Skip Navigation

Links Between Oppression and Violence Against Women Exercises

Getting to the root causes of violence against women is a common component of primary prevention efforts. Violence against women takes place in a context of multiple oppression. Feminist analysis and the grassroots rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelter movements have identified sexism as a root cause of violence against women. In addition, rape and domestic violence take place in the context of many other oppressions, including racism, heterosexism, ableism, and ageism.

Prevention Educators often use exercises to demonstrate the links between oppressions in order to draw connections between the root causes of violence against women. There are several curricula for elementary school age children on ending oppression.
Table of Contents Sample Exercises Social Norms Exercise (for small groups) Walk-About Look at Advertising Discuss Reading Level Playing Field ToolsBibliographyBlogsAgeismAnti-SemitismHomophobiaRacismSexismGeneral

Sample Exercises

Social Norms Exercise (for small groups)

This basic group activity starts with a discussion of social norms and how they influence the way people act. Then the facilitator helps the group to identify identity groupings (race, ethnicity, ability, age, gender, class, belief systems, sexual orientation, etc). Next the facilitator breaks the large group into small groups (2-3 people) to answer 2 questions:

  1. Within these groupings, what are the dominant norms in our society? and
  2. How does this power differential result in the non-dominant group becoming at risk for sexual violence?

This exercise is straightforward without any bells and whistles. However, it a pretty advanced exercise because participants have to have foundational understanding of norms, identities, and power differentials based on dominant groups and norms. They also really have to stretch their thinking into how oppression relates to sexual violence. Skilled facilitation is important in that one has to make sure that people do not link identities to sexual violence without factoring in the oppression piece.


Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) has an activity about the link between poverty and sexual violence called “walk-about.” There are approximately six unfinished statements or questions about poverty written on newsprint. Participants walk around and provide their responses. This can also be done in small group if the audience is large. Talking points and connections to sexual violence are provided.

Jeopardy on Links Between Sexism and Other Forms of Oppression
Use a blank form of the grid from the handout The Relationship of Sexism to Other Forms of Oppression (on page 69). It is from the manual “In Our Best Interest: A Process for Personal and Social Change” from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.
With a larger version of the handout, leave the sections blank, and have participants fill it in like “Jeopardy”.

Look at Advertising

Give participants a sheet of paper with things to look for in sexist advertising. Things like submissive or off-balance poses, dismemberment, infantizing, all that stuff. Then we just go through a series of ads, and tools in hand, we point out as a group what we see, talk about the role of ads, cultural heuristics, feedback, et al.
Then I talk a little bit about how sexual violence results from the same power imbalances that create and sustain sexism, racism and heterosexism. I don’t generally mention the word hegemony, but you get the idea.
Using the same tools, we start looking at other ads and focus on racism and sexual violence, heterosexism and sexual violence. Go to sony_whiteiscoming_ad_large.jpgsony_whiteiscoming_ad_large.jpgto see an ad Sony used for their Playstation Portable. Video games are so blatant in their simultaneous racism and sexism, they’re pretty much always good example for these discussions.
At this point, inevitably someone defends the media as entertainment or whatever. Usually high school kids and young men don’t like hearing about video games because they’ve been poisoned by bad arguments made by the media (Columbine blamed on a video game, VT, etc). Their resistance is understandable. Its usually diffused by talking about how much money advertising makes, who benefits from advertising, what its purpose is (buy, tempt, exploit), and talking about social reflection more then cause/effect seems to be the sugar that helps the medicine go down.

Discuss Reading

Andrea Smith’s **Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide** Discuss a few passages to start a conversation (check out Masum on page 165).

Level Playing Field

Level Playing Field is an exercise designed by Cultural Bridges. This has been used by UIUC Office of Women’s Programs & Men Against Sexual Violence.


