kimberle-crenshaw

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Thus Sayeth The Lorde

Audre Lorde knew. And also theorized what we now know as “intersectionality”–as coined and conceptualized by Kimberlé Crenshaw–before Crenshaw’s prominent paper Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color, and after earlier theorizations by Combahee River Collective and Sojourner Truth

There is no generic social class of women who all experience the totality of gender in the same way, even as we all face misogyny and sexism, in general. There is no reason to deny the intersections of race (i.e White/WoC; non-Black/Black), gender (i.e. cis, trans, femme non-binary), sexual orientation (i.e. hetero, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, asexual), class, ability, complexion (i.e. Whiteness, light skinned privilege), weight, citizenship status etc. and their impact on our womanhood. To suggest women oppressed at multiple axes must ignore this lived reality to play “unity” (usually under the control of cis Whiteness) is erasure and oppression. Why does “unity” require White control? Why is this type of “unity” more important than equity, justice and freedom?

Audre Lorde knew. Her incredible writing, especially gathered in Sister Outsider, are critical. May her words live on.

It’s because black women have traditionally not been seen in the same light as women, and their blackness, their race, makes them to be seen as less female and more of a threat. There is a disproportionate level of violence that is being used to enforce petty code violations. That is in essence what we saw with Sandra Bland and with the 15-year-old girl who was straddled by the police. When police [who have killed black women] make these claims that they were in fear of their lives, what they’re really making is a racial claim. And being to see it in how black women are treated may actually help us understand how it plays out across the board with all black people.
The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite - that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup differences. In the context of violence against women, this elision of difference in identity politics is problematic, fundamentally because of the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class. Moreover, ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that bears on efforts to politicize violence against women. Feminist efforts to politicize experiences of women and antiracist efforts to politicize experiences of people of color have frequently proceeded as though the issues and experiences they each detail occur on mutually exclusive terrains. Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as woman or person of color as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling.
—  Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” (Stanford Law Review, vol. 43:1241, July 1991). 
Among the most troubling political consequences of the failure of antiracist and feminist discourses to address the intersections of race and gender is the fact that, to the extent they can forward the interest of ‘people of color’ and 'women,’ respectively, one analysis often implicitly denies the validity of the other. The failure of feminism to interrogate race means that the resistance strategies of feminism will often replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color, and the failures of antiracism to interrogate patriarchy means that antiracism will frequently reproduce the subordination of women. These mutual elisions present a particularly difficult political dilemma for women of color. Adopting either analysis constitutes a denial of a fundamental dimension of our subordination and precludes the development of a political discourse that more fully empowers women of color.
Not only are women of color in fact overlooked, but their exclusion is reinforced when white women speak for and as women. The authoritative universal voice—usually white male subjectivity masquerading as non-racial, non-gendered objectivity—is merely transferred to those who, but for gender, share many of the same cultural, economic, and social characteristics.
— 

Kimberle Crenshaw, 1989, “Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”.

If you are a white woman or are privileged in other ways, attempting to speak for all women erases women who are not like yourself and who face oppressions you do not experience. If you are white or otherwise privileged, be aware of this when you speak. Recognise who you speak for. Lift up voices of people with different oppressions than yourself, and recognise how your own gender-based oppression is both similar to and different from that of, for instance, Black women. 

~mod r

theguardian.com
#SayHerName: why Kimberlé Crenshaw is fighting for forgotten women
More than 70 black women have died at the hands of the police in the past three years. Professor and activist Crenshaw, who coined the term ‘intersectionality’ in the 1980s, is determined they will not be forgotten
By Homa Khaleeli

When she speaks at public meetings, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has a trick. She asks everyone to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name. She then reads the names of unarmed black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement; names such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin. Her audience are informed and interested in civil rights so “virtually no one will sit down”, Crenshaw says approvingly. “Then I say the names of Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Aura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign.”

The campaign, #SayHerName, was created to raise awareness about the number of women and girls that are killed by law enforcement officers. For Crenshaw – who coined the term “intersectionality” in the 1980s to describe the way different forms of discrimination overlap and compound each other – it is a brutal illustration of how racism and sexism play out on black women’s bodies.

The failure of feminism to interrogate race means that the resistance strategies of feminism will often replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color, and the failure of anti-racism to interrogate patriarchy means that anti-racism will frequently reproduce the subordination of women. These mutual elisions present a particularly difficult political dilemma for women of color. Adopting either analysis constitutes a denial of a fundamental dimension of our subordination and works to precludes the development of a political discourse that more fully empowers women of color.
— 

Kimberlé Crenshaw

And this is where my political ideology, as a Womanist starts because of my own identity; but (as much of her writing alludes to as well, though not in this particular quote) I am also concerned with class, ability, sexual orientation and more. I cannot embrace White women’s feminist or Black men’s anti-racist interests if they are not intersectional. I am not interested in any “equality” that requires the oppression of another person, for any particular identity facet.

