internalized speciesism

content warning for triggering material, including racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, colonialism, transphobia, speciesism, tokenizing & violence against animals.

speciesism, the exploitation & abuse of non-humyn animals by a dominant oppressor on the basis of species membership, is weird.

weird like, despite how us humyns keep busy discriminating & exploiting animals specifically because they are of different species, we humyns are a species of animals too.
weird like, by justifying oppression against other earthlings precisely because of their Animalness, we simultaneously ignore & deny our own animality.
we animals have made being an animal something to be ashamed of, being called an animal something of a slur, to degrade and “Other”.
but, it takes one to know one, right? (yup i went there)

while many different folx are understandably resistant to any identities that put them with animals (given the many past atrocities that harmed animals and marginalized communities alike), the focus of this writing is on the costs of our collective humyn resistance to unlearning our internalized speciesism.

so yea, speciesism is weird. awkward. hypocritical. toxic. self-destructive.

and it follows that the deep feelings of speciesism – which we are indoctrinated with since childhood, to sever our natural bond of curiosity & respect for our animal cousins – would slowly turn inwards, against ourselves, against our wild animal-selves.
by believing political lies and following social pressures, we repress & hide certain characteristics of our identities as a humyn species. we learn to live in ways that subconsciously police behaviour and impulses, mentally & spiritually caging our wildness as though it were something dangerous, embarrassing, unnatural.

isn’t there a word for that?
oh right…


internalizing oppression.

oppression is trauma.
because to be oppressed means to be wounded, scarred, over and over again.
it is traumatic on our psyche, our mind-bodies, our spirits, to be oppressed.
and, given the particularly nasty essence of oppression, the ability to survive it brings long-term consequences.
since oppression is all-consuming and continues to perpetuate itself against ourselves, without apology and without relief, us survivors begin to accept & normalize this abusive existence.

most are aware of oppression when directly overt, such as the parades of hooded neonazi kkk members & donaldtrumps of the world, or when represented in the high fenced walls of colonial borders & the prison industrial complex.
but oppression has many faces, many expressions, to do its harm – some of which are more subtle and ubiquitous, producing a more long-term damage that eats away at us from the insides.

and it is these forms, these sneakier, quieter kinds, that tends to be (often involuntarily) internalized by us all – meaning, those who are discriminated, excluded, bullied, over-represented and under-represented, can come to eventually believe whatever the false propaganda is saying. consciously or not, we can begin to see ourselves in the ways that oppression wants us to be seen, as though unworthy, incapable, stupid, ugly, criminal, sinful, unclean, inferior, or whatever.

internlized ableisminternalizing is following the expectations of the system, submitting to its oppressive version of yourself, wherein you are bullied into limiting your potential by surrendering to an identity of being less-than, inferior, to a more socially dominant group. put more simply, it is “identifying with the oppressors” and thus subscribing to the oppressor’s beliefs [1]. 

“So often do [the oppressed] hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing, and are incapable of learning anything …
that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness.” [2]

why do people let this happen, obeying the system & all?
why do people take on that identity of the “Other”?

internalization happens because the system’s misinformation becomes so overbearing, so constant, and so unquestioned in its claims-making, that it seems near impossible for any one individual to both exist in that system and still fully guard their mind from the slow leak of oppressive ideas threatening to seep into our collective consciousness.

slowly, to varying degrees depending on each of our situations and capabilities, we all incorporate oppressive views about our own self-image, as well as the ways we evaluate our own own self-worth, or the relative value of the group(s) we share membership with.


so what does that look like?

