In my previous two posts I described the differences between dominant and subordinate groups based on identity markers. These groups are determined around what society deems as the “norm.” But there is a problem with having multiple groups; that inevitably one benefits more than the other. That group is most often the dominant one. And if the people who have dominant identity markers receive privileges, then the other people must be oppressed in order to keep the cycle rotating.
According to Young, “oppression designates the disadvantage and injustice some people suffer…because of everyday practices” (pg 36). In other words, people of subordinate identity markers tend to experience hardships and are put at a “disadvantage” by not receiving as many opportunities as the dominant group.
Those who are privileged need the oppressed to stay in their current position so that they can keep being handed advantages. I believe that one way dominant group members keep others oppressed is by pointing out that society sees them as unimportant or less valuable. In order to do so, people use discrimination.
Discrimination is the unjust treatment of someone, which results due to something about them being “different” or “unacceptable to society.” As Pincus describes, there are three different forms of discrimination, individual, institutional and structural. All of these different forms can be seen within Glee, where discrimination is used quite often to negatively impact people with subordinate identify markers, such as being female (gender) or homosexual (sexual orientation).
The first type is individual discrimination, which are actions taken by an individual person or group of persons that are meant to differentiate from/harm someone from another group (pg 31). An example that can be seen in Glee is from a very recent episode where Santana is “outed” as a lesbian by a group of politicians out to ruin Coach Sue Sylvester chances of becoming a congressional member. This is individual discrimination because a “group” of politicians target Santana as a way to ultimately affect Sue. This was intentional because the politicians were well aware it would negatively harm Santana. Which it did, as she is seen running out of Sue’s office crying. The politicians were suggesting that her sexuality was “wrong” and that Sue should not allow her to be a member of the Cheerios since Santana is considered “different”.
Another example of individual discrimination based on gender happened when the high school football team made the decision not to play in a game because they were upset that their new coach was Bieste who is a woman. Again a “group” of people target Bieste showing their lack of belief in her abilities and harming her emotionally all because she was female and they did not approve.
The second form of discrimination is Institutional. Institutional discrimination is when the policies of dominant institutions are purposely set up in such a way as to negatively impact or harm someone from a non-dominant group (pg 31). This type of discrimination can be seen when Arty who is physically disabled tries to play on the football team. He is not even given the chance to try out and told that it is policy. This policy intentionally prevents people who are physically disabled from playing. Arty eventually convinces the coach to play in a game and Arty shows that even though he is in a wheelchair he can still play football.
FInally, structural discrimination is the last form listed by Pincus. Structural discrimination is when the policies of dominant institutions are meant to be neutral, but in reality they end up harming someone from a minority group (pg 31). This final type is shown in Glee from a previous example I have given. I talked earlier about Kurt being teased by Karofsky and when he went to the principle he said there was nothing he could do because policy states he must be threatened before the school can take action. This was meant to be a policy that benefits both the accused bully and the bullied, but it ultimately harms Kurt because it allows Karofsky to keep tormenting him.
Allowing any form of discrimination to take place should be unacceptable especially in schools where students do not have a choice in who they interact with each and everyday. No matter someone’s identity marker, he or she should be treated with respect and given fair opportunities.
Young, I.M. (2000). Five faces of oppression. In Adams et al. (Eds.) Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 35-49). New York: Routledge.
Pincus, F.L. (2000). Discriminating comes in many forms: Individual, institutional, and structural. In Adams et al. (Eds.). Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 31-35). New York: Routledge