Central ideas of the seven master suppression techniques

The Master Suppression Techniques (also known as domination techniques) are conscious and unconscious methods used to obtain or maintain power over others “to assert oneself by oppressing other individuals”(Amnéus et. al., 2004). They were formulated by the Norwegian professor and politician Berit Ås (1992, 1978) based on a social analysis on how female politicians were treated in a male dominated environment.

His study found out that women and men were valued and therefore treated differently: Generally, it assumes that men have a higher status and more power in the area of economics, politics and socially than women do. In conclusion his findings “suggests the existence of social superiority and subordination” (Satin project, n.d.).

Ås’ study on gender and power resulted in the findings of seven suppression techniques. These techniques are not necessarily bound to gender: They are not only used between man-against-woman, but also man-against-man, woman-against-woman and woman-against-man as well as between groups. In general, these techniques are used when one side exploits the advantage of power that he, she or they have over the other side. The other suppressed side is being kept or put at a disadvantage in the process.

These suppression techniques are often found in the context of “gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability”(Satin project, n.d.). The suppressor restricts the supressed’s influence on the situation and limits their options to act. In the process, the victim feels defenseless, stupid, invisible or like he wouldn’t have the right to express and think what he chooses to (Satin project, n.d.).

Ås groups the first five as “civilized”, since he sees them as a subtle form of oppression while the last two are “strong” in comparison (Satin project, n.d).

Making invisible marginalizes or excludes a person. It conveys the feeling of having no importance, insignificant
 or value.

  1. Making invisible marginalizes or excludes a person. It conveys the feeling of having no importance or value.
  2. Ridicule means to mock and make fun of a person or a group. It conveys a lack of equality by dominating and making the person being ridiculed inferior.
  3. Withholding information is a technique to make the other side feel left out, resulting in their struggle to keep up with things. The risk grows that they will make a mistake and embarrass themselves.
  4. Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t is a way of double binding by punishing someone regardless of whether they were right or wrong.
  5. Heaping blame and putting to shame involve making someone feel that they are to blame or feel ashamed without a good reason. “Shame and guilt are heaped on people externally, while the feelings are experienced internally” (Satin project, n.d).
  6. Objectifying is the assessment and appraisal of someone based solely on their appearance and exterior.
  7. Threats & Violenceare linked to a more extreme method connected to force.

Methods for dealing with power structures and changing social climates


Source: http://www.socialplatform.org/what-we-do/leaving-no-one-behind-prioritising-people-in-vulnerable-situations/equality-in-practice-leading-by-example/

Amnéus et. al have concluded that these suppression techniques were fare to commonly used. However, not only were the suppressed victims, but they themselves employed these techniques as well. Therefore they developed concrete counter strategies and validation techniques “to promote genuine, far-reaching change in social climates” (2014). Furthermore, they founded the Empowerment Network at Stockholm University (ENSU) to “transform power structures and promote equality” (Amnéus et. al, 2004) .

  • Counter strategies, methods for dealing with master suppression techniques
  • Validation techniques, methods for changing social climates

The first step leading to change is awareness. An awareness that something that has occurred provides us with a starting point, an encounter to experience and to relate to—and this knowledge is provided by Ås’ theories and definitions. The second step is calling attention by /visibilizing/ being aware of oppressive situations, and intellectualizing them; that is, removing then from ones own internal feelings and seeing them for what they are – techniques to rule and suppress others. The purpose of the counter strategies is to provide concrete examples of how to do this. The third step in affecting change is to do it yourself; /to lead by example by behaving/ leading and behaving by example in accordance with the validation techniques. 

To change /us/ ourselves /or to effect changes in ourselves/ in order to be able to change our surroundings and make a lasting impact on the next generation of men and women.

People should feel good about their workplace, and feel good about their lives. Anything less than that is not good enough. Increase awareness, bring issues into the open, intellectualize and lead by example – these tasks are our responsibility.

