality traits for a person based on their sex – in other words, what it means to be a “woman” and what it means to be a “man.” Like sex, gender is often thought of in a limited “either/or” way (you are either a man or a woman). However, gender also exists on a broad spectrum that includes many different, and sometimes complex, gender identities.

  • Gender Binary [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A dominant social system that asserts that there are only two sexes, two genders, and that everyone’s gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth. The gender binary assumes the following:

    • Has a penis = male = man = masculine = attracted to women
    • Has a vagina = female = woman = feminine = attracted to men
  • Heteropatriarchy [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    (Male Supremacy) A system of gender oppression in which heterosexual men gain power, privilege, and profit at the expense of women, lesbian, gay, transgender and queer people.

  • Heterosexual [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A technical term used to describe a person who has a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Often times the term “straight” is used to describe someone who is heterosexual.

  • Homophobia [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    Literally means “fear of homosexual.” This word describes the behaviors, ideas, as well as the “person to person” discrimination and prejudice experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender people under the system of heteropatriarchy.

  • Homosexual [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A technical term used to describe a person who has a relationship with someone of the same sex.

  • Institution

    An organization or establishment that maintains customs, laws, or relationships within society or a community. Institutions manage the state of affairs or “status quo.”

  • Institutional Oppression [Oppression ]

    Oppression that comes from institutions of power in our society, such as government, schools, corporations, etc.

  • Internalized Oppression [Oppression ]

    Oppression that limits our beliefs about our own potential and the potential of communities we belong to and come from. This happens when we believe the misconceptions and lies about our own group – “us attacking ourselves”.

  • Interpersonal Oppression [Oppression ]

    Oppression that occurs through interactions between people. This can happen between people within the same oppressed group (Exp. Black on Black), between people from different oppressed groups (Exp. Latino on Black), or between people from a privileged group and people from an oppressed group (Exp. White on Black).

  • Intersectionality

    The complex ways that multiple systems of oppression interact in our society to maintain a hierarchy of power and privilege based on class, race, gender and sexuality, religion, and ableism. We exist as whole human beings with interwoven layers of identity. Therefore an intersectional analysis proposes that the different forms of oppression individuals experience can't be separated out from one another. Because various forms of oppressions are knotted up together in our our society, true liberation will only be possible if our movements address and fight to dismantle all forms of domination simultaneously.

  • LBGTQQ [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    An acronym that stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning.

  • Lesbian [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A female homosexual.

  • Liberation

    The process of breaking down all forms of oppression and rebuilding a society that is based on equality, dignity, and democracy for all people.

  • Middle Class [Class ]

    A “buffer” class between the Capitalist and Working classes. These are people who own enough property to survive without having to work for someone else, but not enough to exploit other people on a large scale. Examples include corner store owners, small business owners, etc.

  • Oppression [Oppression ]

    The domination, hurtful treatment, and exclusion of one group or groups of people for the benefit of another group.

  • Power

    The ability to control circumstances, i.e. the ability a person or group has to get what they want.

  • Privilege

    An advantage or benefit enjoyed by an individual or group at the expense of others. Systems of privilege unfairly help certain groups while holding other groups back.

  • Queer [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    An umbrella term to mean anyone who is LGBTQQ. Previously this term was derogatory, but it was reclaimed by activists from LGBTQQ communities.

  • Questioning [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    Describes a person who is in the process of figuring out their sexual identity/orientation.

  • Race [Race ]

    A way to categorize people based on appearance, origin, culture and/or language. Race is a false construction. Although there is great diversity amongst the world’s people, biologically speaking we are all essentially the same. There is no such thing as distinct “races” of people, we are all human beings.

  • Racial Prejudice [Race ]

    Making assumptions or holding stereotypes about a person or group based on “race.” Prejudices against people of color are typically based on racist beliefs that they are inferior.

