Rape And Sexual Harassment: The Intersectional Experiences Of Racism And Sexism For Minorities

1904 words - 8 pages

Rape and sexual harassment are both two common forms of sexual violence prevalent in the United States. Although both events can happen to men, women are more prone to face these occurrences. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, “78% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are women and 22% are men” (“Domestic Violence Statistics”). In 2011, companies experienced sexual harassment charges at 11% in relation to all charges brought forth to businesses, and 16% of these charges were filed by men ("Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment"). These women are eternally tainted by these occurrences, as Jean Améry wrote, “whoever was tortured, stays tortured” (Brison 5). Our American society rarely considers the effect on these women as well as many other societal misgivings centered on sexual violence in an appropriate manner. The statistics discuss the frequency of these acts of violence, however, they do not consider the stereotypes experienced by women minorities (African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans, for instance), or the higher likelihood of these incidences that come along with the preconceived notions compared to white women, nor do they delve into the horrible aftermath of these situations that these women face.
A plethora of stereotypes are deeply embedded within our culture. There are labels that apply to sexes, those of different sexual orientations, separate economic classes, and those of a certain race or ethnicity. There are instances in which a person experiences stigmas for being one social characteristic, but there are also cases in which women are stereotyped not only for their sex, but also due to their race. Crenshaw contends that “dominant conceptions of discrimination condition us to think about subordination as disadvantage occurring along a single categorical axis” (23). In other words, society has conditioned us to believe that discrimination only occurs when those who are less privileged are of one social characteristic, such as Black, or female. Women who are of a minority race can experience inequality differently compared to white women of the dominant race. Cho explains this by saying, that although women are stigmatized for being that sex, when they are denounced for being both a woman and a certain race, it can become a wholly different experience for an individual (351).
American culture has developed stereotypes in relation to both African American women as well as Asian Pacific American women. For instance, Ammons suggests that historical caricatures of Black women include the Mammy, Aunt Jemima, and Jezebel; modern stereotypes include Sapphire, the matriarch, and the welfare queen (264). Consequently, as these labels suggest, in most instances Black women are typecast as fiery, strong, and not in need of any help. Therefore, if something does happen to them where they are a victim of sexual violence, they may not be seen as an actual victim and rather as someone who can take...

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