Tosay that gender intersects with race means that we cannot separate the twoideas as they mutually constitute each other – each aspect shapes the other. Ifthe world and everything within it is shaped on the identities of the hegemonicideal, it means the experiences of those whose identities lie outside thewestern hegemony, go ignored. Consequently, there will be an absence ofrecognition in their values or policies in place to protect and uphold therights of such people as the experiences of these people cannot be capturedwholly by looking at race and gender separately. When we observe the world froman intersectional lens the dimensions of subordination and discrimination thatdifferent intersectional identities experience become visible. We have to gobeyond the binaries of hegemonic femininity and masculinity that occur ingender and instead explore these binary conceptualisations in amultidimensional way.
Intersectionalityis a political thought or approach devised by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989, 1991),that highlights the different aspects of identity do not operate alone but areinfused (Adewumni, 2014).Her framework was based on the historical exclusion and problems in the systemsof justice in serving black women on the basis of both gender and racediscrimination, however over time different intersectional identities have comeinto play.Thisessay will observe gender and race from an intersectional lens, focusing in theexperiences of African Americans, looking at the micro sociological dimensionsof abuse within the blackfamily and marginalised masculinities and femininities as well as macrosociological dimensions of gender performativity in the educationsetting and reproducedracist attitudes in the media. Notethat this essay maintains a non-essentialist understanding of genders, racesand homosexuality understanding that within these intersections, there is nouniversal understanding of each but there are different variations of axes withineach group.Gender and RaceGenderis widely accepted as a social concept, referring to the social and culturaldifferences a society assigns to people based on their biological sex. Part ofhow we interact with one another is how society expects us to think and behavebased on what sex we are. It’s from these expectations that the binaries offemininity and masculinity materialise – femininity being the culturalexpectations of ‘females’ and masculinity to ‘males’. (Understanding Sex and Gender, 2010) Theidea of intersectionality arises because the norms of conventional femininityand masculinity are often racist, hence the intersection between race andgender, but are also heteronormative, cisnormative as well as classist andalbeist.
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The hegemonic nature of these binaries ignores the intra groupdifferences within gender and consequently within race. And so because this intersection is ignoredwithin 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 PoliticalFirstlyto say that gender intersects with race means that we cannot treat observationswithin the micro level – personal and domestic experiences of patriarchy and racismas 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 thisexample, the intersectional lens reveals that in compared to white women, womenof colour who are victim to domestic violence in their homes for instanceusually have a harder time finding relief from abusive partners and this isintensified by structures put in place like the Immigration and NationalityAct. As a result of the marriage fraud provision women stopped raising issuesabout violence in their marriage for fear of being deported. It was alsoworsened as this demographic – that has unduly higher unemployment rates, arepoorer and have child care – responsibilities stay in the marriages, in fear ofabsence of support if they are to leave marriages.
The key implication was thatimmigrants would only be given permanent resident status only if she was”properly” married for two years, before applying for resident status.Despitea waiver being added to the act to attempt to cover the instance of domesticviolence, the difficulty of provide affidavits and reports from policedepartments, psychologists and other organisations. Immigrant women, who weresometimes not even conscious of their legal status, and lack resources of theirown, found it very challenging to provide such reports.
Furthermore thestructural barrier of language added to the subordination of these women ofcolour (Krishnan, 2012). This is an instance where the features of thisstructure seen in place in the Immigration and Nationality Act has intersectedwith the domestic and personal experiences of immigrant women of colour. Furthermore,the link between the personal and the political is revealed using anintersectional lens, within the political spheres in which feminist movementsfail to address racism and anti-racist movements fail to address patriarchyfurther subordinating and ignoring women of colour through the separation ofgender and race. American feminist strategies of America 1990 sometimesundermined experiences of minority women. While conferring domestic violence asan issue, feminist approaches tend to begin by affirming that domestic violenceis “not just a minority issue”.
