Social Dominance Theory – Hierarchy Structures

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Social Dominance Theory is a theory based on oppression and group based hierarchy structures. The question it asks is why society organizes as these hierarchies. It is not just focused on extremes, but more on the delicate forms of discrimination and oppression that people go through and are faced with in their everyday life. With this theory, societies are classified by age, sex, political and ideological aspects. These lead to focus on the similarities, differences and oppression within society.

Social Dominance Theory explores the different interactions between these groups and helps us to deepen our understanding of the oppression and dominance that goes on within them. Institutional discrimination is one of the major reasons why social dominance exists. It shares knowledge of what these individuals think to be right and wrong. This influence the larger part of society by showing wealth and prestige and the ‘better’ life to those in the more powerful groups and hunger, shame and poverty to those in the less dominant group.

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I think of it in my own terms as the advertising schemes in America. For example; people are more apt to buy things that are advertised with beautiful wealthy people, then those of just the ‘average’ Joe. Social Dominance Theory explains Heterosexism because of societies rules of again, what’s right and what’s wrong. As in the movie about Harvey Milk, if you are anything but heterosexual, your whole life and character is put on trial.

Anti-gay groups have been around for years and have even caused violence and destroyed lives. There are more heterosexuals in the world which makes them more dominant. When gays started coming out, this sent them into a tail spin. Look at Harvey, he was just as good as any other candidate that was running for election, but because he was different from the more dominant and acceptable group of society he was torn apart and basically put on trial.

Heterosexuals have always been at the top of this so called hierarchy, while gays are at the absolute bottom. I truly think if Harvey Milk hadn’t gone through all that he did and risked all that he had, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Look at where we have come from over the past 25 years with the acceptance of homosexuality. We are well on our way to making it completely acceptable and not thought of as “if you are gay you are shamed”!

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