intersectionality: genderxrace

My housemate from my undergrad days studied geography with me. I remember the first time we learned about ‘intersectionality’ and she was like, “What is that? Why can’t they just call it ‘intersection’??” And I laughed because she was right that academics – especially theorists – especially social theorists! – invent terms in this way all the time. The suffix -ality indicates there’s a discourse around it, I suppose (correct me if I’m wrong – didn’t bother looking this up).

The most common intersectionality I read about is genderxrace, sometimes genderxclass, and occassionally genderxracexclass.

What I notice is that around 90% of the discussions on genderxrace is criticism of feminist discourse and the feminist movement for being too white. The remaining 10% – I’m pulling these percentages out of you-know-where btw, so again, correct me if you feel differently – is criticism of race discourse and the racial equality movement for being too male.

This could totally be because I tend to read more about gender issues than I do on race, because there is just way more on the internet on gender than on race. I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and guess that maybe this is because there are more people (absolute numbers as well as percentage) in the power minority with respect to gender than with respect to race. In other words, there are more women than there are people of racial minorities.

All of this is from a Western perspective – mainly Anglo – and mainly North American.

But yeah! I find it fascinating that even in intersectionality discourse, which is ALL about how we can’t isolate our identities into silos but rather form identities as mixtures and combinations of the different elements/categories that make us up, it is still the case that one identity sort of ‘leads’ the other. Let me stress that this is what we see in the discourse and may not be true of actual identification.

I wonder if this is because certain minority categorisations are more dominant than others. I want to do whatever is the opposite of intersectionality, actually, to look at how eg. being a woman compares to being a visible minority. Apples to oranges! And the ‘proper’ answer would be an indignant – or, worse, more-nuanced-than-thou – explanation that you can’t compare the two precisely because they work together to repress. But while that is certainly the politically correct answer, we all remember when Oprah chose to endorse Obama over Clinton and it was absolutely a gender vs. race debate!

So I’m wondering if it’s true that women of colour are more likely to criticise white women for not including women of colour in the fight against misogyny, sexism etc., or whether they are more likely to criticise men of colour for not including women of colour in the fight against racism, racial discrimination etc. And if so, why is that? Is it because white women are less of a threat somehow than non-white men? Is that too simplistic a view to take? (Most likely…)

But speaking of dominance (if you wanna call it that) of one minority classification over another… I’ve also noticed that the genderxrace discussions I’m reading cast race in the vast majority of cases as ‘black’. To be fair, it’s mainly American experiences I’m reading about. But the underrepresentation of certain racial minorities – Asian-American comes to mind – in race and especially genderxrace discourse, especially in the US, is definitely real.


One thought on “intersectionality: genderxrace

  1. Dear Fiona,
    I am really happy to read about your interest in intersectionality, which I consider to be really important when it comes to the recognition of many forms of discrimination. They might overlap or in other words intersect, independently from the colour of the skin. For example, you might be discriminated for wearing a scarf and speaking in your mother tongue by living in the host country. In addition to this, intersectionality may happen in institutions as well as in unconventional places…in the streets etc… Most of the time it is an unconscious reaction we might have towards people who look and act differently from us. They might go against the rules and put the well being of the inhabitants of such countries in danger (for example…have a look at this
    “german Angst”). So people have fears from (both sides) and try to protect themselves by strengthening their unconscious bias, and let discrimination happen!

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