Such a universal appeal in addressing domesticviolence, minimises and reduces the need for empathising particular experiencesof women of colour (Crenshaw,1991: 1252).Inaddition to this, antiracism activists of this time were concerned thatdomestic violence would be considered as a minority issue, which would furtherreinforce the stereotype and typecast of the black community. Thus, they keptsilent during the suppression of crime statistics regarding domestic violenceby the Los Angeles Police Department because they we afraid that the racialsegregation of arrests would be interpreted wrongly (Crenshaw, 1991: 1252 – 1254). Maledominance over women of colour is sometimes shown as a consequence of thediscrimination against men of colour in the wider society. This politicisationof domestic violence within black communities furthers the agenda of thepatriarchy structure at the expense of black women’s personal wellbeing.Race within the Hierarchy ofMasculinities and Femininities: Education, Sexuality and Media”Thewhite 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 ofMasculinities places black males under marginalised masculinities meaning theirmasculinity 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 thehegemonic masculinity of the white man thus the experience and performativityof a black males masculinity is mediated through the racialized positioning ofthe hegemony.Anexample of this can be seen in the material, social practices in the educationsetting that Ann Phoenix(2004). For black boys aged 11 – 14 years old in London, performance in school was anindication of their performance of gender. Black, White, and Asian boys wereconsidered to be differentially positioned in terms of hegemonic masculinity.
Whilst boys and girls attitudes and performance in education are shaped by sexrole socialisation, research within the U.S Context, Majors and Billson (1992) reveals theintersection between gender and race is seen in the adverse social, politicaland economic conditions that African American boys experience in their personallives. Their ranking of masculinities in school was based on counteractingacademic success and the values of the educational system, which they perceivedas feminine and instead pursuing the performance of the hegemonic norms by claiming ofalternative sources of power, e.g. sporting prowess, physical aggression, andsexual conquest. This however leaves them subordinated and marginalized comparedto their White and Asian peers when in the job market due to failure to attainrelevant qualifications demanded in a neoliberal society furthering the cycleof marginlisation of black males for those thereafter. This demonstrates howsocial, political and economic circumstances shaped gender performativity forblack boys.
Moreover,the intersectional identity of gay black men reveals another intersection layerwhere black men are not only discriminated against because they do not fit thegender hegemony, but also do not fit the heteronormative norms of sexuality. Forexample, during the South African Apartheid 1948 -1991 Black South African men have reportedexperiencing “grotesque racism” from white gay men and where believedto be perceived as lower in status than black women, the lowest of the genderhierarchies, at this time (Hoad, Martin and Reid, 2005).Additionally, Kurtz (2007) gives an example of Cuban and Puerto Rican gay menliving in Miami, Florida where highly polarized and sexuality-defined gendersystems of Latin America are present, and finds even within Latin Americanhomosexualities, subordination based on roles played in intercourse occur. Inregards to femininities, post-feminists often project feminine ideal but onlyfrom patriarchal ideal of femininity and the experiences of the white women.Within the feminist politics sphere, women from the Muslim community are moreoften than not victim of racist, colonialist and prejudice attitudes. Theabsence of representation and narratives of women in Muslim communities furtherpropagates the inequality of such groups and continues to do so as westernwomen fail to recognise their livelihood is shaped by inequality.
Post feminismbases its privileged femininity by framing themselves as more modern, civilised,egalitarian than women is Muslim communities are. (Scharff, 2011: 119)Likewise, racist mediarepresentation of the nature of black women’s femininity compared to thefemininity of white women reveals intersection between gender and racefemininity, also shaping how black women and men observe and interact with oneanother. An example of this can be seen in the Hottentot Venus ‘freak’ showswhere scientific racism or theories of anthropology was used to reinforce racistattitudes by using visual imagery in theform 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. Hethought her small ears were similar to those of an orangutan and also comparedher vivacity, when alive, to the quickness of a monkey.” (Qureshi, 2004:242)The rhetoric of likening the feminity of black women toanimals can be seen in contemporary media too but at the same time there hasbeen intensification of hyper fetishcisation of features pertaining to blackculture such as the ones found on Sarah Baartman on white females.
Anexample of how black female sexuality is despised and white female sexuality isfavoured can be seen in a short article by Clutch (n.d) which notes that in contempoaraysociety “Black women are so often shamed and penalized for the same physicalattributes that are then praise, and made trendy for white women.” Media personalitiesgear the press into praising white women’s cultural apporpration of blackculture, notably Kylie Jenner who has has pumped up her lips,implanted her butt and is prasied for doing so (Clutch, n.d.
).ConclusionAltogether intersections of gender and race manifestsitself in discrimination and oppression as seen the marriage fraud provisionsin the U.S that work against the wellbeing of women of colour, as well asthrough the lack of inclusivity of black women in feminist and anti rascismmovment. Moever, the intersction