  • like cash-poor peoples believing capitalist lies that they deserve their position in society, because they don’t work hard enough, or can’t do any other kind of work, and so are worth less than people with wealth, property, education. 
  • like communities of color believing racist myths that they are lazy, ungrateful, or are in debt to white supremacy, or when telling friends & family that being black is not beautiful because lighter skin & straighter hair is “objectively” better. [3] 
  • like neurologically-atypical & differently abled/disabled folks believing ableist hate that they are a burden, useless or unnatural, or that one illness is more “real” than another sickness, or engage in self-deprecating behaviour that belittles inabilities and the experiences of others.
  • like youth & elderly adopting self-fulfilling ageist stereotypes when assuming negative attitudes because of someone’s actual/presumed age, reasoning that they or others are less capable, worthy, competent for being too old or too young.
  • like trans & queer communities engaging in cis-heteronormative beliefs when policing one another for being “too” flamboyantly gay or instead not gay enough, or not “passing” well enough, or when undermining bisexuality or asexuality for not being “real” enough to acknowledge and accept.
  • like indigenous peoples accepting colonial propaganda that teaches them to dislike, fear and hate their own cultures & traditions as “savage”, inferior or undesirable as compared to the white supremacist “civilized” standard set by settler europeans, or otherwise policing others on addictions, trauma or for not being “native enough”.
  • like womyn believing in patriarchal misogynistic standards, like that they should avoid certain hobbies & professions, or should accept sole responsibilities for unpaid & unacknowledged labour, or should be grateful for abusive “attention”, or should attack other womyn over how they do/do not advance feminism.

so basically, all sorts of oppressive mentalities exist within & across whole identities of race, genders, class, abilities, ages, sexual orientations and more.
to internalize any one of these oppressive mentalities, we:
1. accept & believe oppressive teachings about yourself,
and then
2. then start living & practising these false teachings
(thereby fulfilling the stereotypes and conforming to the limitations trying to define you).

but to explore this whole phenomenon deeper, for the sake of better resisting its spell, it’s important to know the varying levels of how internalization of oppression shows itself…

individual internalization.

when being victimized by systemic oppression every day, in every moment, it naturally becomes internalized. people develop ideas, beliefs, habits and whole personalities that support or collude with that exact oppression [4].
and so, overtime, the need for external oppression becomes almost superfluous, unnecessary, because it is all of us who begin to police ourselves and one another.


this plays out in one of two ways:

  1. self-hatred – this is the kind of contempt against oneself that comes after repeated messaging from every direction of the system which, without any option of safely rejecting or rebelling against it, the resulting feelings of frustration & anger are channelled against oneself (producing experiences like that of shame, guilt, alienation, depression and despair) (think body-hate, fat-phobia, dysmorphia) [5].
  2. horizontal violence – this is the kind of contempt held by any member of an oppressed group who re-directs their hatred upon others in the same group or similar situation (whether it be attacking group leaders or creating division within communities, it is promoting hostility to put down comrades and to potentially increase one’s own status accordingly) (think patriarchy-induced competition among womyn over male attention/approval) [6].

and it’s important to note that this individual internalization goes beyond mere “low self esteem,” because this is not a problem simply of individuals – rather, it is structural, systemic, and that makes a big fucking difference.

moree internal o

interpersynal internalization.

when oppression is internalized on a interpersynal level, this looks like how dominant elites (e.g. white people in a white supremacist society) interact with oppressed peoples (e.g. communities of color in a white supremacist society).
so, the ways in which internalized privilege & oppression play out in regular socialization between different peoples.

  • so, those homophobic jokes?
  • the racist micro-aggressions?
  • that passive sexual harassment?
  • those idle online threats?
  • the talking-over of others?
  • and the mocking of poverty & illness?
  • the minimizing of other experiences?
  • those blanket stereotypes & unfair tokenizing?
  • or that whole other range of discrimination?

yes that is all internalized oppression manifesting itself through mundane, routine social interactions. but because it has all been so deeply internalized, people in the dominant oppressor groups do not identify themselves as being “consciously” oppressive.
because they too have internalized the false messaging – and so consider any such oppressive behaviour or attitudes to be quite normal, casual or “just a joke”.
think of the proliferation of internal trolling.
think of the obnoxiously never-ending street cat-calling.
think of the classic “i’m not racist, but…”, or “i’m not a feminist because …”, and “why do all poor people think …”, and “kids today don’t show enough respect …” shit.

institutional internalization.

for all its power, both individual & interpersynal internalization ultimately depend upon an external force to validate that discriminatory behaviour.
in essence, internalization rests upon the fact that people are given permission to participate in systemic oppression by social-political institutions.

