I’m proud to say that I work in a really supportive cooperative organisation that empowers other organisations to mobilise their causes online through web technologies. It’s pretty amazing work to be doing right now and a big switch-up from doing workshops to youth in the past.

A recent alarm was raised by a close friend and co-worker about our organisation being an oppressive space, which has caused a massive  debate about the validity of this complaint. Our organisation sees itself as being very  ‘progressive’  and it was clear that it’s members felt a sting from this comment…

Systemic Oppression in the Workplace

I’ve talked a lot with other people outside of our collective about oppression in the workplace. I’m shocked to hear about how frequently this still happens in companies. It is also heart breaking to hear from people who don’t fight back against this societal norm of oppression.

Why are we accepting to be treated in sexist, racist, homophobic, dominant, and diminishing ways?

I suppose we have to look at the fact that society doesn’t really raise us up to fight for what we feel is important. It’s also a case of power in some situations where we could be fired (as I have been) for calling out overtly oppressive situations.

We still have a stigma towards really addressing issues face on when people raise alarms. We tend to just shut them up rather than listen and make changes. In turn, it means that people who do speak out about things aren’t guaranteed any results and it could make the situation worse…

Solidarity + Safe spaces = Positive Future

In some ways the debate of who is responsible for what or whether a place is oppressive or not has become a major issue at my work. It really raised some alarm bells for me in terms of how we are dealing with these issues.

This is simple and clearcut to me.

We need to stop trying to find justification for people’s complaints and openly talk about their concerns. Full stop.

If someone doesn’t feel a space is safe, inhibits oppression, or has a complaint then ask them if they are okay and how they feel it could be changed. This is a means of support rather than further oppression (through justification). Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you agree or not, because in order to collectively work together we need to consider everyone’s boundaries when working/living/loving together in spaces. It’s just that easy.

On top of all of this I think as a main framework implementing systems to provide ways to report issues, create safety, and work on what needs changing is essential. We aren’t going to empower those within our organisations, our lives, our hearts without providing a space for them to speak up / speak out.

Showing Respect

This comes from not requiring other parties to really defend the validity of our complaints or concerns. It means…

  • Listening and trying to understand the complaint
  • Being aware
  • Thinking about the complaint and how we could make it safer for that person
  • Being humble
  • Discussing issues that you don’t understand (Note: This doesn’t conjure up ideas of getitng them to defend or provide examples)

Spending our energy on finding solutions rather than fighting a battle is way more productive and probably could solve most of the worlds problems. So this is a good reminder for me to just open my heart and listen.

Get In Line

I’m a huge believer in solidarity. I think the only way to really stop oppression is to raise flags when we see this being exhibited anywhere. Being an ally rather than passive simply means that we making it pretty clear to those around us that this is unacceptable. If we don’t show solidarity in banning together on these issues then we have less of a chance of really removing this from our patriotic system.

For society to progress we need to realise that lots of these things are difficult to unpack and unlearn. But with some heart, humanity, and humbness we can more so much closer to what we ideally want. With some concrete education on respect, love, and anti-oppression we move towards a society that respects itself and others. A society open to criticism, feedback, and shifting away from the history that we so tightly hold onto.

For me – well – I’m just going to keep striving to continue to listen, respect, learn, and grow in an anti-oppressive way.