Intersectionality refers to the interconnectedness of the social categories such as race, class, and gender. The reason for intersectionality is so important because it aims to include all groups in the movement for equality. It is inclusive because it recognizes that while the feminist movement is made up of millions of women trying to fight the patriarchy and beyond, not all those women experience the same levels of discrimination. Intersectionality is the reason that we must acknowledge and include minority voices. The phrase “isn’t just me and mine- it’s us and ours” comes into consideration here (my mom uses this phrase all the time). Some people will ask, “why do we need intersectionality?” Feminism without intersectionality is like trying to put together a puzzle but half of the pieces are missing. Intersectionality is what gives us a full picture. Women’s Studies covers other subject such as race and class along with intersectionality due to the subjects all affecting each other. Intersectionality goes from the first wave from the 1840’s to the 1920’s with an abolitionist movement including people like Susan B Anthony, Ida B Wells, and Alice Paul. These people all had the same goal- the right for women to vote.
Then it furthers to the activism of black feminists during the 1970’s and 1980’s. For example, in the previous modules we read the “Combahee River Collective”. Before this, feminist activist were addressing complex social life of a women. Black activists like Sojourner Truth were key to putting black women’s experiences at the center of their work for the second wave of feminism. Intersectionality also shows how experiences of oppression are not the same for all women. This issue is discussed in the work of the “Combahee River Collective”, which highlights how the structural effects of women being slaves influenced black women’s lives in the modern day. Intersectionality is important to understand. Each of us can now understand where we stand in the struggle for freedom, as well as where we stand to help others, who may not have the privileges we have. Lastly, intersectionality is covered to benefit the world by helping people to have a better understanding of one another.
This leads into another topic that was talked widely about in class. The famous saying, “if you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not going on” goes on full force for this topic. Not everyone experiences racism or sexism. Some may not even know what post feminism is. Post-feminism is not a new topic in today’s society. Post-feminism began in the early 1980’s. The basic idea behind the movement is that feminism has achieved it goals and now it is time to distance ourselves from the movement. This now leads into what post-feminism really is. This term was invented by people who want to pretend that there’s no more need for feminism. It is effectively an anti-feminist term adopted because it avoids confronting feminist directly on the issues. This is suggesting that feminism was a “pop culture” trend, it’s had its term. In this time, racism and sexism appear to coexist in the minds of victims. With the introduction of equal pay to work, equal rights legislation, as well as the increased number of women in both higher education and workforce, feminism was introduced. In a post-feminist era, it was argued that many media texts take a playful and irreverent attitude to the traditional gender divisions of the past. To make reference to today, the song “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls is a women’s powerhouse. This song was made to show women having the power. The term “feminist” is complicated for me, largely for reasons on society experiencing racism and sexism.
In her inspirational speech on the TED talk series, Chimamanda Adichie argues that single stories of specific races or regions often create misconceptions of their true natures. Adichie, born and raised in Nigeria, she uses previous life experiences to support her claims regarding false stereotypes, most evidently during her childhood and her first visit to the United States. In our young age, we’re often so naïve about the world around us. We only know what our parents tell us and what the people in our community have talked about. This is because often we are not exposed to such a variety so early in our lives. She tells us that she comes from a middle-class Nigerian family and she also mentions her education level and her ability to read and write. When Fide moved in with her family, all she knew was a single story about him, how he was poor and how his family had nothing. But upon visiting his family, she realized that they could actually make something out of this. She was amazed because her parents always told her just how poor they were. That was one of the single stories she had heard growing up. In this TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes the problem, explaining, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” When we hear the same story over and over again, it becomes the only story that we ever believe in. These stories that we believe in makes us feel certain emotions, emotions like pity in certain situations. Adichie gives an experience of her own about a single story when she heard the debates about immigration in the United States. Immigration in America became equal to Mexicans, Mexicans that were sneaking across the border. When she visited Guadalajara, she was a bit surprised to see Mexicans differently than the immigrants that America had talked about. She then goes to say, “Show people as one thing and one thing only over and over again and that is what they become.” That is the consequence of the single story about a person, place, or issue. A single story also takes people of their dignity and emphasizes how different people are. By engaging with all the stories of a person, place, or issue, the trap of a single story can be avoided. Adichie could have looked at the Mexican and the U.S. side of the immigration issue so she would have balanced the stories and not fallen into the single-story trap. I agree that the single story makes the differences in people stand out and the single story is an incomplete description to a person, place, or event.
Over the course in Women’s Studies, we have covered topics such as feminism, historical foundations, systems of inequality, social construction of gender, and gender and the body. Each of these topics consists of having a personal opinion. One text that we analyzed was, “Ain’t I a Women?” by Sojourner Truth in 1851. Sojourner Truth gave her speech to address her views on women’s rights and to advocate equal right of men and women. She accomplished this by utilizing the rhetorical devices of pathos, logos, ethos, allusion, juxtaposition, and pin pointing the enemy. “Ain’t I a Women?” has a repetition of the phrase to show the audience that Truth is proud of the fact that she is a woman and that she strongly believes she, as a woman, deserves equal rights to those of men. For example, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”
Another reading that helps to cover these topics is by Judith Lorber’s, “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender”. Lorber argues that gender is socially constructed, and that she supports it with the fact that gender varies by culture. Some cultures have three genders, and that the gender is not always the same as biological sex. This relates to Chimamanda Adichie’s sense of why we have different stories. Each person has their own opinion and view. She points out a common question of, “why do we use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably? And why is it important that we differentiate between these terms?” Gender construction starts with assignment to a sex category on the basis of what the genitalia look like at birth. A sex category becomes gender status through naming, dress and other markers. Gender and sex are not equivalent and gender as a social construction does not flow automatically from genitalia and reproductive organs. For example, she states, “Similarly, gender cannot be equated with biological and physiological differences between human females and males. The building blocks of gender are socially constructed statuses.”
One final text that relates to Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk is Sirena Riley’s, “Black Beauty Myth. Sirena Riley focuses primarily on how White America views “Black bodies”. The idea that black women are given two body ideals, one from whiteness and one from their own communities. This also results towards misconceptions. The misconception that women of color do not suffer from body image issues. The author, Riley, used an example of how black women are praised for loving their full bodies but she says that many white women would rather be dead than wear a size 14. She says, “They nod their heads and say how lucky black women are that our men accept our bodies the way they are”. All three texts and then including Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk all relate to back to the media. Media today has a specific image of someone or something and has impacted the way that we as people see the idea. It is imperative that teens and young adults remember that social media does not always portray the whole story and that having genuine communication skills is more important than social media.