I am suggesting that Black women can experience discrimination in ways that are both similar to and different from those experienced by white women and Black men.
— 

Kimberle Crenshaw, 1989, “Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”.

Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to be able to talk about the experiences of Black women. In this paper, which I am reading for the first class in my Gender, Ethnicity and Religion course, she discusses three court cases in which Black women sued for discrimination. In one case, for example, Black women lost the case: Even though the company they sued did not hire any Black women, it hired white women and Black men and therefore the judge ruled that no discrimination was taking place.

~mod r

After (Kimberle) Crenshaw introduced the term intersectionality in 1989, it was widely adopted because it managed to encompass in a single word the simultaneous experience of the multiple oppressions faced by Black women. But the concept was not a new one. Since the times of slavery, Black women have eloquently described the multiple oppressions of race, class, and gender—referring to this concept as “interlocking oppressions,” “simultaneous oppressions,” “double jeopardy,” “triple jeopardy” or any number of descriptive terms.

Like most other Black feminists, Crenshaw emphasizes the importance of Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered to the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I could have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? 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 them 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?”

Truth’s words vividly contrast the character of oppression faced by white and Black women. While white middle-class women have traditionally been treated as delicate and overly emotional—destined to subordinate themselves to white men—Black women have been denigrated and subject to the racist abuse that is a foundational element of US society. Yet, as Crenshaw notes, “When Sojourner Truth rose to speak, many white women urged that she be silenced, fearing that she would divert attention from women’s suffrage to emancipation,” invoking a clear illustration of the degree of racism within the suffrage movement.

Crenshaw draws a parallel between Truth’s experience with the white suffrage movement and Black women’s experience with modern feminism, arguing, “When feminist theory and politics that claim to reflect women’s experiences and women’s aspirations do not include or speak to Black women, Black women must ask, “Ain’t we women?”

Black feminism and intersectionality

Not only are women of color in fact overlooked, but
their exclusion is reinforced when white women speak for and as
women. The authoritative universal voice-usually white male subjectivity masquerading as non-racial, non-gendered objectivity
-is merely transferred to those who, but for gender, share
many of the same cultural, economic and social characteristics.
To say that a category such as race or gender is socially constructed is NOT to say that that category has no significance in our world. On the contrary, a large and continuing project for subordinated people–and indeed, one of the projects for which postmodern theories have been very helpful–is thinking about the way power has clustered around certain categories and is exercised against others. This project attempts to unveil the processes of subordination and the various ways those processes are experienced by people who are subordinated and people who are privileged. It is, then, a project that presumes that categories have meaning and consequences. This project’s most pressing problem, in many if not most cases, is not the existence of the categories, but rather the particular values attached to them, and the way those values foster and create social hierarchies.

This is not to deny that the process of categorization is itself an exercise of power, but the story is much more complicated and nuanced than that. First, the process of categorizing–or, in identity terms, naming–is not unilateral. Subordinated people can and do participate, sometimes even subverting the naming process in empowering ways. One need only think about the historical subversion of the category ‘Black,’ or the current transformation of 'queer,’ to understand that categorization is not a one-way street. Clearly, there is unequal power, but there is nonetheless some degree of agency that people can and do exert in the politics of naming. And, it is important to note that identity continues to be as site of resistance for members of different subordinated groups. We all can recognize the distinction between the claims 'I am Black’ and the claim 'I am a person who happens to be Black.’ 'I am Black’ takes the socially imposed identity and empowers it as an anchor of subjectivity. 'I am Black’ becomes not simply a statement of resistance, but also a positive discourse of self-identification, intimately linked to celebratory statements like the Black nationalist 'Black is beautiful.’ 'I am a person who happens to be Black,’ on the other hand, achieves self-identification by straining for a certain universality (in effect, 'I am first a person’) and for a concomitant dismissal of the imposed category ('Black’) as contingent, circumstantial, non-determinant. There is truth in both characterizations, of course, but they function, quite differently depending on the political context. At this point in history, a strong case can be made that the most critical resistance strategy for dis-empowered groups is to occupy and defend a politics of social location rather than to vacate and destroy it.
— 

Kimberlé Crenshaw

I like this explanation and I agree with her; I prefer acknowledging “Black.” In 2011, Michigan State University published a study that revealed that “Black people who identify more strongly with their racial identity are generally happier. Previous research has found a relationship between racial identity and favorable outcomes such as self-esteem.”