how so?
because it’s infinitely easier to lash out at those of us who don’t have the institutionalized authority to hurt you back.
oppressive institutions are built on hierarchies – wherein someone’s position rests above another – and powerful ideologies – to manifest & reinforce beliefs that one group is better than another so as to imply a necessity for controlling the “Other” to retain stability.
and this mentality exists embedded in all major social institutions across society, from criminal & property laws to all our food practices, from police codes to the quality/availability of only certain medical services, from religious teachings to the public education system, from private employment practices to tenancy rights & housing development, from media images to the quality of choices within democratic votes & other decision-making.

the power that someone can acquire through conforming to oppressive institutional expectations relies upon engaging with & contributing to these institutions. as individuals internalize all these specific messages to be natural, normal, unseen and unquestioned, these individuals in turn work to sustain these same institutions.
by stepping on those lower down on the hierarchy, we validate the institution as legitimate, and in turn depend upon them to repress those below us (who tend to not fight back without being ready to experience police/military attacks).
think police immunity for any hate-crimes of killing Black men, womyn, children.
think of people competing over jobs and degrees, to survive capitalism warfare.
think the media silence on missing and murdered indigenous womyn.

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cultural internalization.

every oppressive society will communicate misinformation & stereotypes about certain “Other” cultural groups. as too will it depend on this “Other” as political campaign material, used as a lightning rod of public dissatisfaction and fears, even as the system continues its empty promises of expelling, solving, winning this problem.
think xenophobic fears of indigenous uprisings and competition with immigrants.
think inquisitions, red scares, green scares, wars on drugs, wars on terror.

why does this happen?
because it reinforces a dominant hegemony under the façade of safety, normality and prosperity. oppressive cultures are weak, fragile cultures that depend on rigidly policed norms and a aggressively defended status quo. throughout societies it has relied upon, in one form or another, a tactic of divide-and-conquer, where the oppressed are tricked to not ally & unite but instead turn inwards to hurt, undermine, criticize, mistrust, fight with, and isolate themselves from one another [7].
one of the most effective manufactured conflicts amongst oppressed populations living under global colonial-capitalism is the scarcity myth, which portrays resources of power to be finite and at risk, thus necessitating rushed, violent consumption. and the usual “winners” in this dog-eat-dog economy is always whomever best imitates, follows closest, those at the top of oppressive hierarchy (read: white; cis-hetero; masculine; abled; settler; etc.).

in a process otherwise known as adaptation, oppressed peoples survive by adopting the traditions & teachings while repressing one’s own cultural heritage [5].
so any partial or total acceptance of the dominant cultural identities – as defined & policed by the oppressor – will ultimately demand participation in the endless reproduction of oppressive relationships to dichotomize, limit & dis-empower us all [1].
think colorism among communities of color, where lighter skin is more desirable within a white supremacist society.
think rape culture where non-consent is constantly represented as sexy.
think queer communities taking on cis-heternormative roles, with masculine partners awarded more credibility and authority.

speciesism internalized…

so remember how speciesism is weird?

  • because one species has built whole societies, entire economies, around being speciest to every other species?
  • because we choose to perceive & systematically oppress the incredible diversity of Life as one inferior identity, “Animals”?
  • because the way we degrade other humyns – past & present – is by defining them an “Animal”, the worst slur imaginable despite its biological truth for all of us?

well this bizarre relationship has its consequences when it comes to how we, humyns in a human-supremacist society, internalize that oppression known as speciesism.

essentially, in this dynamic, we are both oppressor & oppressed.
we share the privileges of being born into the homo sapiens clique (including all the perks of having domesticated (read enslaved and exploited) animals for labour, food, clothing, entertainment, “scientific” study), and yet
we share the oppression common to our wider family as fellow earthlings, being forever part of Nature as one among many species of unique, interdependent, magical animals (including with it all the apparent flaws of being mortal & flawed creatures in a lonely, chaotic universe).

so this plays out as either:

