On this page, you will find a list of our definition of terms and explanation of concepts related to the five most common type of hate in the European context. We have focused on these systems of oppression based on both our personal and professional experiences as youth workers and equality experts working on these issues.

This is not an exhaustive list; it is a reflection of what we find useful and important to know when speaking about hate.


Structural oppression

Structural oppression is the ways in which history, culture, ideology, public policies, institutional practices, and personal behaviours and beliefs interact to maintain a societal hierarchy based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or other group identities. The term “systemic oppression” is in many ways synonymous with “structural oppression”, as it is about a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate group inequity. Examples of such societal norms include being white, heterosexual, and non-disabled, with the corresponding structures of oppression being racism, heterosexism (manifesting as homophobia), and ableism.

The continued reinforcing of certain societal norms means that structural/systemic oppression is not necessarily something that a few individuals or institutions choose to practice, rather, it is a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist. Because such norms are deeply embedded in our society, the resulting hierarchies based on different group identities are often rendered invisible; making it easy for the dehumanisation of certain groups of people and the naturalisation of violence towards them through language and acts of abuse being perpetuated on different levels.


“Oppression and the use of definition.” Frye, Marilyn

The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics Front Cover Georgina Waylen, Karen Celis, Johanna Kantola, S. Laurel Weldon Oxford University Press, Feb 12, 2013

Difference between structured oppression and individual prejudice

Prejudice reflects internally held biases and preconceived beliefs about individuals or groups, which can be both positive and negative. Prejudice happens at the individual level; with everybody having prejudiced thoughts, even about the groups they belong to. It is also often unconscious; people aren’t always aware of the biases and preconceptions that are influencing them.

Social scientist Patricia Bidol coined “prejudice + institutional power” in the 1970s as a stipulative definition to racism often used by anti-racist educators, although it has also been used for other forms of structural oppression. This social or institutional power is defined by access to social, cultural, economic resources and decision-making powers which result in the systemic benefit for a particular group of people, and the structural disadvantage and marginalisation of others.


“Oppression and the use of definition.” Frye, Marilyn The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics Front Cover Georgina Waylen, Karen Celis, Johanna Kantola, S. Laurel Weldon Oxford University Press, Feb 12, 2013


Dehumanisation is a form of oppression and is a consequence of othering and reducing a person to only embodying the characteristics (often negative) attributed to a group, stealing the person of their individuality. It is also a result of ascribing a group of people as a target of prejudice and violence by making them seem less human, civilised or sentient than other people.

Paulo Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, defined dehumanisation this way: “Dehumanization, which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (though in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human… Th[e] struggle [for humanization] is possible only because dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.” (Freire, 1981)



Hate speech

The term hate speech’ was coined by a group of legal scholars in the late 1980s in the United States. The European Court of Human Rights, in a definition adopted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, considers ‘hate speech’ as: “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility towards minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.”

Hate speech is one of the manifestations of structural oppression. As a form of discrimination, it refers to public expressions – whether verbal, written, drawn, or gestured – which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred, discrimination or hostility towards a specific marginalised group. The most blatant types of hate speech are those which promote or incites hatred, discrimination or violence. However, it could also be insulting, degrading, defaming and negatively stereotypes people by virtue of, for example, their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

Besides contributing to a general climate of intolerance which in turn makes marginalised groups more vulnerable, hate speech has very real consequences in terms of causing not just physical, but also emotional and mental harm to individuals.





Ableism is systematised discrimination, antagonism, or exclusion directed towards people with different abilities, both physical and/or related to mental health. It is rooted in two cultural beliefs: 1) that a “normal” human being is one who can see, walk, hear, talk, etc., and has no significant physical, cognitive, emotional, developmental, or intellectual divergence, and 2) that any such divergence is “abnormal” and therefore a (social) disadvantage. Ableism involves both denying access to people with different abilities and exclusive attitudes of non-disabled people. Examples of exclusive attitudes are overlooking, dismissing, and/or belittling people with different abilities.

It is important to use people-first language. The term “disabled people” puts the disability before the person, and leads to the norm of thinking that a person is defined by their disability. Having “dis-” before any word may also imply that something is less and not as valid. The term “people with different/mixed abilities” can be used instead of “people with disabilities”, as it simply indicates different abilities rather than imply hierarchical abilities. It is still good to remember that people with different abilities are not a homogenous group, and people may use different terms to describe themselves and reclaim certain terms to empower themselves.

It is also important to note the criticisms of the term “able-bodied”, often used to refer to people who are without any (dis)abilities. The term tends to focus on physical abilities and erases those who are not neurotypical – otherwise known as those with cognitive, developmental, neurological or psychiatric (dis)abilities. It sends a message that people with different abilities are split between those whose “minds are fine” and thus deserving of respect, while implying that those who are not neurotypical are less deserving of respect, accommodation or inclusion.



A term first used in the 1990s by transgender right activists which names the conscious or unconscious reinforcement of the belief that there are only two genders, determined at birth by one’s genitals. A person whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth is termed as cisgender. Cissexism normalises cisgender-people’s gender identities, expressions, and embodiments while oppressing those who do not adhere to the gender binary. This belief results in the privileging of cisgender people and the oppression of transgender, non-binary, and intersex people, with the more appropriate term for the oppression intersex people suffer being “dyadism”.

