Difference Between Oppression & Repression

Key Difference – Oppression vs Repression

Oppression and repression are two words that are often confused by many people although there is a difference between the two. Let us first define the two words. Oppression refers to harsh and unfair treatment. This can take place when one social group oppresses another group. On the other hand, Repression refers to the act of bringing under control by force. It can further be described as holding back or suppressing one’s thoughts. This is the key difference between these two words. Through this article let us examine this difference between oppression and repression further.

What is Oppression?

Oppression refers to harsh and unfair treatment by one group in the society to another. If you observe the society today, you will notice that while some oppress others, some become oppressed. This can be due to various reasons, for example, people are oppressed because of the color of their skin, or  their sexual orientation, or their gender. This highlights that in oppression there is a clear power play between the oppressor and the oppressed.
Let us take an example feminists consider that women are oppressed due to various social mechanisms. Some consider that all forms of oppression are a result of the patriarchy in the society. Whether it is at home, at work or even on the streets women get oppressed. This can be further explained through work. In some countries, women are paid less than men and are not give opportunities for professional growth (glass ceiling concept). This is a one form of oppression that women face in the industrial setting. However, women are not the only group that is oppressed in the society. Transsexuals also face various forms of oppression as well.

What is Repression?

Repression refers to the act of bringing under control by force. Here the individual suppresses his or her thoughts or feelings. In psychology, repression is considered as a defense mechanism that reduces the anxiety that the person feels. Through repression, the individual can suppress an unwanted or undesirable emotion or thought. Let us take an example. A person goes through a very traumatic experience such as an accident. When inquired of the accident as to what exactly happened, he is unable to recall certain parts of the event. This is a result of repression. When an experience is too painful to remember the individual unconsciously suppresses it.
As you can see, there is a clear difference between oppression and repression. Oppression is mostly directed at another person, but repression is not. It is directed at one’s thoughts and emotions. In this sense repression solely involved the individual, no outsiders. In oppression however outsiders or a powerful social group is clearly involved. This difference between oppression and repression can be summarized as follows.

Key Takeaways

  • Oppression refers to harsh and unfair treatment, while repression refers to the act of bringing under control by force or the act of suppressing one’s thoughts or feelings.
  • Oppression is a social phenomenon and repression is a psychological phenomenon.
  • Oppression is directed towards another, while repression is self-directed.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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