Check out Crisis Connection’s newsletter – The Connected – issue on tolerance…
BELOW FROM: In response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. over thirty years ago, Jane Elliott devised the controversial and startling, “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise. This now famous exercise labels participants as inferior or superior based solely upon the color of their eyes and exposes them to the experience of being a minority Commitment To Combat Racism

Indicate whether you have taken action on the items listed below. Check appropriate column.
1. Yes_ No_ : Have I aggressively sought out more information in an effort to enhance my own awareness and understanding of racism (talking with others, reading, listening)?
2. Yes_ No_ : Have I spent some time recently looking at my own racist attitudes and behaviors as they contribute to or combat racism around and within me?
3. Yes_ No_ : Have I reevaluated my use of terms, phrases, or behaviors that may be perceived by others as degrading or hurtful?
4. Yes_ No_ : Have I openly confronted a racist comment, joke, or action among those around me?
5. Yes_ No_ : Have I made personal contact with myself to take a positive stand against racism, even at some possible risk, when the chance occurs?
6. Yes_ No_ : Have I become increasingly aware of racist TV programs, advertising, news broadcasts, holiday observations, slogans, etc.?
7. Yes_ No_ : Have I complained to those in charge of promoting racist TV programs, advertising, news broadcasts, holiday observations, slogans, etc.?
8. Yes_ No_ : Have I suggested and taken steps to implement discussions or workshops aimed as understanding and eliminating racism, sexism, and ageism with friends, colleagues, social clubs, or church groups?
9. Yes_ No_ : Have I been investigating and evaluating political candidates at all levels in terms of their stance and activity against racism, sexism, and ageism?
10. Yes_ No_ : Have I investigated the curricula of local schools in terms of their treatment of the issues of racism, sexism, and ageism (also, textbooks, assemblies, faculty, staff, administration, and athletic programs and directors)?
11. Yes_ No_ : Have I contributed time and/or funds to an agency, fund, or program that actively confronts the problems of racism, sexism, or ageism?
12. Yes_ No_ : Have my buying habits supported non-racist, non-sexist, and non-ageist shops, companies, or personnel?
13. Yes_ No_ : Is my school or place of employment a target for my educational efforts in responding to racism, sexism, and ageism?
14. Yes_ No_ : Have I become seriously dissatisfied with my own level of activity in combating racism, sexism, and ageism?
15. Yes_ No_ : Have I realized that White Americans are trapped by their own schools, homes, media, government, families, etc., even when they choose not to be openly racist or sexist?
16. Yes_ No_ : Have I ended my affiliation with organizations which are racist, sexist, or ageist in their membership requirements?
17. Yes_ No_ : Have I subscribed to a publication which will educate me in the area of a culture other than my own? Have I left copies of that publication in sight where my friends and associates might see it and question my interest in it?
18. Yes_ No_ : Have I made an effort to learn some of the language of those in my community who may speak something other than standard English?
Typical Statements
Put an “X” before those statements that represent your present beliefs or an “O” before those that represent previously held beliefs.
Once you have completed the exercise, please refer to the Clarification To The Typical Statements page below.
1. Just what do these people want anyway?
2. I don’t understand what you people are saying.
3. On the whole, the educated, the upper classes, the emotionally mature, and the deeply religious are much less racist.
4. Other ethnic groups had to struggle. Why is it so different for the Blacks?
5. Angry minorities make me feel so helpless.
6. Racism exists only where minorities exist. Remove the minorities and we won’t have these problems.
7. (To a minority) No matter what I say or do, it doesn’t suit you. You are never satisfied. As far as you’re concerned, I can’t do anything right.
8. If you could just get people feeling good about themselves, there would be less racism.
9. I’m not racist, but when it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t marry a Black person.
