Words Matter! Social Justice Terms and Concepts

Heather Edwards

There will be lots of terms I use throughout this website, in event descriptions and other blogs so here is your go-to page for all the "what exactly does that mean?" questions you might have about terminology that I use. 

This set focuses on terms that you might see in discussions of equality and oppression. 

Anti-Racism & Social Justice Terms

Ableism: Discrimination against disabled individuals in favor of temporarily able bodied individuals.  

Anti-Racism: Actively educating/demonstrating against racism and promoting racial equality and tolerance

Colorism: A way of oppression that stratifies individual of color based on how light or dark their skin tone may be

Feminism: A philosophical concept primarily focusing on equality for all and seeking to lift up and support those who have less power such in a patriarchal system. Feminism is (and always should be) inclusive of all genders, races, socioeconomic statuses, sex work status, and age. (See SWERF and TERF below for ways that Feminism is wrongly twisted to create additional oppressive forces)

: A socio-political structure which elevates cisgendered heterosexual men over other individuals with varying identities. Emphasizes oppression of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

Homophobia: Discrimination against individuals who identify as anything other than straight or heterosexual. This can also show up in ways that have nothing to do with orientation, but the perception that someone is not aligning with the societal norms of the gender binary (a straight, cisgender man dressing in "feminine" colors might also elicit homophobic reactions).

Intersectionality: (coined by Kimberle Crenshaw) How an individual’s gender identity, sexuality, and socioeconomic standing combine to express different modes of oppression and privilege. 

Intersectional Feminism: Coined by black feminists, intersectional feminism is a way of understanding feminism through understanding individual’s separate identities and experiences present specific forms of oppression. Intersectional feminism presents a way of understanding differences and uniting together to fight for equality across a broad spectrum. 

Patriarchy: A hierarchical structure that places men and male identifying individuals as more privileged than individuals of other identities. Patriarchy relies on the gender binary in order to keep men as superior to women. 

SWERF: An acronym that stands for Sex Worker Exclusionary Feminist, describes feminists whose feminism excludes sex workers. 

Systemic Racism: A concept that refers to the societal institutions in place that actively or passively oppress individuals of color. 

Systemic Oppression: An understanding of the societal institutions in place that actively or passively oppress a group of individuals. 

TERF: An acronym that stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, describes feminists whose feminism excludes trans individuals and sees trans people as defined by their gender assigned at birth instead of their true, self-proclaimed identity. 

Transphobia: Discrimination of anyone who identifies as anything other than cisgender

White Supremacy: A racist ideology that wrongfully places white individuals in superior societal standing to individuals of color. This concept goes far beyond things like the KKK and also includes decisions made to create the systems that uphold systemic racism. 

Thank you to Lane Wagner for helping me get all of these glossaries put together! 

Other Glossaries Available:
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