Wikipedia defines oppression Olympics as “a one-upmanship dynamic that can arise within debates about the ideological values of identity politics, intersectionality and social privilege.”
The term gained popularity in the 2010s when the Internet exploded with social justice activism related to racism, sexism, fatphobia, disability, and other forms of social exclusionary processes to “assert who is more authentic, more oppressed, and thus more correct.”
Since then, identity politics has become the ‘it‘ topic in our contemporary popular political discourse.
Marx, who? Class politics, what?
Of course, class politics is never fully erased from the discourse on identity and oppression. After all, poverty is intertwined with racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigration laws, and other oppressive regimes. It’s just no longer explicitly stated either.
Instead, in the Oppression Olympics, the desire to compete with “professional victims” has led to a blindness to the disadvantages of other groups, mainly the poor.
Nobody likes talking about poverty. Poverty is a dirty word— it signals individual failure. Empathy is rationed when it comes to those deemed incompetent and lazy.
Or maybe, poverty is just too complex of an issue.
If you hate racism, you can blame “the white man.”
If you hate sexism, you can blame the patriarchy.
If you hate homophobia, you can blame heteronormativity.
If you hate poverty, well…
You blame the poor.
And, since participation in the Oppression Olympics requires a blameless victim to systemic oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, religion, immigration status, disability status, body weight, so on and so forth— when the poor are blamed for their impoverished existence, they become disqualified from participation in the Oppression Olympics.
Ineligible to participate, because if you’re poor, well, just stop being poor.