1. internalized species privilege –
this is identifying with the privileges of the oppressor.
it is when humyns begin to identify with supremacy logic – actually believing the propaganda of our own superiority as a species over all other animals and Nature.
it is justifying the benefits of “human” domination & cruelty with wildly imaginative theories and circular rationale, like religions explaining us to be chosen among our gods, or sciences explaining us to be the fittest by evolutionary standards.
“maybe “humanity” really is blessed, after all?
since we’re so special, our interests should come first, even if it means bringing whole species to extinction, right?
maybe our ability to orchestrate mass ecocide and genocide demonstrates our superiority, so we’re entitled to keep polluting and hurting?”

but regardless of however people merit which characteristics are superior (rationality, written word, democracy, opposable thumbs, netflix) and which are inferior (empathy, sustainability, trust, humility, being unashamed), the rest of humynity slowly begin to identify with these illusions.
because by listening, or at the very least not actively resisting every medium spouting negative, “Other-ing” myths about the evil of “wildness” and self-proclaimed superiority of “humanity”, we all risk slowly internalizing this experience as indicators of our self-worth, our purpose, within this violently, egotistical, self-destructive community.

“At a certain point in their existential experience the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction toward the oppressor and his way of life.
Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration.
In their alienation, the oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressor, to imitate him, to follow him.” [1]

2. internalized species oppression –
this is identifying with the marginalization of the oppressed.
it is when humyns see our identity in those being dominated, our animal cousins, and so repress and hide parts of ourselves from view. because by fearing to be “discovered” as secretly inferior, as secretly sharing commonality with animals, we tend to over-compensate by being aggressively speciesist.
we punish any characteristics of ourselves and loved ones that are too “wild”, too “non-humyn” by the standards of the system, all the while slowly fostering a deep-seated sense of contempt, distrust & eventual plain hate towards all other “uncivilized” species (a.k.a. “Animals”).
we effectively cut ourselves off from whole parts of our identity, the parts where we identify & connect best with Animals, with ecologies, with Nature.

but a contempt of other species is pretty understandable when considering how many people subconsciously fear being associated with the “Other” (whomever it may be in whatever circumstances) – which any vague knowledge of “human history” would explain why being associated with “Animal”-like identities is fucking dangerous.
and so, in an attempt to escape the most devastating experiences of oppression, we all (again, consciously or not) tend to participate in climbing the “hierarchy of man”, competing, chasing after identities & mannerisms of the “proper” species, “human”.
trauma theory recognizes internalization as a survival strategy, explaining how: 

“Trapped in an abusive environment [we’re] faced with formidable tasks of adaptation… [where we] must find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are untrustworthy… power in a situation of helplessness.” [8]

3. all of the above –
speciesism does not exist in a vacuum.
because “species” is a social and political construct that comes out of particular histories of domination and exploitation, it mixes with other oppressions. it is pushed back against in some communities more than others, with varying levels of success for the short and long term.
but the important point to remember here is that because we all, to varying degrees, have internalized different privileges (cis, hetero, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and different oppressions (transmisogny, homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, etc.), these factors all conflate with the ways that we process & project our internalization of speciesism – both privilege & oppression.

long story short, we can be both entitled and insecure as fuck.
we have committed to an endless game of respectability politics.
the ways that we internalize speciesism ends up colluding with & enabling other oppressions, because it is performed and channeled in ways that are also gendered, racialized, cis-heteronormative, mind-body ableist, capitalist-colonial, etc.
9 times out of 10, the qualities, behaviour and values that are deemed suspicious or outright contradictory to the definitive version of “humanity” are also simultaneously qualities, behaviour and values that defy white supremacy, or the patriarchy, or capitalism, or colonialism. and that makes sense given how much speciesism continues to collude with other oppressions in the policing of whole communities and surveillance on individual bodies.
to make this a little more clear for y’all, think about how similar this relates to male-identified peoples within the patriarchy, who are simultaneously privileged to be complete bullies without accountability, but still are oppressed insofar that they fear expressing or relating to anything not overtly masculine. 

