Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:
- Visualise how your identity lines up dominant groups
- See which identities give you unearned privilege and which identities do not
- Understand the assumed norm (aka dominant identity) in the various systems of oppression
You may already be familiar with the “Power Flower”. It is used in many anti-oppression trainings. The goal is to determine the identities that have privilege in our Canadian society and where we as individuals fit. This version of the exercise is adapted from: Wenh-In Ng’s A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower.
Download and print the “Power Flower” image (or if you are creative you can draw your own Power Flower on a piece of paper). In the innermost petal/section list the identity categories (e.g. race, gender, sexuality etc). On the middle petal write your personal identity (e.g. white, cisgender male, gay etc). Finally on the outer most petal write the social identities that experience privilege in society.
Download a Power Flower here.
Here is a sample of what a completed Power Flower looks like.
Download the flower power exercise
This exercise tries to demonstrate, visually, how does your personal identities compare with societal power structures and identities.
This exercise illustrates how and where your personal identity connects to the dominant group in each identity. Here are some questions to reflect on as you review your completed flower:
- How do your social identities relate to those who have societal power?
- Do you share certain identities?
- What does this exercise illustrate about oppression and power structures?
- Who holds power and who does not?
Systems of Oppression
Here is a chart that walks us through the systems of oppression. It has been adapted from
Youth Environmental Network’s Green Justice Guide.
Missing from this chart is religious oppression. Please take a few moments and answer the following questions:
- What is the assumed norm?
- What is considered to be marginal or not in the norm?
The Power Flower exercise is also a good way to help us visualise systems of oppression. There are many forms of oppression: race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, age etc. Oppressions have a long history and a part of our society in every context-political, economical and social. What we consider the norm and what we think of as the “other” is based in oppression. Something as trivial seeming like hair and what we value as a society is deeply rooted in historical oppressions. For example, there have been several media reports of school children being sent home or suspended because their hair was not deemed suitable for school. Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion
Please check each oppression that the youth we work with may experience:
Oppressions are like jigsaw puzzles or lego pieces where the different forms connect together and support each other and they do not occur in isolation. For example a gay man of colour faces homophobia and racism, just as an older trans woman endures ageism and transphobia.
It is important not to rank or rate oppressions. All forms of oppression require resistance from and work to end. Focusing solely on one inequality does not address the root causes. Here are some other reasons we must not rank oppressions from the Youth Environmental Network
“The practice of ranking oppressions, then:
- Leads to disputes over which forms of oppression are the worst and least severe;
- Fails to recognize how different forms of oppression intersect or work together to oppress people;
- Avoids looking at structures of power and privilege because people end up spending time arguing over which forms of oppression are the worst instead of focusing on how power structures divide struggles against racism from struggles against sexism (e.g. ‘divide and rule’ strategies);
- Overlooks the fact that all forms of oppression are harmful and unjust, and it fails to recognize that the best strategy to end oppression involves tackling all forms of oppression at once.”
Aran, I. (2013, November 26). Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://jezebel.com/florida-school-forces-black-student-to-cut-hair-or-face-1472062679
Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.crr.ca/en/library-a-clearinghouse/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1
Ng, W. (n.d.). A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower”. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://lgbtq2stoolkit.learningcommunity.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/flower-power-exercise.pdf
Youth Environmental Network. (n.d.). Green Justice Guide. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://antiracist-toolkit.users.ecobytes.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Green-Justice-Guide-Part-1.pdf