What’s Up with ‘Isms’?

Cyber 101

This section will look at bullying that happens online because of our identities. This stuff is also known as isms. We are treated like shit everyday for stuff they we can’t change like our looks, our colour, our sexuality. These types of discrimination are never okay and might make us feel sad, depressed, or in some cases suicidal.

If you are experiencing online discrimination you are NOT alone! There are many others who share the same experiences. See Olivia’s story.

Let’s look at some definitions and some ways to deal.

Definitions include: 

Race/Ethnicity (Racism)

  • When an individual is bullied because of their race, cultural background, language, and/or skin tone.

Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet. – Maya Angelou

Colour (Shadeism)

  • A person is made fun of because their skin is considered ‘too dark’ and that white or light skinned girls/young women are prettier.
  • Media often shows girls/young women who are light skinned or white as more attractive.

Gender (Sexism)

  • Females are treated unfairly in employment, relationships, sexually harassed, etc.
  • Males are often times more privileged.

Age (Ageism)

  • People are bullied because of their age.
  • Younger folks are thought of as ‘lazy’, ‘wortless’, or not as ‘able’ as adults.

Able-bodied (Ablesim)

  • Individuals may experience online harassment because their physical, mental or intellectual ability.
  • Hurtful language is used for people like ‘stupid’, not ‘normal’, etc.

Class (Classism)

  • People are targeted online because of their class.
  • This could be making fun of others because they are considered ‘poor’ or living in a ‘poorer’ neighbourhood (Neighbourhoodism)

Gender independence/fluid (Transphobia)

  • Sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears. Being transgender means that the sex one was born with is not how one feels.
  • Transphobia is the fear or hatred of people who are transgendered.

Sexuality (Heterosexism/Homophobia)

  • Homophobia is the irrational fear of people because of their sexual orientation.
  • Individuals are harassed or bullied because of their sexuality -LGBTQQ2+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirited).
  • Being “straight” (heterosexual) is considered “normal”.

If being gay is a choice, then when did you decide to become straight? – Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Mental health stuff (Sanism) 

  • Individuals are targeted because of their mental health stuff (depression, anxiety, bi-polar, manic, etc).
  • Saying ‘you’re crazy’, ‘stop acting so re@#”- think about new language.

Body (Sizism)

  • Individuals are bullied because they are considered ‘fat’.
  • Skinny people are often treated better and fat people are thought to be ‘lazy’, needing to diet, etc.


  • Fearing or hating someone on the basis that they are Muslim.
  • Believing stereotypes like every Muslim individual is an “extremist” or “terrorist”.


  • Is the fear of people who come to Canada for a variety of reasons.
  • People believe they will take jobs, housing, etc and are experience discrimination based on that.

Dealing with Isms

Diverse group of three women embracing and smiling at camera.
Our team members are African, Caribbean, Mixed race, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, all shades, all shapes and sizes, straight, queer, questioning, and living with mental health stuff, so we get it! Photo Credit: Elisabeth MacGillivray 2016.


Here’s some things that have worked for us:

  • Take care of you online. It is not you, it is the ignorance of people who do not understand how it might hurt others.
  • Doing our own work – are we guilty of saying ignorant shit about people?
  • Get support from agencies that work with racism, homophobia, transphobia and so on….
  • Talk to other people who get it and can provide support you because they have been through it.
  • Hate/ignorance is learned so it can be unlearned.
  • Talking about isms can be a ‘teaching’ moment for people who want to try to unlearn ignorance.
  • Our group members have found it helpful to be in projects like this to help create positive messages about what it means to be a girl/young woman and resist ism’s.
  • Take care of yourself – go out, disconnect, have your favourite treat.

Hate and ignorance is never okay and together we are committed to ending discrimination!

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