The Importance of Intersectionality Upon Discussing Feminism

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Taking a look into feminism, it's a very complicated topic. Feminism is the idea that women and men need to be seen as equals. This includes jobs, pay, clothes etc. One of the many factors in feminism is race and ethnicity. Whether a colored woman becomes highly sexualized, does not get paid as much as a white woman, or does not have the same opportunity in cinema, they are not treated equally. Gender relates to race and ethnicity because feminist theory cannot be discussed without intersectionality.

Intersectionality is the interaction of multiple identities, exclusions and subordination. When scholars give a feminist outlook on something, they also must take into account a person's race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and etc and how they reach the state of equality. Race/ethnicity is plays into feminism greatly because it comes with another set of inequalities. Without intersectionality, there is no feminist theory.

Feminist theory is the idea of the outgrowth of the general movement to empower women worldwide. Essentially, what feminist theory is trying to accomplish is to reach out to women who do not identify as cisgender and white. When looking at the study of feminism, most people do not take into the account that race/ethnicity play into the theory. Not only is a woman not being treated equally, black women are not treated the same as white women. Asian women are also not treated the same as white women. The list of races and ethnicities continues and they are not reaching equality as easy as white women are. “Learning the ropes of feminist scholarship means attending to multiple identities and experiences of subordination.” (Intersectionality as buzzword 68).

"Multiple identities and experiences of subordination" include the way the bodies of women of color are looked at and highly sexualized. “In Western culture, for example, the bodies of women of color have been variously constructed as exotic or as deviant.” (Gender and Anthropology 86). Asian women are portrayed as small, erotic or exotic objects and are the subject of Western mans desire and African-American women are seen as animal like with certain body parts highly sexualized or desired by the Western man. Even though white women are also highly sexualized, it is never to the extreme of someone of a different race/ethnicity. An extreme example of race/ethnicity playing into gender is the female genital mutilation with African and Middle Eastern cultures. With this extreme example, this just proves that women of color are subjected to different views of their bodies that objectifies them.

“They were, however, more likely to appear in settings where surroundings were not clearly discernible. In this case, they force attention to the lines, shapes and colors of the bodies themselves, rather than providing information about the context in which the bodies appear.” (The Color of Sex 295). Colored women are not seen as people, they are deemed sexual objects unlike white women.

An example of a colored women and a white women sexualized very differently is the concept of twerking and who performing the act deems it “sexy”. At the 2013 VMA's Miley Cyrus, a white woman, the host was seen twerking while performing with her butt and breasts on display. After the program was aired, the consensus seemed to be that she looked disgusting and was not sexualized. Then, in 2014, Nicki Minaj, a colored woman released her music video for "Anaconda” featuring herself and her dancers twerking and while it was still criticized, Minaj was seen as a highly sexualized object because of her breasts and boobs on display like Cyrus but her race/ethnicity is the reason why it was praised as beautiful. Just because of their skin color, one was treated as a sexual object.

In recent events, a big discussion was provoked after the nominations for the Oscars were announced. The hashtag #Oscars SoWhite came out the event because when you looked at the categories, there was not enough people of color nominated. Alongside with not a lot of people of color nominated, no women of color were nominated in any category. Not only are women being in a disadvantage, the women of color were at a greater disadvantage. Movies with predominantly colored casts, they only actors nominated were white. This also ties into the fact that roles for colored people, more so for women are not easily found, or are easily offensive to races/ethnicities.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a woman of color coined the term intersectionality. "She was by no means the first to address the issue of how Black women's experiences have been marginalized or distorted within feminist discourse." (Intersectionality as buzzword 72). Since intersectionality put a name to the issue, the real question is: why is race/ethnicity, particularly black women, a factor into further disadvantage to equality?

One of the biggest thought surrounding that question is the fact that the United States has such a deep history of slavery and segregation. Looking at the beginning of the feminism movement before the 70's, it was very racist in the sense that they only focused on why the white women is at a disadvantage. This is clearly not the case but, scholars were forgetting that people of color and ethnic backgrounds also face another set of hoops to jump through as a woman. "The reason racism is a feminist issue is easily explained by the inherent definition of feminism." (Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa).

With intersectionality in play, gender playing into race/ethnicity is already is a given."... noting instead the importance of identity politics in specific historical contexts where it has been a critical, and even more effective, strategy of resistance than the deconstructions of categories for combatting the effects of racism and sexism. (Intersectionality as buzzword 74).

With such deep-rooted racism in our country, colored men and women are not seen as equals to their white counterparts. A white man is ultimately sees no disadvantages but, a man who is colored will face inequality but will still be seen as a position of power because of his gender. Then, a white woman will face inequality to a man but will still not have to jump through so many hoops as a colored woman will have to.

An example of this is the wage gap between men and women. A white man will get paid more than his white female counterparts but, a colored woman will get paid less than their white female counterparts as well as men. Another example is also opportunity in the workforce. A white man has the best chance to become the CEO of a major company. A white woman does not have an equal chance to becoming a CEO because of her gender but, a colored woman because of her certain race/ethnicity do not have the same equal chance of her white female or male counterpart.

When it comes to jobs in Western society, not only are they gendered, some jobs are also seen as specifically for colored women. For example, nannies are predominantly seen as a job for women. Then, Latina women are predominantly seen in these roles in television and cinema, never white women. In general, any jobs in the labor industry are always seen dominated by people of color, especially women.

A good example of gender playing into race is the Mexican women working in the Maquiladoras in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. Women working in these facilities not only do not get paid a fair wage, it is very hard for them to keep a job while providing for their family. If they are working, they do no get treated equally by working long hours for little to no money.

Looking back, why was intersectionality never a packaged deal with feminism? Why are women's race/ethnicity completely erased or so highly praised that it is borderline offensive?

Asian women are seen as small and exotic, black women are seen as sexual animals, and Latina women are seen as labor workers who can't hold a job. Their race/ethnicity should not box them into molds that not give them fair access to equality. Race/ethnicity needs to be looked at an issue in feminism because without it, feminist theory would not be as critical and correct without it. Gender relates to race/ethnicity because that is part of person, it helps shape their identity alongside with being a woman. Gender relates to race/ethnicity because not only do women face inequality, women of color face an extra set of inequalities just because of their skin color. Without understanding that concept, feminism is not effective. Without intersectionality, feminism is not effective.

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The Importance of Intersectionality Upon Discussing Feminism. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from

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