  • Racism [Race ]

    A system in which one group dominates, mistreats, and discriminates another group(s) based on “race.” Racism is based on systemic power and privilege; Racism = Racial Prejudice + Power. This means that within the system of white supremacy, in which white people are dominant, racism only afflicts people of color. It is possible for white people to experience racial prejudice, but not racism. While White supremacy is the most dominant form of racism in the world, there are other forms such as Japanese racism against Koreans.

  • Reform

    Changes that improve conditions for oppressed people without changing the fundamental organization of power and the economy or challenging state power. Within capitalism, there is some space for struggle. The organized power of oppressed people can win real concessions, but these reforms cannot fundamentally challenge capitalism or the capitalist state. Reform struggles are an important part of the revolutionary process, but they cannot themselves transform the political and economic system on a fundamental level.

  • Reformism

    The world view that revolution is not necessary, possible, or positive. Instead, sufficient changes can be won within the current political and economic structure.

  • Revolution

    A revolution is the complete takeover of the current political structure (the state) in order to transform the political, economic and social systems of society. The state is the primary protector and facilitator of capitalism. Therefore, in order to end the economic system of capitalism, revolutionaries must engage in political struggle to take control of the state. Revolutionaries from different ideological traditions disagree about whether the capitalist state should be replaced by a new democratic socialist state or by decentralized non-state alternatives.

  • Self-Determination

    The ability of a group to decide for itself the best direction for its people. This includes having the power to decide how the group will govern itself, manage its economy, and express itself culturally.

  • Sex [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    The biological distinction of male, female, and everything in between. Though sex is often thought of as an “either/or” classification, either male or female), in reality sex exists on a spectrum with a host of intersex identities in between male and female.

  • Sexism [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    A set of individual practices (behaviors, acts, interactions) and prejudices that play out in which men exert power and privilege over women. This word describes the behaviors, ideas, as well as the “person to person” discrimination and prejudice women experience under the system of heteropatriarchy.

  • Sexual Orientation [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    The way someone is sexually attracted to another person. In other words, what “turns you on.” Some examples include a woman being attracted to another woman, a man being attracted to another man, a woman being attracted to a man and vice versa, or a person being attracted to both.

  • Socialism

    An economic system in which the wealth produced by society is owned by those who produced it and working people are no longer exploited. The means of production (factories, land, machines, etc) are collectively owned by workers and the broader community. Decisions about how resources are used and invested are determined by what is needed for the collective good rather than by what will make profit for a small group of individuals. Unlike capitalism, there is no distinction between workers and owners. In socialism, the workers are the owners. It's a system of social production and social accumulation.

  • State

    The social and political structures that maintain the existing order of society. This includes the government, military, police, criminal legal system, public education system, etc. Under capitalism, the state is designed to protect and promote the interests of the ruling capitalist class. Therefore it facilitates the continued domination and exploitation of oppressed people. In order to maintain control, the state relies on force and violence as well as the domination of ideas and values.

  • System

    A group of institutions, social relations, cultural norms, policies and practices working together to function as a complex whole.

  • The Poor [Class ]

    The poorest and most disadvantaged section of the working class. Includes people who rely on government assistance for their primary income and those who survive through the informal economy (e.g. street vending) and/or illegal economy (e.g. drug dealing)

  • Transgender [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    An umbrella term used for people whose gender identity/presentation does not match the sex they were assigned at birth and people whose gender identity does not confirm to binary gender roles like man and woman.

  • Transphobia [Sex, Gender and Orientation ]

    The institutional and interpersonal fear, hatred, and discrimination of Transgender people because their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

  • White Supremacy [Race ]

    A system of racial oppression that gives white (European descended) people power, privilege, and profit at the expense of people of color and people from the Global South. White supremacy is based on the racist ideology that the people and cultures that descend from Europe are superior to the people and cultures that descend from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This form of social control is used to justify the establishment and maintenance of social inequality.

  • Working Class [Class ]

    People who don’t own enough wealth to live off of and must work for wages. Examples include factory workers, janitors, nurses, school teachers, etc. Also includes unemployed people and those who require government assistance.

  • Xenophobia

    The institutional and interpersonal fear or hatred of people who immigrate or are new to an area different from where they were born.