I don’t think there is any question on whether or not people experiences privileges based on a wide variety of their visible traits, qualities, or abilities. Some people, however, experience a bundle of privileges based on these categories and we generally call them “privileged.” Most obviously in this category, in the U.S., would be an economically well-off, white, middle-aged man; let’s call this man John. John experience privilege from his class status, his dominant race status, his age, and his sex.
The thing about privilege, however, is that we don’t always recognize we have it. Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” discusses the ways she realizes that we, as white women, experience privilege every day in small and large ways. Most of the time, because privilege is comfortable and natural, we don’t notice that we aren’t being followed suspiciously in a store, or that people in positions of power are politer to us, or that we aren’t stopped by the police merely because we look “suspicious.” Without understanding the experiences that other groups go through, we can not recognize our own privilege; if you didn’t realize that women of color often are watched more closely in stores, treated with less respect, and assumed to be suspicious simply because of their skin-tone, you wouldn’t recognize your privilege to not go through these same experiences. This blog post provides another interesting discussion of recognizing one’s own privileges and the ways that language plays into privilege.
Because of the classes I’ve taken, and my own life experiences, I try to recognize my own race-based privileges and I also recognize that my gender and my bi-sexuality represent the intersections at which I experience oppression. However, there are some privileges which I feel get talked about much less. The major one I’m thinking of is physical ability. While I try to be conscious of race, class, and gender I often forget to consider differences in abilities like being deaf, blind, or physically disabled. If you have about 15 minutes to spare, I would recommend checking out this video of Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor that discusses physical disability as another form of social oppression.
What is blackness? This article, and the accompanying pictures, explores the diversity of cultural and national identities of people who identify themselves as black. The article is also linked to a book that discusses these issues in greater depth called (1)ne Drop.
Issues of race and racism within today’s feminist movement…
To the Curb
Note: I had long ago decided to stop blogging here for a couple of reasons. For one, I could not devote enough time to posting as regularly as I had in the past, but I also found more and more outlets with wider audiences that would publish my pieces. With so much dialogue surrounding SlutWalk lately, I wanted to insert the voice of a woman of color to add critical pressure from the margins; however, I found it difficult to find an outlet that would publish me. I first queried The Guardian, which had already printed a couple of pieces authored by white women about the event, and never heard anything back (they have, subsequently, posted more pieces about SlutWalk, all authored by white women). I then attempted to add this post on HuffPo, where I have contributed in the past – although they were nice enough to at least…
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What are some of the initiatives, programs, organizations on campus that address feminism and African American feminism in particular? What is your level of involvement on campus as it relates to feminism?
Since I have usually been taking at least one WGST course each semester, I have been fairly aware of the feminist activism on campus. I know that UNCC has a Feminist Union, which organizes events on campus related to feminism. The Feminist Union Facebook lists events they are sponsoring and often has pictures from these events. Last year I attended the Feminist Coming Out Day event which aimed to promote a better understanding of feminism, what it is, why we need it, and who benefits from it. They had tables with different activities like writing out why you need feminism, drawing a vagina, and taking a picture in full graduation robes and gear.
Last year I also got to go see this event, which featured Staceyann Chin. She talked about her life and read from some of her books and it was an awesome experience. She was so hilarious, irreverent, moving, and inspirational. I also got to see this event, where Jessica Valenti spoke about her books and online activism. She was also very funny and brought up some great points about ideas of purity and virginity within American culture. I know that the WGST department and groups like the Feminist Union work in conjunction to try to have empowering female speakers like these every semester. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the recent lectures, like Laverne Cox’s a week or two ago, but I hope I’ll get the chance in the future.
There are many forms of oppression in our society. People can be discriminated against based on not only their race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. but by any combination of these qualities. The combination of oppressions and the issues relevant across these groups is known as intersectionality. After searching tumblr for “intersectionality,” I went down a long rabbit-hole of enlightening and intriguing posts and now, I offer some real-life examples from what I found.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
#1- Violence Against Native American Women: This article explains how the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act will help prevent and prosecute crimes against Native women. Native American women experience intersectional oppressions through their identities as both a racial minority and as females. According to the article, around eighty percent of native women who are raped reported their rapist as being “non-Indian men.” This was problematic because tribal courts were not allowed to prosecute anyone who was not a member of the tribe so rapists and domestic abusers who fell out of this jurisdiction could often times get away with their crimes. Luckily, according to the article, the changes being made will potentially put more power in the hands of the tribal courts. (Article originally seen on this awesome tumblr.)
#2- Trans Women of Color: Gender and Race are two of the major intersections of oppression; but trans women experience these dual oppressions in unique ways. This past week Janet Mock, a trans woman of color who writes, speaks, and advocates on behalf of the trans community, released a book about her life and her journey. Piers Morgan’s treatment of Mock on his show caused controversy and resulted in Twitter supporters calling him everything from “ignorant” to “transphobic.” Basically, Morgan repeatedly referred to Mock as a “former man” and focused on genital and surgery related issues; these actions are inappropriate, unnecessarily sexualize the conversation and focuses the discussion on an issue which does not define a trans woman’s identity. A post reblogged by Mock herself points out that living life as a trans woman means “sacrific(ing your) most helpful lifeline to success: family and male privilege.” (This example was initially sparked by this reblog of Mock’s second interview on Piers Morgan when she explained why he was receiving the backlash that he was.)
Black entrepreneurs Candace Mitchell and Chanel Martin.
#3 Black Women Entrepreneurs: A third example of intersectionality is within the business word. This article discusses the story of one pair of black female entrepreneurs, their roadblocks, and their success. A black woman attempting to break into the tech industry will face discrimination based on gender, race, class, educational level, and more. The article cites data which showed in the first half of 2010 that only 8% of start-ups were founded by women and only 1% by black business people (male or female). Clearly, the cause of these low numbers is rooted in intersectional issues facing entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds. (Article originally brought to my attention by this tumblr)