Oppression Olympics is a characterization of marginalization as a competition to determine the relative weight of the overall oppression of individuals or groups, often by comparing race, gender, socioeconomic status or disabilities, in order to determine who is the worst off, and the most oppressed. The characterization often arises within debates about the ideological values of identity politics, intersectionality, and social privilege. The term became used among some feminist scholars in the 1990s. The first potential recorded use of the term as a way to theorize comparing oppression was by Chicana feminist Elizabeth Martínez in a conversation with Angela Davis at the University of California, San Diego in 1993. Martínez stated: "the general idea is no competition of hierarchies should prevail. No 'Oppression Olympics'!"
The Oppression Olympics have been described as a contest within a group, to "assert who is more authentic, more oppressed, and thus more correct". This may be on the basis of one's race, gender, sexuality, among other stated or ascribed identities.
A person's stated or ascribed identity "become[s] fetishised" within the group and judged in preconceived essentialist terms. There is a dynamic "of agreeing with the most marginalized in the room".
According to Stoyan Francis, "the gold medal of the Oppression Olympics is seen as the commanding spot for demanding change, for visibility and allocation of resources".
Elizabeth Martínez, in a conversation with Angela Davis on May 12, 1993, responded to a question about coalition building as follows: "There are various forms of working together. A coalition is one, a network is another, an alliance is yet another. ... But the general idea is no competition of hierarchies should prevail. No Oppression Olympics!" Davis supported Martínez's characterization and stated, "As Betita has pointed out, we need to be more flexible in our thinking about various ways of working together across differences."
Martínez would later write more extensively about the "Oppression Olympics" in her 1998 monograph De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century. In a foreword for the book, Angela Davis writes that Martínez evoked "a term that will be recognized by many who have heard her speak" and states that Martínez "urges us not to engage in 'Oppression Olympics' [or create] a futile hierarchy of suffering, but, rather, to harness our rage at persisting injustices in order to strengthen our opposition to an increasingly complex system of domination, which weaves together racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and global capitalist exploitation".
The dynamics of the Oppression Olympics have been criticized as being "intellectually lazy, lacking political depth", and "leads towards tokenization". These dynamics surrounding identity politics have been criticized within anarchist thought for their social hierarchy building, with anarchists fundamentally being against notions of hierarchy.[further explanation needed]
Academic Ange-Marie Hancock has criticized the energy spent upon the Oppression Olympics within progressive circles as being an impediment to wider collective action in furthering social change. She opines that "Thanks to the Oppression Olympics and the political complexity facing the twenty-first century, standing in solidarity for wide social transformation is increasingly difficult to begin and challenging to pursue."
In her article "Dialogical Epistemology—An Intersectional Resistance to the 'Oppression Olympics'", Nira Yuval-Davis addresses the issue of Oppression Olympics and argues that categorical intersectionality provides an enhancement to this problem.[vague]
In her work Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics, Ange-Marie Hancock argues that the core causes for Oppression Olympics are the desire to one-up other victims, and blindness to the plights and disadvantages of other groups.
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- Francis, Stoyan (January 28, 2016). "Oppression Olympics: The Dark Side of the Rainbow". Between the Lines. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
- Martínez, Elizabeth; Davis, Angela Y. (1994). "Coalition Building Among People of Color". Inscriptions. 7: 42–53. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
- Davis, Angela Y. (1998). De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century. South End Press. p. x. ISBN 978-0-89608-583-1.
- Hancock, Ange-Marie (2011). Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics. The Politics of Intersectionality. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 82. doi:10.1057/9780230120136. ISBN 978-0-230-12013-6.
- Yuval-Davis, Nira (February 2012). "Dialogical Epistemology—An Intersectional Resistance to the "Oppression Olympics"". Gender & Society. 26 (1): 46–54. doi:10.1177/0891243211427701. JSTOR 23212239. S2CID 144091155.
- Hancock, Ange-Marie (2011). Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics. The Politics of Intersectionality. Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9780230120136. ISBN 978-0-230-12013-6.
- Young, Isaac F.; Sullivan, Daniel (October 2016). "Competitive victimhood: a review of the theoretical and empirical literature" (PDF). Current Opinion in Psychology. 11: 30–34. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.04.004. S2CID 147750879. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
- Recchia, Holly E.; Wainryb, Cecilia (2011). "Youths Making Sense of Political Conflict: Considering Protective and Maladaptive Possibilities" (PDF). Human Development. 54 (1): 49–59. doi:10.1159/000325371. JSTOR 26764989. S2CID 11194102. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 1, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2022.