Monday, February 7, 2011

a glossary of terms

If you are not entirely entrenched in the realms of social justice, diversity, feminism, or the like, it can sometimes sound like those who are are speaking an entirely different language. In this blog we will aim to make the language and content as accessible as possible, however, a basic knowledge of the terms used will certainly help – and not only in regards to this blog.

Social justice the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society. Generally relates to the idea that everyone deserves the same rights, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, and socio-economic status.

White Privilege – “a way of conceptualizing racial inequalities that focuses as much on the advantages that white people accrue from society as on the disadvantages that people of color experience.” (Wikipedia). Also see Peggy McIntosh's “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” here.

Restorative justice – a different approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims and the concept of rehabilitating offenders.

Ally – students and faculty who have completed the ALLIES Advance training in order to be a resource and support on campus for LGBT students. A listing of the allies on campus can be found here

Domestic violence – violence in a household or between partners, whether physical, sexual, or emotional.

Bullying – an abuse or harassment, generally among peers, designed to shame or harm the victim because of perceived traits, ie homosexuality. Also, cyber bullying – harassment that happens online through social networks and media for the same purpose.

Discrimination – via (surprising how many of these terms or concepts are not as easily found in dictionaries): “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.”

Accessibility – referring to ease of access of buildings, institutions, etc for disabled persons.
Hostile work/education environment – an environment that is deemed uncomfortable, unsafe, or otherwise unpleasant to particular persons because of their perceived race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and the like.

Cultural competencies – the awareness and knowledge of other cultures and populations, with an ability to navigate through them and understand one's relationship to them in a sensitive way.

Activism – via again: “the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.”

Human trafficking – Human slavery; “the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor” (Wikipedia).

Colonialism – Imperialism, or “the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas” (

Ethnocentrism – the idea that one's own culture is inherently superior to others'

Intersectionality – in short, refers to the intersecting of identities such as race and gender.

Feminism – Not a bad word or a slur; in fact, the idea that all people, regardless of gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc, deserve the same rights.

Womanism – Alice Walker coined this term for a sort of feminism for women of color. “Womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender,” she wrote.

“-isms” - Racism, sexism, ableism, etc; names for those internalized and externalized systems of oppression that keep people divided.


  1. Great list! You left out the link to Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" but is can be found here:

  2. Thanks Heather! Edited post.