10. I should not be held responsible for the behavior of my ancestors.
11. I’m with them up to the point where they want to break the law or do something illegal.
12. How can I be pro-Black without being anti-White?
13. I am not personally responsible for the policies of racist institutions.
14. The most important things minorities need are an education and the vote.
15.(White) people would not have to integrate if they don’t want to.
16.Love can’t be legislated.
17.What are we going to do to alleviate the Black problem?
18.Every person should be judged solely on the basis of his or her accomplishments, regardless of race.
19. We (Whites) should get a little more appreciation for what we are doing to help.
20. Some of my best friends are Black.
21. (Said to a Black person) I’ve gotten to know you so well that I just don’t see you as Black anymore.
22. Every time I express my opinion to a Black person, I get put down.
23. On the basis of statistics, it’s true that there is a higher crime rate in the ghetto.
24. Black people are more in tune with their feelings; they are more emotional.
25. In many situations, minorities are paranoid and oversensitive. They read more into the situation than is really there. They find discrimination because they are always looking for it.
26. Why don’t they just relax.
© Judith Katz.
Clarification To The Typical Statements
Before reviewing these clarifications, please refer to the Typical Statements page before.
1. Feigns ignorance of legitimate minority demands for the basic ideals of all humans – justice, equity, pluralism, human treatment.
2. Same as #1 above.
3. Assumes that racism is an individual matter rather than one of all Whites who take advantage of the benefits of a White racist dominated society.
4. Shows a deep ignorance of the special deprivations suffered by Black people by Whites.
5. A denial of White responsibility for dealing with White racism. The statement blames minorities for making Whites feel helpless – a special example of “blaming the victim.”
6. Says the problem is in being a minority, not in the reaction of Whites to minorities.
7. Says there is nothing wrong with what the speaker says or does; it’s only in the minority group member’s perception of what is being said or done.
8. Denies the fact of institutional racism and every White person’s responsibility to combat it. Denies reality in that if racism weren’t so powerful and so effective at keeping minority groups in their place, we’d have given it up a long time ago.
9. A contradiction – self-evident.
10. Avoids White’s current responsibility for dealing with current racism. We are all guilty for failing to take action and/or partaking of the benefits of a White racist society.
11. Revolution is permitted for only the right (White) reasons.
12. Assumes that there can be no true pluralism, that in fact White is right and that others are here only as Whites are willing to put up with them.
13. Denial of responsibility and individual power to effect change.
14. Denial of the presence and power of institutional racism.
15. Denies legitimate human rights by treating the problem as one of individual feelings.
16. Minority groups don’t want love; they want equity.
17. Mislabels the problem. It’s a White problem.
18. This is a statement that systematically ignores the cumulative effects of a tradition of institutional racism in this society and the larger amount of investment required by Blacks to attain the same accomplishments because of White racism.
19. Should a battered child appreciate it when the battering stops and be grateful for only the stopping? Justice is appreciated.
20. Insidious patronizing attitude; suggests a superior position of the White person. Whites choose; Blacks must be chosen.
21. The speaker must deny minority group member’s blackness in order to be able to relate to him/her.
22. There’s nothing wrong with the White opinion, only the Black’s reaction to it.
23. Blaming the victim doesn’t adequately account for what White institutions have done to produce the results.
24. Reacting to stereotypes.
25. There’s obviously something wrong with the Black’s perception of the situation than the situation itself. Let’s change the perception and leave the situation alone.
26. It’s all a Black problem. If they’d just be reasonable, they’d see that it’s not as bad as they think it is and they’d understand. A total denial of the reality of the results of institutional racism.


