This glossary provides simple and basic definitions to some very complex concepts. It is recommended that you use these definitions as a jumping off point to more deeply engage these terms, learn how to understand them, and apply them.


a form of discrimination and prejudice against individuals with disabilities.


a desire to be something great; often used in the context of socio-economic class, a desire to move up or change one’s position


to make similar; to become part of a culture or group, often leaving behind the origins, customs, rituals you were born or grew up with; often used in the context of immigrants and those aspiring to transform their identity by conforming to another (typically dominant) group


something made or based on two parts, often in opposition to one another; often used in discussing the social construction of identities in binary and structural opposition or as either/or dichotomy (e.g. masculinityfemininity; white-black; straightgay; young-old; rich-poor; able-bodied-disabled, etc.)


sexual attraction and/or behavior toward members of both sexes.

civil rights

equality under the law and the right to personal liberty; the right to live and move freely as an equal citizen.


a category of identity based on socioeconomic status

classism, classist

discrimination against or bias toward someone or some group based on economic status


practices, behaviors, ideas and styles regarded as normal or taken for granted


treating someone or some group as different or less-than based upon their identity

double standard

a set of guidelines or principles in which one group of people is treated differently than another for performing the same or similar behavior


cultural association or heritage; ie., African-American, Scandinavian, Latino.


the position of excluding someone or some group from a fundamental right or prerogative


socially constructed characteristics or ideas typically associated with the female sex


a philosophy and social movement centered on improving the status and lives of women as well as other marginalized groups


a quality that suggests flow or movement as opposed to rigidity or stasis; a socially constructed identity (one that is not only biological) can change and is therefore fluid, not fixed


sexual attraction and/or behavior toward individuals of the same sex; typically used to refer to attraction between males, but also used to refer to same-sex female attraction


socially constructed characteristics associated with biological sex; ie., feminine, masculine


a well-established category or grouping based on similar form (aesthetic) and function; ie., drama, comedy


a system that places heterosexuality as the norm and privileges heterosexual relationships


discrimination or bias against someone or some group based on sexuality


sexual attraction and/or behavior toward individuals of the opposite sex


a system wherein certain practices, behaviors, ideas or people are valued over others


a dislike, hatred, or fear of LGBTQ individuals and groups


sexual attraction and/or behavior toward individuals of the same sex


unusual interest or excessive activity with respect to sexuality

identity politics

organizing political activism and action around identity-based discrimination or problems


a system of values and beliefs that is shared and influences behavior and action


coming from an institution or central place of power; functions to influence surrounding bodies, people, and values


the notion that multiple systems of oppression (ie., sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism) intersect across individuals’ lives and experiences


a term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual organs that do not match traditional biological definitions of male or female


sexual attraction and or behavior toward individuals of the same sex; typically used to refer to attraction between females


acronym for Lesian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning)


socially constructed characteristics typically associated with the male sex


modes of transmitting information; ie., newspapers, magazines, television, radio, the internet

media industries

those businesses that produce and distribute media (news, television, film, radio and recording, etc.)


a system wherein success is based upon ability, talent, and effort


the hatred of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women or girls; can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, violence, objectification, demeaning and idealized representation


a misleading or untrue representation of an individual or group, usually done with some intent to slander or deceive


the ability to move; in the context of socio-economic class, the ability to move in a society; ie., upward mobility.


a specialized, localized or small group; used in the context of media to discuss niche markets and industries


Treating other individuals or groups as objects or things, without regard for their humanity. The objectified person or group has no agency and instead is a tool or pawn used by others. People belonging to subordinate groups are often objectified by their dominant counterparts. Sexual objectification specifically refers to treating someone (generally women) purely as objects of sexual pleasure and desire. Sexual objectification (and its prevalence in the media) is a point of critique among many feminists.


in critical theory, refers to subordinate groups who are relegated to the margins and treated as outsiders, specifically outside the center of power and privilege. The “Other” (usually capitalized and/or in quotes) historically represents those who are not white, not male, not wealthy, not straight. The existence and naming of the Other helps to solidify the power of the dominant group


a political-social system in which males hold a disproportionately large share of power; which insists males are inherently superior and endowed with the right to dominate and rule; which maintains male dominance through various forms of physical and psychological violence; which denies people access to full-emotional well-being; which everyone is implicated in


singling out and targeting an individual or group for attack and subjugation based upon their identity


the myth that feminism is no longer needed because its goals have been achieved


the myth that homophobia no longer exists, and therefore gay individuals are treated equally


the myth that racism no longer exists, and that all races are treated equally in all facets of life


benefits and advantages that are unearned and awarded based on identity; ie., white privilege


a formerly derogatory term used to refer to homosexuals, which has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community and used to designate its members. Also an area of scholarly inquiry; ie., queer theory


a person who is exploring or unsure of his or her sexuality


a marker of difference and way of categorizing individuals based on physical characteristics, particularly one’s skin color; historically used in governance, institutional policies and representational practices (including media).


discrimination against someone or some group of people based upon race


in studies of media, the ways in which particular groups, topics, communities or ideas are portrayed through narratives, images, text or sound


discrimination against someone or some group of people based upon sex


a category of identity based upon sexual orientation

sexual orientation

one’s mode of sexual attraction; ie., homosexual, heterosexual


to judge or discriminate against a person based on his or her skin tone

social construction

the human symbolic creation of meaning and order in the world. The notion that the world is not “given,” “objective,” or “fact,” but has rather been built via culture, history, and ideology


a shorthand used to classify cultural groups and individuals based on a simplified, overgeneralized and often biased understanding of how that cultural group operates


refers to heterosexual individuals and groups


segments or divisions of society that help to classify or group people, i.e. lower class, middle class

token, tokenism

the practice of including one or a few members of a minority into an existing group, generally for the purposes of protecting against claims of discrimination


individuals who behave or present themselves in gendered ways that are not typically associated with their biological set


individuals who identify as the gender not typically associated with their biological sex


a process in which an actor is repeatedly assigned similar roles based on their identification with a specific physical or performance-based trait


a state in which a particular group enjoys less visibility, voice or power within a particular institution, relative to their representation in the broader society


the state of being commonly seen and properly represented in media depictions


distinct from being white, whiteness refers to an unmarked and unnamed place of advantage, privilege or domination; a lens through which white people tend to see themselves and others; an organizing principle that shapes institutions, policies, and social relations.