To people as the experiences of these people cannot

To
say that gender intersects with race means that we cannot separate the two
ideas as they mutually constitute each other – each aspect shapes the other. If
the world and everything within it is shaped on the identities of the hegemonic
ideal, it means the experiences of those whose identities lie outside the
western hegemony, go ignored. Consequently, there will be an absence of
recognition in their values or policies in place to protect and uphold the
rights of such people as the experiences of these people cannot be captured
wholly by looking at race and gender separately. When we observe the world from
an intersectional lens the dimensions of subordination and discrimination that
different intersectional identities experience become visible. We have to go
beyond the binaries of hegemonic femininity and masculinity that occur in
gender and instead explore these binary conceptualisations in a
multidimensional way.

Intersectionality
is a political thought or approach devised by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989, 1991),
that highlights the different aspects of identity do not operate alone but are
infused (Adewumni, 2014).
Her framework was based on the historical exclusion and problems in the systems
of justice in serving black women on the basis of both gender and race
discrimination, however over time different intersectional identities have come
into play.

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This
essay will observe gender and race from an intersectional lens, focusing in the
experiences of African Americans, looking at the micro sociological dimensions
of abuse within the black
family and marginalised masculinities and femininities as well as macro
sociological dimensions of gender performativity in the education
setting and reproduced
racist attitudes in the media.

Note
that this essay maintains a non-essentialist understanding of genders, races
and homosexuality understanding that within these intersections, there is no
universal understanding of each but there are different variations of axes within
each group.

Gender and Race

Gender
is widely accepted as a social concept, referring to the social and cultural
differences a society assigns to people based on their biological sex. Part of
how we interact with one another is how society expects us to think and behave
based on what sex we are. It’s from these expectations that the binaries of
femininity and masculinity materialise – femininity being the cultural
expectations of ‘females’ and masculinity to ‘males’. (Understanding Sex and Gender, 2010) The
idea of intersectionality arises because the norms of conventional femininity
and masculinity are often racist, hence the intersection between race and
gender, but are also heteronormative, cisnormative as well as classist and
albeist. The hegemonic nature of these binaries ignores the intra group
differences within gender and consequently within race.  And so because this intersection is ignored
within feminist and antiracist practices, there is little to no language,
theory or narrative to express the position of non- white men and women.  (Crenshaw, 1991: 1242)

The Personal is Political

Firstly
to say that gender intersects with race means that we cannot treat observations
within the micro level – personal and domestic experiences of patriarchy and racism
as separate to the macro level – the large structural and political spheres.

Crenshaw
(1991: 1246 -1250)
gives an example of structural intersectionality in 1990 America. In this
example, the intersectional lens reveals that in compared to white women, women
of colour who are victim to domestic violence in their homes for instance
usually have a harder time finding relief from abusive partners and this is
intensified by structures put in place like the Immigration and Nationality
Act. As a result of the marriage fraud provision women stopped raising issues
about violence in their marriage for fear of being deported. It was also
worsened as this demographic – that has unduly higher unemployment rates, are
poorer and have child care – responsibilities stay in the marriages, in fear of
absence of support if they are to leave marriages. The key implication was that
immigrants would only be given permanent resident status only if she was
“properly” married for two years, before applying for resident status.

Despite
a waiver being added to the act to attempt to cover the instance of domestic
violence, the difficulty of provide affidavits and reports from police
departments, psychologists and other organisations. Immigrant women, who were
sometimes not even conscious of their legal status, and lack resources of their
own, found it very challenging to provide such reports. Furthermore the
structural barrier of language added to the subordination of these women of
colour (Krishnan, 2012). This is an instance where the features of this
structure seen in place in the Immigration and Nationality Act has intersected
with the domestic and personal experiences of immigrant women of colour.

Furthermore,
the link between the personal and the political is revealed using an
intersectional lens, within the political spheres in which feminist movements
fail to address racism and anti-racist movements fail to address patriarchy
further subordinating and ignoring women of colour through the separation of
gender and race. American feminist strategies of America 1990 sometimes
undermined experiences of minority women. While conferring domestic violence as
an issue, feminist approaches tend to begin by affirming that domestic violence
is “not just a minority issue”. Such a universal appeal in addressing domestic
violence, minimises and reduces the need for empathising particular experiences
of women of colour (Crenshaw,
1991: 1252).

In
addition to this, antiracism activists of this time were concerned that
domestic violence would be considered as a minority issue, which would further
reinforce the stereotype and typecast of the black community. Thus, they kept
silent during the suppression of crime statistics regarding domestic violence
by the Los Angeles Police Department because they we afraid that the racial
segregation of arrests would be interpreted wrongly (Crenshaw, 1991: 1252 – 1254). Male
dominance over women of colour is sometimes shown as a consequence of the
discrimination against men of colour in the wider society. This politicisation
of domestic violence within black communities furthers the agenda of the
patriarchy structure at the expense of black women’s personal wellbeing.

