Second Wave Of Feminism - Psychological Oppression Of Women

Psychological oppression is a term used to describe the state of being oppressed. According to Sandra Lee Bartky, women's oppression infiltrates one's mind, resulting in "psychological oppression." 

She demonstrates how, 

  1. stereotypes, 
  2. societal dominance, 
  3. and sexual objectification 

...divide and mystify women. Internalization of oppression affects a person's awareness, cognition, and knowledge, according to various feminists and oppression theorists. 

Bartky exemplifies this trend in oppression studies and catches a lot of insight from feminist attempts to broaden the definition of oppression and therefore broaden the scope of what is needed for liberation. 

1. Stereotypes are generalizations about a certain group of people. Individuals who are labeled as members of a group may have nothing in common with the stereotype, yet they are nevertheless evaluated and judged by it. 

  • Stereotypes, fragment women by reducing them to pieces. 
  • One woman is reduced to being a wife rather than a person with a diverse range of interests and activities, while another is reduced to being a prostitute without knowing her motivations or what led her to that career. 
  • Stereotypes restrict a person's potential and become internalized to the point that a woman limited to being a wife evaluates her self-esteem only in terms of that aspect of herself. Stereotypes, in a similar manner, are perplexing. 
  • Mystification occurs when a person starts to think that the stereotype is normal; reality is jumbled up with repressive psychological signals. 
  • So, in the instances above, the wife or prostitute learns to think that she gets her position because she was born to it or for other self-deprecating reason. 

2. Societal Dominance: Cultural dominance is analogous to the culture/nature dichotomy described previously, but instead of identifying women with the natural, cultural domination diminishes women's cultural contributions and removes them from the main areas of cultural creation. 

Here, too, there is fragmentation and mystification. 

  • Language, art, cultural institutions such as colleges, and literature, are all sexist. 
  • Language is a good illustration of this. When the gender of the noun is unclear, it is possible to internalize the use of the masculine pronoun. 
  • Girls who hear about firefighters and mailmen as children, or who hear physicians referred to as "he," may not believe that such occupations are available to them. 

However, the argument extends beyond these simple instances. 

  • She demonstrates how culture not only reflects sexist beliefs or attitudes, but also actively supports and preserves women's and other disadvantaged groups' exclusion or marginalization. 
  • Women are cut off from cultural contributions because their works are regarded craft rather than art, their writings are ignored in university curricula, and their literature with women-centered or feminist topics is judged insufficiently rigorous for cultural norms. 
  • As women accept these evaluations of their cultural contributions, they become mystified, thinking that women are unable to achieve on par with males. 

3. Sexual objectification is the third kind of psychological oppression. 

  • When a person is made into an object for sexual reasons, it is known as sexual objectification. 
  • For just this reason, feminist movement has targeted beauty pageants
  • The sexual components or talents of a woman are objectified for utilitarian reasons.
  • A woman is transformed into a womb or a cunt
  • She is reduced to and represented by her sexual parts
  • That is fragmentation in and of itself resulting in a Lifetime of Sexual Slavery and Reproductive Servitude

Because she internalizes the objectification and thinks she is nothing more than a sexual object for men to exploit, mystification adds to the psychological oppression. 


Feminists are often portrayed as "bra burners." 

This misconception stems from a feminist protest against the Miss America Beauty Pageant in 1968. 

Bras, girdles, pots, pornography, and other "instruments of female torment" were thrown into a "Freedom Trash Can" by activists. 

Nothing was destroyed, even the bras! 

Psychological oppression has varied effects on different types of women. 

  • Some women have a higher social standing and can transcend some of the mystification, even though they are still fractured by others' gaze. 
  • Other kinds of oppression often interact with sexism, causing other forms of stereotypes and sexual objectifications to mix with or overwhelm sexist preconceptions. 

Internalized or psychological oppression, on the other hand, is a powerful force in the lives of oppressed peoples, and liberation tactics must have some means to combat it. 

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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