within this oppression, the “ideal” species remains the unseen species, the version in which humans forget (through internalization) that we too are a species sharing this home of Mother Earth.
the illusion of humyns assuming ourselves to not be a species too is akin to white people being so ignorant to think of themselves as not being a race (like “ethnic food” categories in super-stores), because ethnicity is only for non-white people?
or the illusion of humyns assuming ourselves to not be a species too is akin also to men being so ignorant to think their gender as the default template (like skirted stick-figures on restroom doors) because expressing femininity or gender non-conformity needs to be qualified?
maybe you’re asking ‘why the fuck is this our predicament’?
because by visibly disconnecting ourselves from our animal cousins (say by wearing clothing), and by ideologically separating understanding ourselves to not be an expression of Nature but somehow separate & superior to it (say by building suburbias), it makes it that much easier for us to continue participating in the atrocities that our societies were founded upon.
by continuing to believe the lies that we have internalized, we can continue our comfortably numb existence, living out expectations of a system that never loved us. 

individual speciesism.

  1. self-hatred – we police ourselves for any behaviour or characteristics that do not align with our oppressors, which in this case, looks like being expressly not of the Animal species (nor possessing any distinctly Animal qualities).and what is more animalistic than naturally occurring bodily stimuli, like the things we call desires, urges, drives, impulses? or those undeniable feelings, emotions?
    well, we label them all as “irrational” behaviour – irrational in the sense of being too wild for the system to predict or control – to be stigmatized as “primal”, “base” traits unbecoming to any “mature, successful & evolved human” (though still studied & exploited within market consumerism when attempting to subconsciously manipulate our emotional needs like happiness when selling us materialism).so instead we are compelled to escape from this identity, psychologically
    withdrawing from being in touch with our minds & bodies, leading to living entire lives of fragmented identities – and all done at the behest of serving to maintain the status quo [9].
  2. horizontal violence – we also police others to ensure they too struggle with the politics of internalized speciesism, and the most common, visible way of accomplishing this is centering attention upon the humyn body. this happens by politicizing its features (by demanding more/less fat, hair or skin revealed), its use (including shaming sex and masturbation), and otherwise incredibly common bodily functions (including menstruation, puberty, pregnancy, sickness, disability and death), all of which is dependent upon the specific circumstances for controlling another self-expression.body policing is a method favourited among the animal industrial complex (which constantly evaluates animal bodies to assess their capital worth to produce & reproduce for human consumption) as well as the mainstream media (which is itself a propaganda medium owned by elites, sold to the middle-classes, to blame the cash-poor & vulnerable communities). body policing encourages all of us to objectify one another in such a way that we collectively alienate ourselves, animals and Nature as a whole [5].

interpersynal speciesism.

the ways that we interact with one another and with animals are always extremely telling of wider dynamics at play, revealing herstorical happenings and how they continue to shape current relationships along with even seemingly mundane interactions.

among other humyns, the ways we communicate typically refer to elements deemed non-threatening to the ongoing charade of internalized speciesism, despite always being represented as an independent opinion rather than a byproduct of an oppressive socio-economic system dependent upon this norm [5]. for example, conveying respect – to so-called superiors, and about ourselves – often relies upon referring to our station & title within the social hierarchy (mr., senior; executive; dr., lead, director, etc.) as means to validate an identity wholly independent and beyond our lowly animal origins. similarly, the ways we convey disrespect – to so-called inferiors, and about ourselves – often relies upon identifying with the Animal species, including name-calling slurs like “monkeys”, “vermin”, “rats”, “bitches”, “dogs”, “catty”, “cockroaches”, “sheep”, “asses”, “pigs”, “whales”, “cows”, “snakes”, “chickens”, “weasels”, “leeches”, “sheep”, “snakes”, or simply “animals”.

however, whereas the “Other” species, our interactions with non-domesticated animals remain limited and carefully defined. zoos and aquariums remain the primary medium for humyns (especially children) to see & interact with “exotic” animals – and yet every spectator does not consider their gaze as “consciously” oppressive, precisely because they have already successfully internalized speciesism such that they view this relationship as quite normal and unproblematic. 
among domesticated animals, like cats & dogs, cows, pigs & chickens, we casually reserve the relationship as one of dependent-independent, possession-possessor, as seen with controlled language of “pets” & “livestock” and “owner”, along with property rights to dictate the norms within these “loving” relationships.

