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Women Of Color In The Feminist Movement

1742 words - 7 pages

Since gender is just one of the many other socially constructed categories of difference and inequality, it is of the utmost importance for social scientists to observe the contributing factors that shape gender. Gender as a whole cannot be studied without observing the social context in which it is situated--variations of meaning and interaction are displays when put into more specific context revealing the reality of privilege, power and prestige (57). There are also factors of environment to consider, such as individual, interactional and institutional. These complex but imperatively interrelated factors hold significance in how the construct of gender operates, without other social ...view middle of the document...

With white women as the universal default for the women’s rights movement, women of color and of lower classes were demarcated and their words would only gather an audience based on the pigment of the speaker’s skin and her class. As such, womanhood became synonymous with white women. This leaves every other group of women to their own vices. The first wave of feminism was totally dominated by white women. In the second wave, women of color fought to have their voices finally heard.

Audre Lorde (Audrey Geraldine Lorde) is one of the women of color that fought to observe the problem of racism within the feminist movement. Lorde observed that the category of women is full of various subdivisions, which she explored through her theory of difference. As a lesbian, Lorde also noticed a divide in how women dealt with differences in sexual orientation. “There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself […] because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else. But once you do that, then you’ve lost because then you become acquired or bought by that particular essence of yourself” (Hammond, “Audre Lorde: Interview” Denver Quarterly, 1981). In one of her essays, “The Master’s tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”, Lorde contended that the underlying racism within the women’s rights movement was an “unrecognized dependence on the patriarchy”--the assertion being that white women that fought for equality cannot assume to reach their goal by adopting the same hierarchal system that the patriarchy has had in place for so long. Therefore any change that came of their efforts would be momentary and the white women would only be shadows of white male slave owners, insisting them to be “agents of oppression”. The act of dissecting the many identifiers women have besides their sex is beneficial to the whole of feminist theory because it becomes more accessible, which applies more significant meaning. To do this, theorists and women’s rights leaders must be willing to redefine womanhood and at the same time treat each social category of inequality as a separate part of the whole. This only makes sense historically and this tactic ties into the previous question. If the FDA studies the effects of certain drugs of the default: white women, instead of a diverse range of women it is inherent that these studies will be inconclusive. The social default is “white privilege” which causes studies such as these to be only half finished and therefore out of touch with society as a whole. There must be an intersectional approach.

An intersectional approach can occur in three specific ways. The earliest of which is to treat each social category of difference and inequality as if it were separate and not overlapping, one Deborah King calls the “race-sex analogy”. King states that racial oppression and gender oppression are one in the same. This kind of intersectional approach is somewhat outdated because it...

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