important tidbits from the article:
In the 1980s, Crenshaw was trying to understand why US anti-discrimination law was failing to protect Black women in the workplace, and she discovered it was because the law distinguished between two kinds of discrimination: gendered discrimination and racialized discrimination.
That is, US law distinguished between discrimination against women (on the basis of their gender) and discrimination against Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous people (on the basis of their race).
But in her study of discrimination in workplaces, Crenshaw observed that Black women were discriminated against on both bases – their gender and their race – at once.
So, for example, Black women were the last group to be hired at a workplace she studied – after white women and Black men. When the boss decided to lay people off, Black women were fired because they were the least senior – the last to arrive. But that they were hired last was itself due to discrimination. This group of Black women took the company to court and the judge said, “there’s no gender discrimination here because white women weren’t fired. And there’s no race discrimination here because Black men weren’t fired.”
So, Crenshaw concluded that discrimination against Black women in the workplace – as Black women – was invisible to legal concepts of discrimination that saw it in terms of “gender” only or in terms of “race” only. Black women’s experiences of discrimination were rendered invisible by these ways of categorizing discriminatory practices.
I am a FAAB, femme-presenting genderqueer person. This means that I rarely, if ever, pass as anything other than female. And since I am almost always read as female by strangers, they treat me as if I were a woman.
This means that I, too, get catcalls and…
Great piece. Totally recommended:
…[C]alls for strong female characters start to run into trouble with trans women, nonwhite women, and women of colour in pop culture. Because women in all three of these categories are automatically expected to be strong. It is, in fact, part of their characterisation. Trans women are frequently framed as secret men (ah!) and thus can be expected to display physical strength and emotional toughness, because it’s part of the game the creator wants to play with you. These women aren’t ‘real women,’ because they’re strong. Those masculine traits aren’t empowering, in this case, aren’t an affirmation that girls can do anything. Just the opposite. They are dehumanising and violent. They are a reminder to viewers that trans women are not real because they are really, at heart, masculine. Yet, to depict them as emotionally vulnerable, even fragile, is to play into other stereotypes about women, leaving them in a double bind; they cannot be strong, they cannot be weak. They cannot exist.
Women of colour and nonwhite women have also been subjected to the physically strong, solemn or stoic archetype since time immemorial. When pop culture bothers to include them at all, they are often heavily masculinised. Loud. Oversexed. Spicy. Overwhelming in their physicality. Or, on the flip side of things, especially for Asian women, meek and submissive; objects of sexual fetish. Bodies inherently charged with sexuality that are treated as objects in pop culture narratives. Do we need more ‘strong female characters’ when it comes to women of colour, in a media that repeatedly reiterates stereotypes about stoic, unemotional, physically strong Black women, for example?
…[W]hat people are usually talking about when they talk about the need for ‘strong female characters’ is white cis women, specifically. [….] “…you have to be assumed weak in the first place for it to be groundbreaking.”
And when ‘progress for women’ comes at the expense of, say, the gay community, that’s not actually progress for women at all. That’s just progress for straight women. When it comes at the expense of women of color, that’s just progress for white women. When it comes at the expense of trans women, that’s just progress for cis women. And so on.
That’s why an inclusive feminism is the only feminism that ultimately makes any sense—and an inclusive feminism is only possible when privileged women (white women, straight women, cis women, thin women, able-bodied women, Western women, wealthy women, employed women, etc.) acknowledge their relative privilege to other women.
I’ve written a guest post that’s now up on Orange The Brave!
There’s this idea people have of what a bigot is.
Bigots; they’re the people who spit out slurs to the exclusion of any other language to describe oppressed groups of people; they’re the violent ones who well, maybe not all of them will kick your head in… but they will certainly cheer on those who would. They’re the people who mutter darkly about ‘all sorts’ being let into the country these days, and their position on immigration runs to ‘no-one with skin darker than a Milkybar or people who worship god(s) other than the big man spoken of in the New Testament’. They’re nationalists; they might not be Nazi supporters but they think Hitler had some good ideas about segregation. They’re the cross-burners, the Westboro Baptist Church, the English Defence League.
Or, less extremely, they’re your Granddad; a product of an older time, when the n-word was just how you described black people and whilst they might not hate LGBQ and trans folks, they still don’t really hold with that sort of thing, feel that marriage equality is not really appropriate and that adoption should be out of the question for queer couples because well, it’s just not right you know, children need a father and a mother.
People don’t think of themselves.
It really needs to be stated that, while I’m actually all for punching people in the face, all this praise about it is unsettling. Cause, it’s all about white privilege. I do not have the ability to punch someone in the face at a bar. I…
so not into ally bullshit
and as a reminder to myself to keep my own white able bodied bullshit in check
“By the late ’70s feminist thinkers were already engaging in dialectical critique of the feminist thinking that had emerged from the ’60s radicalism [referring to radical feminism]. This critique formed the basis of re-visionist feminist theory” (hooks). This “re-visionist feminist theory.” is the theory that challenged the notion of gender as a primary oppression. The first branch of feminism to apply, explore and discuss this were radical women of color. At the very beginning feminists and white radical feminists at large were upset and disturbed by this newly emerging theory.
When first introduced, it examined the interlocking nature of gender, race and class. Today it’s expanded to encompass ability, sexuality, religion, age, and many more other intersecting identities.
Many radical feminists (specifically the radical women of color branch), black feminists and other feminists have since continued to redefine, develop and discuss it’s various layers, depth, and applications. It was in the late 80’s that Kimberlé Crenshaw coined this theory what it is known by today, intersectionality.
While this is a brief short on how intersectionality got it’s roots and developed, it is most definitely not even scrapping it in depth or analysis. For a basic over view, or for those trying to grasp the basics there’s wikipedia.
For further readings:
bell hooks - Seeing the light, visionary feminism
Patricia Collins - Intersecting Oppressions
I can’t detach race and gender from my identity politics. There’s absolutely no conceivable way I can accomplish that. The racism I face is gendered, while the sexism I face is racialized. Islamophobia and neocolonialism why I had to flee my native Somalia, but sexism is why I had to do it disguised as a man for most of the way, so I wouldn’t be targeted by Al-Shabaab militants. What sensible person would ask me to distinguish such poignant politics regarding my personhood? It’s essentially asking me what evil I’d rather let destroy me. It’s the burning question Afghan, Yemeni and Pakistani women are faced with everyday when they’re asked to take racist (and misogynistic, admittedly) military intervention over being burned with acid, forced into burqas and exploited as political props by these sexist extremist organizations. It’s being pigeonholed and utilized only for the strategical gains of others, never for us.
But even is women of color and third world women could hypothetically package their experience into race and gender dichotomies, why should they? Why should women and our livelihoods, experiences and survival stories be presented as a monolith? For the benefit of who? Give me one feminist who’s accompanied this question with a sufficient answer. One that didn’t belligerently dismiss and erase our identities. You can’t find them, because ultimately the story of western feminism is “once white women and our precious lives are taken care of, once we get our birth control (from the same pharmaceutical companies that have used women of color as human guinea pigs of centuries on end) our glittery GRRRRL POWER~ t-shirts (manufactured by cheap, exploitative third world labor) and once we get our 20 extra cents to the white man’s dollar (while we deliberately leave out that you and your men make significantly less) we’ll worry about the rest of you and your pesky, tangential issues” and that is not a movement I want my name on or that thinks it represents me in the slightest.
|—||my friend Khadijah (via eastafrodite)|