You are here

some definitions

Ableism: A system of oppression that marginalizes individuals and communities based on their actual or perceived disability. Disability can be mental, intellectual, emotional, and/or physical. This term is most commonly used in North America and Australia. “Disablism” is a term used in the UK to describe this system of oppression, and is understood by many to refer more specifically to the experience of “being disabled” by a society and environment that are not accessible to people with impairments. (

Ageism: The discrimination, or stereotyping against individuals, or groups outside of the preferred age range, though generally older folks based on prejudices of ability.

Anti-Oppression: A system of strategies, theories, and actions that challenge structural inequalities. This requires a historical analysis of how these power imbalances have structured society, and an understanding of systematically ingrained policies, practices, and attitudes that allow certain groups to dominate socially, economically, and politically.

Anti-Racism: The ongoing process of working to understand, unlearn, and dismantle structures of racial domination and oppression.

Cisgender: A term used to describe an individual whose gender identity lines up with the gender they were assigned at birth. The term is used instead of ‘non-trans’ to show that all people, not just transgender folks, have a gender identity.

Classism: The institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based on their socio-economic class. Here, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having a greater value and members of less privileged classes face prejudice and discrimination because of their real or perceived economic status or background.

Colonialism: The process of domination of one territory or nation by another. This occurs through the acquisition of land and resources, as well as the domination and/or elimination of Indigenous populations through political control, physical occupation, dislocation from land and culture, and genocide. Canada is an example of a settler colonial state, where Indigenous peoples have been the targets of policies and practices aimed at their elimination for hundreds of years, and all non-Indigenous people are settlers who benefit from Indigenous lands and resources.

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. (

Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. (

Disability: any ability, impairment, or body that is (or is being perceived) outside of what is “normal” or “able”. It included bodies that move, think, sense, behave, communicate, or look “unacceptable” or “unproductive”. Disabilities are subject to social stigma, isolation, and systemic barriers to resources, and are targeted with violence and oppression. (

(dis)Ability: “(dis)” to respect the person’s social and physical connection with disability, and “Ability” to highlight the creative and innovative ways of dealing with societal barriers (MacDonald, 2008).

Gender: The socially constructed range of characteristics deemed masculine, or feminine.

Gender Identity: An individual’s sense and self-identification of their own gender. Gender identity may be fluid and not fixed. Examples of this: Trans*, Man, Female.

Heterosexism: The individual, societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices that assume heterosexuality to be natural, normative, and the only acceptable sexual orientation. This power imbalance leads to systemic, institutional, pervasive, and routine mistreatment and stigmatization of LGBTQIA* folks.

Ethnocentrism: The judgment of a culture based on the standards and values of one’s own culture and a belief that one’s own nation or ethnic group is superior.

Eurocentrism: The belief that Europeans and their descendants are superior to non-Europeans.

Intersectionality: A concept that addresses the interlocking systems of oppression. Forms of oppression are distinct, but they are interacting, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing—and as such no form of oppression can be addressed alone.

Misogyny: A system of oppression that benefits men through the subordination of girls, women, and trans* folks. Transmisogyny is a term coined by Julia Serano to describe the specific forms of misogyny experienced by trans women. Misogynoir is a term coined by Moya Bailey to describe the specific forms of misogyny experienced by Black women.

Oppression: Prejudice and power. A systematic social phenomenon based on the difference between social groups that involves ideological domination, institutional control, and the promotion of the oppressor group’s ideology, logic system and culture on the oppressed group. Both prejudice, and power must be present for oppression to occur. The result is the exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit, real or imagined. (

Patriarchy: A political and social system that organizes societies on the basis of male domination. Within this system men benefit from the marginalization of women and trans* people.

Power: The ability to exercise control. Having access to systems and resources as legitimated by individuals and society institutions.

Prejudice: A preconceived attitude, or judgment, that is generally negative towards individuals or groups—these attitudes can be formed without sufficient knowledge. Often this manifests to denying the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.

Privilege: Unearned advantages extended to the dominant group in the form of cultural, economic, political, social and institutional rights—at the expense of marginalized groups. These advantages actively reproduced by through the normalization of the dominant group, while systemically disempowering others deviant, non-normative, or failing to recognize them altogether.

Racism: A system of advantage and privilege based on “race,” in which one group of people exercises abusive power over others on the basis of skin colour and cultural heritage. Racism is more prevalent than other oppressions due to greater access between cultures and countries through industrialization. Historically, global industrialization has been driven by white Anglo-Saxon English from the UK/Britain–an easy example is “the commonwealth”. (

Rape Culture: A culture where sexual violence against women, and trans* folks is normalized. Prevalent ideologies, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, and encourage sexual violence.

Restorative Justice: A theory of justice that understands justice as fundamentally concerned with addressing the harm to relationships related to and resulting from wrongdoing. Restorative justice offers an approach to accountability for harm, based on the restoration of equality in social relations and reparation to those who have suffered that harm. Restorative justice is rooted in values of equality, mutual respect, and concern. Restorative justice uses deliberative processes involving victims, offenders, their respective supporters, and representatives of the broader community under the guidance of authorized and skilled facilitators. (

Sexual Assault: Any unwanted act of a sexual nature, this happens when an individual does not freely consent to a sexual act done to them by another individual.

Sexual Violence: Umbrella term used to described sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. It acknowledges that sexual violence is about power, not sex or sexuality. Women, Queer, Trans*, people with disabilities, and Indigenous people are at greater risk of being victims/ survivors of sexual violence.

Systemic: Refers to systems of power & oppression. When something is systemic, it has been inscribed into every level of society, and can be difficult to define, let alone deconstruct.

Tokenism: Presence without meaningful participation. This happens when certain representatives are selected to speak as a whole for a marginalized group. This is done to create an appearance of inclusiveness within institutions, and to deflect accusations of discrimination.

Trans*: Umbrella term that can apply to any non-cisgender gender identities.
This includes: transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderfuck, genderless, agender, non-gendered, gender nonconforming, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, multi-gender, pangender, trans woman, and trans man.

White supremacy: A “historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of colour by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege” (