1. Invisible

Counter strategy:

  • Act immediately.
  • Avoid turning into a victim and do not allow yourself to feel insignificant.
  • Don’t act rashly.
  • Claim the space you need. Demand respect.
  • Responses should be formulated as questions rather than accusations.
  • Use humor, a light-hearted touch.
  • Avoid that particular person

Validation Technique: VISIBILIZING

  • taking each and every individual you encounter seriously
  • showing them you take an interest in them
  • listening to other people
  • providing them with feedback and constructive criticism

This will inspire respect and indirectly result in your own validation, you gain visibility as well.

2. Ridiculing

Counter strategy:

  • Do not simply accept conventions.
  • Keep your cool and define yourself as a strong person, someone entitled to respect.
  • Display your expertise and avoid the trap of belittlement (infantilization). 
  • Speak up if jokes are in poor taste.
  • Remain composed and logical
  • Never join in the laughter.

Validation Technique: VISIBILIZING

  • sincerely acknowledge and support

  • asking for input and opinions


Counter strategy: CARDS ON THE TABLE

  • Raise the question and call attention to the fact that you were left out
  • Demand that deadlines for important issues are postponed if more time is needed for

    gathering and assimilating information.

  • For major decisions, make being thoroughly briefed a baseline requirement.

  • Use your own network to obtain information.

Validation Technique: INFORMATION

  • be transparent and inclusive


Counter strategy:

  • Figuring out your own priorities and understanding your own situation
  • requesting information as to, for example, just how set a certain deadline actually is, and what the consequences are if you fail to complete your work on time;
  • stating your current priorities and discussing the impact of these with your supervisor/family/friend

Validation Technique:

  • assume that people always try to do the best they can with regard to their circumstances
  • discuss the matter at hand and clarify your priorities



  • make yourself aware that these feelings of guilt and shame are being applied by someone else

  • try to see yourself at a distance and intellectualize the most recent occasions where you felt guilty and ashamed

  • survey past events and see a particular situation in the light of previous cultural traditions and standards

Validation Technique:

  • validate, to back up and support

  • see yourself and others in a new light, and define other,positive, standards

Examples of how master suppression techniques are enabled by Facebook and suggestions on how these could be handled

Source: http://iranpoliticsclub.net/cartoons/cyber-censor/index.htm


Suggested counter strategy:Ask directly under the post in a humorous tone what the event is about. Don’t take it personally and don’t feel bad or victimized. Tag specific people and ask them directly.

Example: Someone posts embarrassing photos of you and points out your flaws.

Suggested counter strategy:  Stay composed and logical. Change the permission in Facebook to not allow everyone to tag you in photos.Change the setting so that everyone has to ask for permission before tagging you anywhere. Ask the person who posted the photo to delete it. If he refuses report to Facebook.

Withholding information: 
Example: Creating private groups or chats and leaving you out. You eventually find out about it later after having missed important information that was also related to you.

Suggested counter strategy:  In a direct message, ask the person administrating the group to let you join explaining why you need to be in the group.


Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t
Example: Someone points out that you rarely participate in the group chat, so you start to write more in it until that person is annoyed by your constant messages and asks you to stop spamming the group chat.

Suggested counter strategy:Message the person privately explaining the situation and your priorities. Why you don’t write as much or why you do. Request to not put pressure on you.


Heaping blame and putting to shame 
Example: Someone publicly shames, insults or blames you in an angry post with a direct tag to your name.

Suggested counter strategy:Message the person privately and ask to resolve the problem in private. Delete the tag of your name. If it’s not getting better, block that person or even report to Facebook.


Example: Someone unknown to you makes bad comments under your picture based on what he sees displayed on the picture.

Suggested counter strategy:Make your posts private to that only your friends can see your photos and posts.


Threats & Violence:
Example: Someone is threatening you via direct messaging and exploits the personal he has of you. He threatens to make them public on Facebook.

Suggested counter strategy:Block the person and report him to Facebook.Don’t share too many personal information online on Facebook nor in real life to people you don’t trust.