Race within the Hierarchy of
Masculinities and Femininities: Education, Sexuality and Media

“The
white man’s masculinity depends on the denial of the masculinity of blacks” (Baldwin, 1963: 91).  Within the intersection of gender and race,
there are various hierarchies of masculinities. Connell’s Hierarchy of
Masculinities places black males under marginalised masculinities meaning their
masculinity is suppressed is that they are a threat to hegemonic masculinity.
The marginalised masculinity of a black man is not as equally valued as is the
hegemonic masculinity of the white man thus the experience and performativity
of a black males masculinity is mediated through the racialized positioning of
the hegemony.

An
example of this can be seen in the material, social practices in the education
setting that Ann Phoenix
(2004). For black boys aged 11 – 14 years old in London, performance in school was an
indication of their performance of gender. Black, White, and Asian boys were
considered to be differentially positioned in terms of hegemonic masculinity.
Whilst boys and girls attitudes and performance in education are shaped by sex
role socialisation, research within the U.S Context, Majors and Billson (1992) reveals the
intersection between gender and race is seen in the adverse social, political
and economic conditions that African American boys experience in their personal
lives. Their ranking of masculinities in school was based on counteracting
academic success and the values of the educational system, which they perceived
as feminine and instead pursuing the performance of the hegemonic norms by claiming of
alternative sources of power, e.g. sporting prowess, physical aggression, and
sexual conquest. This however leaves them subordinated and marginalized compared
to their White and Asian peers when in the job market due to failure to attain
relevant qualifications demanded in a neoliberal society furthering the cycle
of marginlisation of black males for those thereafter. This demonstrates how
social, political and economic circumstances shaped gender performativity for
black boys.

Moreover,
the intersectional identity of gay black men reveals another intersection layer
where black men are not only discriminated against because they do not fit the
gender hegemony, but also do not fit the heteronormative norms of sexuality. For
example, during the South African Apartheid 1948 -1991 Black South African men have reported
experiencing “grotesque racism” from white gay men and where believed
to be perceived as lower in status than black women, the lowest of the gender
hierarchies, at this time (Hoad, Martin and Reid, 2005).Additionally, Kurtz (2007) gives an example of Cuban and Puerto Rican gay men
living in Miami, Florida where highly polarized and sexuality-defined gender
systems of Latin America are present, and finds even within Latin American
homosexualities, subordination based on roles played in intercourse occur.

 

 

 

 

 

In
regards to femininities, post-feminists often project feminine ideal but only
from patriarchal ideal of femininity and the experiences of the white women.
Within the feminist politics sphere, women from the Muslim community are more
often than not victim of racist, colonialist and prejudice attitudes. The
absence of representation and narratives of women in Muslim communities further
propagates the inequality of such groups and continues to do so as western
women fail to recognise their livelihood is shaped by inequality. Post feminism
bases its privileged femininity by framing themselves as more modern, civilised,
egalitarian than women is Muslim communities are. (Scharff, 2011: 119)

Likewise, racist media
representation of the nature of black women’s femininity compared to the
femininity of white women reveals intersection between gender and race
femininity, also shaping how black women and men observe and interact with one
another. An example of this can be seen in the Hottentot Venus ‘freak’ shows
where scientific racism or theories of anthropology was used to reinforce racist
attitudes by using visual imagery  in the
form of exaggerated cartoons and drawings, to polarise her a “savage woman”
from European  “civilised woman”. George Cuvier’s monograph
(Gilman,1985)
reiterates this in saying her remains were “evidencing ape-like traits. He
thought her small ears were similar to those of an orangutan and also compared
her vivacity, when alive, to the quickness of a monkey.” (Qureshi, 2004:242)

The rhetoric of likening the feminity of black women to
animals can be seen in contemporary media too but at the same time there has
been intensification of hyper fetishcisation of features pertaining to black
culture such as the ones found on Sarah Baartman on white females. An
example of how black female sexuality is despised and white female sexuality is
favoured can be seen in a short article by Clutch (n.d) which notes that in contempoaray
society “Black women are so often shamed and penalized for the same physical
attributes that are then praise, and made trendy for white women.” Media personalities
gear the press into praising white women’s cultural apporpration of black
culture, notably Kylie Jenner who has has pumped up her lips,
implanted her butt and is prasied for doing so (Clutch, n.d.).

Conclusion

Altogether intersections of gender and race manifests
itself in discrimination and oppression as seen the marriage fraud provisions
in the U.S that work against the wellbeing of women of colour, as well as
through the lack of inclusivity of black women in feminist and anti rascism
movment. Moever, the intersction

 

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