Womenand Gender Studies
Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech presents an example of intersectional analysis, highlighting connections between different sources of oppression and subordination (Denis, 2008, p.677). While the speech focuses on racism and equal rights for Black people, Williams also recognizes the doubled burden of oppression imposed on Black women. Particularly, speaking about police brutality, the speaker disassembles social identities of the victimized women, Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland: these women faced oppression based on both their gender and their racial identity. At the same time, Williams praises Black women for undertaking the role of ‘nurturers’, which is also a sign of gender stereotypes and is amplified by racial oppression (though in an unspoken form).
One of bright movies reflecting intersectionality of gender discrimination is Erin Brockovich (2000) providing a biographical narrative of a white-trash civil activist who is divorced twice and has three children to bring up. As a woman, Erin faces multiple challenges of discrimination and subordination in a male-dominated society. However, gender discrimination does not come alone but is rather interconnected with the conditions imposed by Erin’s social/cultural identities and socioeconomic status. As Hill Collins states, discrimination comes in institutional, symbolic and individual dimensions (Hill Collins, 1993, p.73). In the institutional dimension, inequality manifests itself in the overall discriminated status of America’s white trash (e.g. job, education, employment and residential difficulties) and, at the same time, in the prejudiced attitude towards women. For instance, Erin has three children and hence has employment difficulties. In the symbolic level, Erin faces inequality imposed by femininity standards, for her behavior and character do not fit in the male-dominated system. Finally, her personal life and experiences as of a woman and a citizen are affected by gender and social oppression. Thus, viewing this film through the lens of intersectionality teaches one to disassemble dimensions of oppression and understand that gender role and stereotypes are not isolated from social reality.
In the text White Privilege and Male Privilege, the author assembles a wide range of intersecting oppression instances and draws parallels between gender inequality and racial inequality. That although the author is white, being a woman helped her to draw parallels between male supremacy and while privilege. As a white woman, the author reports being unable to sense her advantage of whiteness, yet she recognizes its existence through the example of the intersecting dimension of male-imposed gender oppression. At the same time, the relations of oppression are built unconsciously as men are as unaware of their overprivileged positions as white people are unaware of theirs (McIntosh, 2012, p.87). The author also seeks to draw attention to other intersecting oppression systems based on advantages such as those of physical ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation. In the context of privilege – as well as conferred dominance and unearned advantage – different systems of oppression overlap to produce a complex hierarchy. In relation to skin color as the premise for privilege, numerous privileges are seen which are not granted to non-white people despite the fact that oppression is not as outspoken as it was in the past. At the same time, skin color disadvantage can be added to other disadvantages, e.g., female disadvantage or physical ability disadvantage, creating intersectionality in discrimination. A good instance of intersectional oppression is provided in the reading Woman’s Rights dated 1851 (Sojourner Truth, 1995), which highlights isolation of Black women from the context of gender equality and feminism: the strong disadvantage based on skin color amplifies female disadvantage and precludes Black women’s involvement in the discourse of women’s rights. Overall, multiple disadvantages – when combined – deny the individual access to public spheres, acceptance in many aspects of behavior, freedom of communication and residence, equality in professional domain and education. However, intersectional system of oppression is much harder to dissolve as it involves multiple criteria making an individual disadvantaged.
Denis,A. (2008). Review Essay: Intersectional Analysis. A Contribution ofFeminism to Sociology. InternationalSociology,23(5): 677-694.
HillCollins, P. (1993). Toward a New Vision Race, Class, and Gender asCategories of Analysis and Connection. In S. M. Shaw & J. Lee(eds.) Women`svoices, feminist visions: classic and contemporary readings (pp.72-79). New York: McGraw-Hill.
McIntosh,P. (2012). White Privilege and Male Privilege. In S. M. Shaw & J.Lee (eds.) Women`svoices, feminist visions: classic and contemporary readings (pp.86-93). New York: McGraw-Hill.
SojournerTruth (1995). Woman’s Rights. In B. Guy-Sheftall (Ed.) Wordsof Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought(p.36). The New Press.