institutional speciesism.

with institutionalisation of internalized speciesism, it is quite apparent that any thorough “de-humanization/Othering” and “humanization/indoctrination” of any one persyn or community entails a coordinated effort on the part of multiple social, political, religious and economic institutions for legitimacy.
this happens not only within the more overt ideological premises of different institutions (e.g., “might makes right”, or “survival of the fittest”, or “god wills it”, or “it creates jobs”), but also within the very way we structure organization, how we treat classmates/cohorts/coworkers and how we define “success” or “progress”.

take for example our education system and employment system, wherein both spaces students & workers are consistently normalized to a variety of pressures designed to “humanize” us by repressing our animal selves – including being confined indoors for a majority of each day, being required to sit & be quiet, all the while being evaluated by standardized measures & allotted numbers/symbols that indicate our relative capacity to meet the desired expectations of superiors.
on the other hand, look at our medical system and punitive system, wherein both spaces the patients & prisoners are consistently acclimated to a variety of conditions designed to “dehumanize” us by Othering ourselves – including being forcibly isolated (in hospitals & prisons) and medicated for indefinite periods of time until deemed fit to re-enter society, with the expectation of having been healed/reformed despite the traumatic experience).

otherwise, the most defining feature of speciesist institutions are those that aggressively police the Animal species, keeping “the human” as physically and ideologically separate as possible. the food industry and religious systems are the most obvious examples, with the former leading the organized assault of animal bodies while the latter dictates the process of spiritual attack and control of animals and Nature. and of course, the media too (in multiple mediums like books, online networks, news and television) is core for perpetuating myths, fears, desires among us all about animals, making their lives visible or invisible as needed, as we continue to internalize each experience [6].
understanding just how much institutions provide claims to legitimacy for oppressive behaviour means also understanding that us members & patrons of each institution consent to each one remaining exclusive and hierarchical when dominating the oppressed.

cultural speciesism.

a culture of human supremacy, where speciesism is not only internalized but seems sewn into the very fabric of values & identity, is not unlike other oppressive cultural systems.

the token Other, in this case the “Animal”, remains as both a powerful and yet fragile tool for establishing a narrative of meaning for us to collectively subscribe to and believe in, providing a false sense of cohesion of unity through their exclusion. and this narrative says many things, including the emphasis on denying the cultural heritage of different animal species – from the belittling of socialized habits and traditions of one species as compared to another, to the intricate relationships of animals with their specific shared space of ecosystems and as they migrate & adapt, to the ignorance surrounding the complexities of animal languages, dialects and other obvious forms of non-verbal communication. it is about effectively denying the relative cultural value of animals, beyond a passing afterthought acknowledgement insofar as what animals have contributed to the cultures of “humanity”.

but important too within a culture of internalized speciesism is the centrality of how humans are collectively empowered in their organized oppression of all other species.
as an example, within our diverse cultures of food (ritualized consumption) is a dominant theme of animal consumption so normalized that it is often offensive to even question it. or considering mainstream forms of entertainment, there remain the high popularized & violent examples of “animal entertainment”, like rodeos and hunting, which seem intent on instilling beliefs of normalizing the ongoing domination of animals as a romanticized conquest and not organized exploitation. by beginning to actually believe these viewpoints as are our own opinions [7], we see how:

“[It] disturbs him and worries him even more because he admires and fears his powerful accuser. ‘Is he not partially right?’ they mutter. ‘Are [they] not a little guilty after all? Lazy because [they] have so many idlers? Timid because [they] let [them]selves be oppressed?’” [5]

looking further, much of our exposure to culture comes through media, which is now comprises incredible amounts of consumerism. with materialism marketed as the means to acquire the respect and purpose we fail to receive within our oppressive human identity. this capitalist plethora of advertising constantly challenges our self-esteem, our capacity to be appreciative & content, creating confusion and doubt about ourselves in such a way that we are inclined to try harder to “fit in” – otherwise known as “mimesis”, a process of “imitat[ing] the behaviours and attitudes that the dominant group displays toward that group in an attempt to gain a slightly more privileged status” [9].name

all the above examples reflect how important animals are at being commodities for
massaging the human ego in all its many insecurities & dishonesty.
our cultural traditions both symbolize our

speciesism while simultaneously reinforcing our internalization of the mainstream version of “authentic” humyn experience.
by “owning” the oppressor’s perspectives, about ourselves and about animals, we perpetuate the cultural oppressions by adding strength to the speciesist propaganda.


