Master Suppression Techniques – sexism in the workplace

If someone is outright sexist or misogynist towards you in the workplace, then it’s in some ways easier to identify and deal with than the subtler undermining that can happen.

F-Word commenter A Different Helen sent in a link to this useful breakdown on a Norwegian site, drawing on theory developed by Berit Ås of ‘Master Suppression Techniques’. Although it’s more than 20 years old, it still looks pretty useful to me for anyone dealing with sexism and/or other forms of discrimination (or, as she puts it, “suppression”).

Professor Berit Ås developed the theory of the master suppression techniques, thus making a tool women (and others) can use to identify what goes on when they are not listened to, when they are overlooked or ignored. Maybe it is not that you make a poor argument or fail to present a case properly. It may not have anything to do with the individual, but with the group membership you are given by others, like your gender. To identify the master suppression techniques is to make them visible and thereby neutralise their effect. Immensely practical, as well as useful.

The five master suppression techniques that Berit Ås identified are:

* Making Invisible

* Ridiculing

* Withholding Information

* Damned If You Do And Damned If You Don’t

* Heaping Blame and Putting to Shame

In theory, techniques like these may be used on all suppressed groups. However, Berit Ås believes that they are used in specific combinations and situations in regards to women, due to the patriarchial society’s definition of women as objects or property.

The booklet outlines how each of these techniques can manifest themselves in practice, and strategies to cope.

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