Reflection upon how master suppression techniques used in social media, differs from situations of conflicts in off-line contexts

The key differences from online conflicts in comparison to offline conflicts are the anonymity online, the online environments that have no limitations in time and place, the several channels being used and finally the larger audience online.

People often feel more powerful hiding behind their screens or fake identities. The people subjected to suppression might not even know who is suppressing them, making it hard to keep them accountable. In offline situations people might not be as daring as online. Communication happens face-to-face and the suppresser can be held accountable for their actions. On the other hand, suppression techniques used in the digital world of social media have the benefit, that one has the freedom to block and ignore them. One can simple leave the conversation by closing a window with a mouse click. You don’t have such freedom in real live.

On the other hand, the conflicts in digital environment have long lasting impact on the person being surprised. In the offline world one might have the chance to move the school, or the work place. In the online world it is harder to escape as is can be done at any time, from anywhere, even anonymous and using several media (direct messaging, videos, photos, stories). As technology pervades though our life it is harder to escape such an environment.

The globalization through the internet has made it easy to find likeminded people, sharing similar interest. This can also lead to a larger, even more global audience participating in suppressing certain groups instead of smaller groups or individuals using the suppressing techniques. People might feel more powerful in a large community or group making them less reflective of their actions. They might argue that everyone is doing the same.  

Online suppression techniques are also related to the context of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a form of harassment through digital devices online. With the internet cyberbullying has grown (Cook, 2018). Bullying doesn’t only happen on schoolgrounds or at work anymore: threatening messages can be sent with WhatsApp, hurtful information and embarrassing photos can be posted on Facebook, humiliating private information can be shared on Twitter.

In response to the growing problem of cyberbullying the “Safer Internet Day“ was established in 2004. It’s a global initiative to “create a better Internet together” (Safer Internet Day, 2014). And in 2015 Facebook and the Media Literacy Council launched the site “Bullying Prevention Centre” (https://www.facebook.com/safety/bullying). The site gives people being bullied information on what they can do when they feel online bullied, recommendations to adults to help, as well as guidance to the person accused of bullying on how they can improve themselves.

In an interview professor Tan Cheng Han, Chairman of the Media Literacy Council, said: “The Internet is just like the real world, but consequences are often magnified in the online world. It is our collective responsibility to make the world, Internet or otherwise, better” (Baker, 2015).

To summarize: In general, the impact of written words, smileys, emoticons and other digital media is perceived differently online than in real life. The online world has become a part of our everyday life and as that actions and events happening offline can be transferred to the online world but have another impact. Off- and online behavior has different impact. It lies in every person’s own responsibility to use the different mediums at hand wisely.


  • Amnéus, Diana, Flock, Ulrika, Johansson, Ditte, Rosell, Steuer, Testad, Gunnel (2004). Validation Techniques and Counter Strategies. Methods for dealing with power struc-tures and changing social climates. Empowerment Network, Stockholm University (ENSU). 4 [online]. Available at: http://www.ecosanres.org/pdf_files/Gender_workshop_2010/Resources/Amneus_et_al_2004_Validation_techniques_counter_strategies.pdf (Accessed: 14.02.19)
  • Baker, J.A. (2015).Facebook and Media Literacy Council join hands to prevent cyber bullying[online]. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/facebook-and-media-literacy-council-join-hands-to-prevent-cyber-bullying (Accessed: 14.02.19)
  • Cook, S. (2018) [online]. Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2016-2018[online].  Available at: https://www.comparitech.com/internet-providers/cyberbullying-statistics/ (Accessed: 14.02.19)
  • Satin project: Gender & Diversity. (No Date) [online]. Master Suppression Techniques[online]. Available at: http://www.gdtoolbox.eu/toolbox/what-does-a-gender-equal-project-environmental-look-like/master-suppression-techniques/(Accessed: 14.02.19)
  • Saver Internet Day (2014). ABOUT SAFER INTERNET DAY[online]. Available at: https://www.saferinternetday.org/web/sid/about (Accessed: 14.02.19)
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