This is merely a suggested list of a few books with which to start your exploration of the problems of sexism, racism, and ageism.



  • Comfort, Alex. A Good Age. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1976.

• Spark, Muriel. Memento Mori. New York: Putnam, 1982.


• Fension, Fanye. Playing for Time. New York: Berkeley, 1983.
• Leitner, Isabella. Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of Auschwitz. New York: Dell, 1978.
• Seigel, Aranka. Upon the Head of the Goat. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983.
• Weisel, Elie. A Jew Today. New York: Random House, 1978.
• Weisel, Elie. Night. New York: Bantam, 1982.
• Yaseen, Leonard C. The Jesus Connection. New York: Crossroads, 1985.
• Zyskind, Sara. Stolen Years. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1981.


• Jennings, Kevin. One Teacher in 10. Los Angeles, CA: Alycon Publications, Inc., 1994.
• Pharr, Suzanne. Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism. Inverness, California: Chardon Press, 1988.


• Aliport, Gordon. The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison Wesley, 1979.
• Burton, M. Garlinda. Never Say Nigger Again. Nashville TN 37205: James C. Winston, 1976.
• Chu, Louis. Eat a Bowl of Tea. New Jersey: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1961.
• Clark, Kenneth. Prejudice and Your Child. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan, 1986.
• Cobbe, Price, and Crier, William. Black Rage. New York: Basic Books, 1960.
• Cone, James H. Martin and Malcolm and American. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1991.
• Cose, Ellis. The Rage of a Privileged Class . New York, NY : Harper Collins , 1993 .
• Deloria, Vine. Custer Died for Your Sins. New York: Avon, 1970
• Deloria, Vine. God is Red. New York: Dell, 1983.
• Deloria, Vine. We Talk, You Listen. New York: MacMillan, 1970.
• Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
• Hecker, Andrew. Two Nations: Black and White. Separate, Hostile, and Unequal. MacMillan(H.B.) Ballantine (P.B.), 1992.
• Homokawa, Bill. The Quiet Americans. New York: Morrow, 1972.
• Houston, Jeane and James D. Farewell to Manzanar. New York: 1974.
• Kane, Pearl Rock and Orsini, Alfonso, J. The Color of Excellence . New York, NY: Teachers College Press, Columbia Univ., 2003.
• Kennedy, Randall. Nigger. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2002.
• Kochman, Thomas. Black and White Styles in Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
• Landsman, Julie. A White Teacher Talks About Race. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001.
• Lincoln, C. Eric. Race, Religions and the Continuing American Dilemma. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1999.
• Mathabane, Mark. Kaffir Boy. New York: Macmillan, 1986.
• Mirande, Alfredo. The Chicago Experiment: An Alternative Perspective. Notre Dame, 1985.
• Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Washington Square, 1972.
• Nam, Vicki. Yell-Oh Girls. New York, NY: Harper Collins , 2001.
• Peters, William. A Class Divided: Then and Now. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale, 1987.
• Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. New York: Bantam, 1982.
• Rutstein, Nathan. The Racial Conditioning of Our Children. Albion, MI: The National Resource Center for the Healing of Racism, 2001.
• Ryan, William. Blaming the Victim. New York: Random House, 1972.
• Shipler, David K. Arab and Jew. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
• Siberman, Charles. Crisis is Black and White. New York: Random House, 1972.
• Smith, Lillian. Killers of the Dream. New York: Norton, 1978.
• Tan, Amy. The Kitchen God’s Wife. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1991.
• Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Washington Square, 1982.
• Wattenberg, Ben. Birth Dearth. New York: Pharos, 1987.
• Weatherford, Jack. Native Roots. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1991.
• White, Joseph L. The Psychology of Blacks. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1984.
• Williams, Juan. Eyes on the Prize. New York: Viking, 1987.
• Wright, Richard. Black Boy. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.
• Yette, Samuel F. Choice: The issue of Black Survival in America. Springs, Maryland: Cottage Books, 1982.


• Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Ballantine, 1985.
• Eisler, Raine. The Chalice and the Blade. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
• Gilligan, Carol. Is A Different Voice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982.
• Smith, Lillian. Killers of the Dream. New York: Norton, 1978.
• Wilson-Scheaf, Anne. Women’s Reality. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.
• Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. Toronto: Random House, 1990.


• Carter, Forrest. The Education of Little Tree. Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1986.
• Clavell, James. The Children’s Story. New York: Delacorte, 1981.
• Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005.
• Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co., 2005.
• Glassner, Barry. The Culture of Fear. New York, NY: Basic Book, 1999.
• Golden, Harry. Only in America. Cleveland: World, 1959.
• Golden, Harry. For 2 Cent Plain. Cleveland: World, 1959.
• Golden, Harry. Enjoy! Enjoy!. Cleveland: World, 1960.
• Lakoff, George. Don’t Think of an Elephant. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub Co., 2004.
• Loewen, James, W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. New York, NY: The New Press, 1995.
• Pauling, Chris. Introducing Buddhism. New York, NY: Barnes and Noble Books, 1990.
• Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997.
• Simons, Abramms, Hopkins, and Johnson. Cultural Diversity. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s/Pacesetter Books, 1996.
• Stern-LaRosa, and Bettman, Ellen H. Hate Hurts. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2000.
• Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990.