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we all internalize our experiences.
depending upon the individual and social situations, we internalize different values and different beliefs – some of which are affirming and empowering, while others harmful and dangerous.

but what is important to remember is that the internalization of oppression acquires its main power from us – so it is us, and only us, who have the capacity to reject these beliefs and behaviours by choosing to internalize honest and liberating perspectives. for that to happen, though, we all need practice shifting our attention away from gossip & the media, to focus it upon ourselves and the ways that we have already internalized the oppression that we are attempting to oppose and undo. 

what does that look like?
well to start, it means all of us trying to better understanding the world and its historical roots (and ignoring the decontextualized snapshot sound-bytes that the media sell us), as well as the ways we are socialized into society to assume our persynal struggles are not directly connected to wider collective struggles for social justice.
the pain put on us by oppression (which lead to survival strategies of numbing, thinking over feeling, blaming and avoiding blame) demand a deeper understanding of trauma healing to inform how we organize and strategize for short- and long-term change.

so where to start?
begin getting comfortable admitting that we have internalized oppression, acknowledging our participation in the system of privilege. only after that has happened can there be meaningful discussions centered around taking responsibility as oppressors to help relieve the oppression we cause and benefit from [6].

this means working to develop meaningful identities that are whole & kind for who we are right now (and not dependent upon defining an “Other”). with that comes new ways of relating and working with one another as we make space for a supportive expansion of consciousness.

this also means accepting that, despite all our best efforts to “awaken” into a liberated existence, we remain ultimately shaped by the society we are born into and exist with. so in societies of internalized speciesism, remain aware of how speciesist assumptions can easily influence our attention and general outlook (take for example the many vegans campaigning against animal cruelty who still carry speciesist prejudices when prioritizing “more relatable” animals like fur-bearers over others like reptiles and sea creatures).

copingour focus needs to be on figuring out ways to counter mentalities of shame and violence by targeting the systemic sources and not those clearly suffering from it/within it. so lets shift more community support to our radical alternative media makers & artists who can continue to create affirming content that respects all of our beautiful identities.

so your goal right now is to become more accountable for the ways that species privileges have been internalized inside your own heaad. own it and then move on trying to do better – simple as that. try living more presently in such ways that you can be open & flexible to different ideas, emotions & sensations.

bringing about the political transformations we seek, by undoing the oppressive social conditions embodied in us all, can actually be great opportunities of strength with one another as we learn to find ourselves again and begin internalizing how we are all valuable & worthy of liberation.

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[1] Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder.

[2] Baskin, C. (2003). Structural social work as seen from an Aboriginal Perspective. In W. Shera (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on anti-oppression practice(p 65-78). Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press. 

[3] Bivens, D. (2005). What is Internalized Racism?,  Chapter 5 in “Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building”.

[4] Tappan, M. (2010). Reframing Internalized Oppression and Internalized Domination: From the Psychological to the Sociocultural. Colby College.

[5] Mullaly, R. (2002). Challenging Oppression: A Critical Social Work Approach. p. 137

[6] Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training. (2012). THE FOUR I’S OF OPPRESSION.

[5] Penny R. (2000). Proceedings of the 41st Annual Adult Education Research Conference. Tool for Transformation: Cooperative Inquiry as a Process for Healing from Internalized Oppression

[6] Finally Feminism 101. (2007). FAQ: What is “internalized sexism”?

[7] Community ToolBox (2016). Section 3. Healing from the Effects of Internalized Oppression, in Cultural Competence and Spirituality in Community Building.

[8] Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Volume 551. p.96.

[9] Mullaly R. (2007). The New Structural Social Work. Social Science. p. 278-280.


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