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On this blog, we talk a lot about being anti-oppressive, but we wanted to take the time to discuss what exactly that means and why it’s important to us. This is going to kick off a new series of blog posts on social justice definitions and concepts, so while this will be just a brief overview of some important ideas, we’ll be writing more in-depth posts on a lot of these topics in the months to come.

We at SACOMSS understand anti-oppression work to include work that is queer positive, trans* positive, anti-ablist, anti-classist, anti-agist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist. We also think it’s important to be non-judgemental, pro-survivor, and pro-feminist. But what does all that really mean?

In general, being anti-oppressive means acknowledging that systematic oppression exists in our society—that is, that certain people are afforded more privileges than others based on characteristics like their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It also means actively fighting against this oppression and for greater equity in society (that’s where something like being pro-feminist comes in). For us, this means both doing our best not to recreate these systems of oppression within our organization—by, for example, being non-hierarchical, avoiding gendered language, and making our services free—and working to change these systems—by, for example, incorporating discussions about how sexism plays into sexual assault myths in the workshops we run in high schools, and supporting Montreal organizations who do work that aligns with our mandate.

As well as being opposed to discrimination and oppression based on someone’s race, socioeconomic status, (dis)ability, age, gender identity and presentation and how that relates to their birth-assigned gender, or sexual orientation, as a sexual assault centre, we want to be pro-survivor. Essentially, that means we support any survivor of sexual assault. We will believe them, we will not judge them, and we will do our best to help them in whatever way we can.

Anti-oppression work is all about learning and unlearning—learning what different forms of oppression are and what they look like in our day-to-day lives, learning how to fight them, and also unlearning a lot of the things we were taught to say or do or believe that actually uphold these forms of oppression. We hope that you, the reader, will learn something from us, and also that you’ll keep in mind that we’re still learning what a lot of this stuff entails.

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