Social Justice

Below are some terms used throughout Manifesta and by people interested in gender, activism, and social justice in general. It’s a work in progress, so if you feel there is anything missing or anything that should be defined differently, feel free to contact us.

-@—a symbol added to the end of a word of Spanish origin to indicate that it could end in either –a (indicating that the word refers to a female) or –o (indicating that the word refers to a male)

-ism—a system of beliefs or a systemic way of seeing the world

ableism—a system of prejudice directed against differently-abled people because of their physical ability

accessibility—the degree to which institutions accommodate people of different abilities, backgrounds, and identities 

activism—the practice of  staging public or otherwise visible actions to show discontent with oppressive and harmful entities and attempt to effect positive change (see direct action)

advocacy—the act of showing support for a certain cause. In a social justice context, generally involves fighting for rights for a certain group of oppressed people by pushing for political action or new legislation.

autonomy—the ability to be able to describe and define one’s own identity, and express this identity freely (the state of having control over important aspects of one’s life), self-government


colonialism—the system by which one country forcibly controls the political, social, and governmental aspects of another country

imperialism—the system by which governments that are powerful in the global arena secure lasting control over less powerful countries or regions

consent—a freely given agreement to do something. Often used to refer specifically to sexual consent, which is a freely-given agreement to engage in sexual relations with someone (affirmative consent indicates a standard by which consent is indicated by the active participation of both parties; negative consent is a standard by which consent is assumed unless an explicit no is indicated)

direct action—a carefully planned event staged to bring attention to an injustice. Often occurs in the form of a rally, protest, piece of political theatre, march, or speak-out.

discrimination (against someone)—the act of marking someone as different and less valuable, and treating them unfairly, simply due to an aspect of their identity that they have no control over (i.e. race, gender, sexuality, class, ability)

disempowerment—the systematic process of oppressing a marginalized person—having one’s rights taken away, having less access to basic amenities, not being given opportunities to live a dignified life

Eurocentricism—the skewed focus (often in the arena of academics) on European and US history, thought, art, and other cultural products as somehow more important or basic than histories and cultural products of other cultures around the world

fetishization—the act of ascribing a positive value to someone or something because of seeing that person or thing as representative of a certain stereotype that one holds as positive—as opposed to liking that thing because of its actual and real characteristics

harassment—any unwanted or unwelcome attention. Harrassment often, but not always, focuses on a certain aspect of someone’s identity, like gender, race, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment is unwanted or unwelcome attention of a sexual nature.

heterosexism—discrimination against and devaluation of persons who do not identify as heterosexual or who are not perceived to be heterosexual (see: sexuality)

identity—the total package of things that constitute how someone describes and conceives of themself

invalidation—dismissal and ignoring of someone’s opinions, presence, or existence because they are a member of an oppressed group that one does not respect

marginalized—a term used to describe any group that is systematically disenfranchised by the dominant social group in their country or region

misogyny—discrimination against and devaluation of women simply due to the fact that they are women

model minority—the myth that certain groups of people of color are somehow “better-behaved” or more “desirable” than others—usually used to describe the myth that Asian-American people are unusually intelligent and harder-working than, say, Latin@ people

multiplicity—the concept that people have many different aspects to their identity and that just choosing one aspect of their identity to define them would be reductive

oppression—the systematic, continuous, structural act of depriving certain groups of basic rights, including the ability to live dignified lives

patriarchy—the structural system that exists around the world that disempowers women and benefits men

people of color—people who don’t identify as/are not perceived as white, and a term often considered to be a more respectful and socially conscious term than “minority”

prejudice—an bias held against a group of people (or members of the group because of the fact that they belong to the group)

problematic—a term that suggests that something is somehow disrespectful, oppressive, or reflective of a lack of careful consideration of how systems of oppression affect others

racism—the social system that structurally disempowers people of color. In the United States, racism has unique roots in our long history of slavery, intense xenophobia, and slaughter of Native American peoples.

rape culture—the culture existing around the world today that structurally blames women for being raped, encourages men to be aggressive toward women, trivializes the impact of rape and sexual assault on victims, and normalizes sexual violence against women

safe/safer space—a place where members of marginalized groups can gather and expect to be treated without judgment or negativity

self-determination—the ability to govern one’s life and define oneself freely (see autonomy)

 sexism—the social system that structurally privileges those perceived to be male over those perceived to be female and/or internalized by those who identify as female.

slut-shaming-–the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that violate traditional gender expectations

victim-blaming—the expression of a mindset holding that victims (generally used to refer to victims of sexual assault) are somehow to blame for being hurt or attacked. This often takes the form of telling women that they wouldn’t have been assaulted if they had chosen to dress more “chastely” or behave more “carefully”, and this phenomenon is regarded as a visible manifestation of rape culture.

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