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Glossary

We have attempted to provide a glossary of terms used in our values statement and elsewhere. We hope it is helpful, please let us know if not!

Capitalism: Capitalism is an economic system where goods and services, such as transport, housing and food, are run and controlled by private companies. Private companies are owned by a few individuals (rather than run by the government, by the community or by the people who work for them). The aim of these companies is to make money for the owners. To make maximum profit companies often try to keep costs as low as possible by taking advantage of their workers, expecting them to work under unfair conditions and on low pay. The people who own and run the companies often become very rich, and often very powerful (especially when companies operate in many different countries). Capitalism is based on ideas to do with competition and working to benefit individuals rather than ideas to do with co-operating with each other to benefit everyone. Often animals and the environment also suffer under a capitalist system as both are exploited to make profit.

Classism: Classism is a system of beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices that benefit upper class people (the dominant group) and gives them power over working class people. Classism comes from the belief that upper class people (eg those with wealth, power and privilege) are better and more important than working class people. Sometimes even working class people believe this. This results in working class people being treated unfairly, including being discriminated against, attacked and denied the opportunities that upper and middle class people have.

Disablism: Disablism is a system of beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices that benefit non-disabled people (the dominant group) and gives them power over disabled people. Disablism comes from the belief that non-disabled people are better and more important than disabled people. Sometimes even disabled people believe this. This results in disabled people being treated unfairly, including being discriminated against, attacked and denied the opportunities that non-disabled people have.

Dominant group: A dominant group is a group that has power over another group, examples include white people (who have power over other ethnicities) and men (who have power over women). The ultimate dominant group in the UK are white, upper/middle class, non-disabled, heterosexual, cis (identify as the same gender that they were assigned at birth), middle-aged men – sometimes referred to as ‘default man’. Default man does not face any systemic oppression as others do. The closer you are to default man, the more privileged you are considered to be. Not all ‘default men’ exploit others and sometimes people who are exploited and dominated in turn exploit and dominate others. It is a complex picture.

Heterosexism: Heterosexism is a system of beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices that benefit heterosexual people (the dominant group) and gives them power over people of other sexualities. Heterosexism comes from the belief that heterosexual people (ie those attracted to the opposite sex) are normal and therefore better and more important than people of other sexualities (eg homosexual, bisexual, asexual, transgender, questioning). Sometimes even non-heterosexual people believe this themselves. This results in non-heterosexual people being treated unfairly, including being discriminated against (homophobia), attacked and denied the opportunities that heterosexual people have.

Oppression: Oppression is where a group of people have power over others and use that in a way that is cruel and unfair. The powerful group could be larger or smaller than the group they oppress. Classism, disablism, heterosexism, patriarchy and white supremacy are all examples of oppression.

Patriarchy: Patriarchy is a system of beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices that benefit men (the dominant group) and gives them power over women. Patriarchy comes from the belief that men are better and more important than women. Sometimes even women believe this. This results in women being treated unfairly, including being discriminated against (sexism), attacked and denied the opportunities that men have.

Privilege: Privilege is where some people in society have an advantage over others. This advantage is often based on factors that people have no control over, such as their race, class or gender. Privileged people experience no, or very little, discrimination and oppression. Without discrimination holding them back, privileged people often have opportunities others don’t. Often privileged people are not aware of their privilege. The most privileged people are white, upper/middle class, non-disabled, heterosexual, cis (identify as the same gender that they were assigned at birth), middle-aged men – sometimes referred to as ‘default man’.

Representative democracy: Representative democracy is a system that countries use to make decisions about how the country is run. In a representative democracy the people in each area of the country vote for someone (a politician) to represent them. The person with the most votes is then elected and gets to make decisions on behalf of everyone in that area. These decisions could be about new laws, the economy, immigration and many other issues. The same system is used to elect someone to make decisions on behalf of the whole country.

Self-determination: Self-determination is where a group of people have the power, resources and ability to make decisions about their own lives, free from the interference of others.

Systems and structures: Systems are the way people organize their societies so that needs are met. For example, young people need to learn how to function as adults, so, in western society, a system of public education was established in the nineteenth century. Systems often operate to support the dominant groups in society and to increase their power over others (for example, the children of the upper classes go to better schools than the children of working class communities). All societies have some type of system for educating children; the form that system takes depends on that society’s structure. Social structures are the arrangements in a society which emerge from and often determine the actions of individuals. For example, perhaps in one society children start school at 4 years old, and in another, they begin at 7 years old; both societies have an education system in place, but they have different structures.

White supremacy: White supremacy is a system of beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices that benefit white people (the dominant group) and gives them power over non-white people. White supremacy comes from the belief that white people are better and more important than people of other ethnic and racial backgrounds. Sometimes even non-white people believe this themselves. This results in people of African and Asian heritage and other ethnicities being treated unfairly, including being discriminated against (racism), attacked and denied the opportunities that white people have.

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