Cissexism is present in pervasive ways, for instance in appearance-policing, laws, architecture, for instance in the existence of two binary bathrooms in most of public buildings, and language, reinforcing ideas of masculinity and femininity in a binary based society. This system of oppression upholds the gender binary, values and privileges cisgender people, and marginalises, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of all who cross or navigate through these identities or do not fit the binary.





A term developed within the LGB rights movement and modelled on other political concepts, like racism and sexism, referring to an ideological system of bias and prejudice based on the assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual, or attracted to someone of the opposite sex. It is connected to the belief that heterosexuality is the normal, natural, or superior state of human sexual orientation.

It manifests at the individual, institutional, and cultural levels and stigmatises, denies, denigrates and renders invisible any non-heterosexual orientation or expression, excluding the needs, concerns and experiences of lesbian (women romantically and, or sexually attracted by other women), gay (men romantically and, or sexually attracted by other men), pansexual (people romantically and, or sexually attracted by other people regardless of their gender), bisexual (people romantically and, or sexually attracted by people identifying with the two binary genders or more) and queer people.

It should be noted that the word ‘queer’ is considered a slur in some contexts that was appropriated by the LGBTQIA+ community has an identifier for being outside the heterosexual or cisgender spectrum; in some contexts it has also a political aspect gathering a sexual or romantic orientation non-heterosexual or a non cisgender gender identity with a political belief of standing outside the norm and producing social disruptive meanings with their body and practices.





Race refers to perceived patterns of physiological and biological traits deemed by society to be socially significant. It is often conflated with the term ‘ethnicity’ which refers to a group of people with shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions. Being racialised refers to the social and historical processes in which people were divided by phenotypical characteristics, that only reflect human biodiversity, and put into social hierarchies attributing a different value to their life, work and humanity.

Racism is a system of oppression based on the racialisation of individuals that involves cultural messages, institutional practices as well the beliefs and actions of individuals. It leads to the segregation of communities, the creation and perpetuation of negative stereotypes, historical whitewashing (portraying historical figures as white when they are not), culture depreciation (for instance, classifying African art as simple craftwork), invisibilization and historical omission, and other institutional violence. It can be expressed through active, intentional acts of racial bigotry and discrimination, or just by the passivity and benefiting from white privilege without taking a stance to be anti-racist. We can say that all white people, no matter their class, education, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or perceived abilities benefit from white privilege.

Xenophobia is a form of racism which stems from prejudice towards people viewed as coming from a foreign country and culture. It is mainly connected to extreme nationalism, and manifests through

Antigypsyism is the specific racism towards Roma, Sinti, Irish Travellers and others who are stigmatised as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination. It reflects to centuries of historical persecution and genocide with the dehumanisation and the attribution of common and essential characteristics to specific ethnic and cultural groups. Across Europe, the institutional, political and social practices of violence, exclusion and discrimination is reflected in the politics of inclusion that try to assimilate rather than tackle the roots of discrimination, resulting in among others, systematic poverty, lack of access to housing and education and unemployment in these communities.



Religious-based hate

Religious-based hate stems from prejudice about certain faiths or (often institutionalised) religions, based on beliefs, perceptions, and misinformation about them. It manifests through the negative stereotyping of, and discriminatory acts towards, people perceived to be of that faith or religion.

In the European context, the three most common forms of religious-based hate are antisemitism, Islamophobia, and sectarianism.

Antisemitism refers to prejudice, discrimination, and hostility towards those who are Jewish or from a Jewish background or are perceived as one. It manifests through stereotyped views about Jews, verbal or physical harassment towards individuals and/or their community religious facilities. While the origins of antisemitism are rooted in the Judeo-Christian conflict, in modern times, it most often comes in the form of racial antisemitism in which the prejudice is against Jews as a racial/ethnic group, rather than Judaism as a religion.

Similarly, Islamophobia refers to prejudice, discrimination, and hostility towards those who identify as Muslims or from a Muslim background or are perceived as one. It manifests through negative characterisations of Muslims, verbal or physical harassment towards individuals and/or their community religious facilities. Although “Islamophobia” is a widely-used term for this phenomenon, it does not accurately convey the making of racial and religious “others” that fuels the forms of discrimination Muslims face. While Muslims may not be a race, anti-Muslim sentiment has become increasingly racialised – for example, Sikhs have been mistaken as Muslims and attacked as such. The term Islamophobia frames these forms of discrimination and their roots solely as a problem of religious discrimination and of individual bias, obscuring the historical, structural and systemic production of anti-Muslim racism.

Sectarianism is a form of religious-based hate that stems from prejudice within a particular religious group – with those from one sect, branch, or denomination of the religion having negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviour towards those from another sect, branch, or denomination. A common form of sectarianism in Europe is between the Christian Protestants and Catholics in Northern Island and Scotland.





Sexism is the ideology which supports patriarchal social relations. In a patriarchal system, there is a societally enforced belief in male dominance and control resulting in an economic, social and political hierarchy in which women are considered subordinate to men.

Sexism is understood as the negative valuing and discriminatory treatment of individuals and groups on the basis of their gender according to this pre-established system of power. It manifests in both personal attacks and insults, and in the structure of social institutions.

Sexism is a systemic perpetuation of the oppression and discrimination of women without necessarily any conscious intention. The disparities between men and women created by patriarchy are simply taken as givens and are reinforced by practices, rules, policies, and laws that often seem neutral on the surface but in fact disadvantage women.



FAQ: What is “sexism”?


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