Ignoring such a major part of our identity to “fit in” or to try to be “universal” doesn’t work in a White supremacist society. Further, understanding our history and support from other Black people makes coping in a White supremacist society easier than not. Because…whether a Black person seeks to ignore their Blackness and their culture or not, it’s still there. And doing it for the hopes of White approval is a very dangerous game to play with one’s health and well-being.

Good morning! Happy first month of Feminist Summer Book Club!

I hope y'all are as excited as I am! Our first month is on intersectionality and feminism. Our reading list is:

  • “Feminism is for Everybody” bell hooks [PDF available here, here, here, and about a hundred different places if you google it]
  • “Mapping the Margins:  Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women” Kimberle Crenshaw [PDF available online here]
  • “Disappearing Acts: Reclaiming Intersectionality in the Social Sciences” Nikol G. Alexander Floyd [available here]
  • “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” Peggy McIntosh [PDF available online here]

I will post discussion questions in our group on Goodreads by the end of the week, and please feel free to start engaging in a discussion there as the month progresses.

If you have thoughts or questions that you want to share throughout the month, please utilize this blog’s submit and ask features (which will be up and running by the end of the day today) to share those with everyone else in the FSBC.

I am so looking forward to doing this with y'all!

The True Definition of Intersectionality

“The concept of political intersectionality highlights the fact that women of color are situated within at least two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agendas…Among the most troubling political consequences of the failure of antiracist and feminist discourses to address the intersections of race and gender is the fact that, to the extent they can forward the interest of “people of color” and “women” respectively, one analysis often implicitly denies the validity of the other.  The failure of feminism to interrogate race means that the resistance strategies of feminism will often replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color, and the failure of antiracism to interrogate patriarchy means that antiracism will frequently reproduce the subordination of women.  These mutual elisions present a particularly difficult political dilemma for women of color.  Adopting either analysis constitutes a denial of a fundamental dimension of our subordination and precludes the development of a political discourse that more fully empowers women of color.”

(emphasis added)

Kimberle Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins:  Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color (1993), pp. 1251-1252

salon.com
“Not going to lie down and take it”: Black women are being overlooked by this president

(By Brittney Cooper)

…However, black women, Obama’s single largest voting demographic, have been the subject of no executive orders, no White House initiatives and no pieces of progressive legislation. Ninety-six percent of black women voters voted for Obama compared to 87 percent of black men. Seventy-six percent of Latinas voted for the president compared to 65 percent of Latino men.

Though black and other women of color who are a part of the LGBTQ community will benefit from this latest executive order, no initiative has explicitly addressed the structural issues of racism, classism, poor education, heavy policing and sexual and domestic violence that disproportionately affect black and Latina women.

As a black woman who voted twice for this president, despite some misgivings, I find myself wondering how we will fit into the legacy of progressive policy initiatives that the president is trying to craft as part of his exit strategy.

This kind of conflict seems to be representative of the political moment in which we find ourselves. I remember feeling conflicted in this way when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act) in the same cycle that it gutted the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. But with the Supreme Court’s unrepentant band of rabid conservatives, I’m not surprised.

I am surprised, however, that a man who lives in the White House with four black women feels no allegiance at the level of policy or legacy to the one demographic that is most singularly responsible for his two terms in the White House. I am both disappointed and disgusted that in President Obama’s political vision, all the blacks are men.

Twenty five years ago, UCLA law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” as a way to help us think about how black women were uniquely disadvantaged by employment discrimination laws that could remedy discrimination against women or discrimination against black people, but could not remedy discrimination against black women as an intersecting category. For instance, if a company singled out black women, but not all women, or not all blacks, then black women were simply out of luck in terms of having legal protection. Getting at this concept has been so critically important because anti-workplace discrimination laws have been the centerpiece in terms of how the U.S. has historically counteracted the effects of racism, sexism and homophobia against marginalized groups.

Crenshaw’s coining of that term has also revolutionized the modern academy by helping us to think in almost every humanities and social science discipline about the interactions of race and gender and systems of racism and sexism. These kinds of intersectional interactions help shape the framing of everything from the POTUS discussion of the new restrictions on carbon emissions as a policy that helps poor black and brown youth to the political justifications for the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

In this way a framework named and articulated by black women to speak to the structural dislocation of black and brown women is now being used to justify our erasure at the policy level.

This is unacceptable.

While I appreciate the carrots that the president continues to throw out to his liberal base, it is clear that black women on the whole are being overlooked and actively dismissed by this administration. I say this, not in an attempt to set racial concerns at odds with LGBTQ issues. LGBTQ people are black and brown, too. But robust attention to discrimination against queer-identified people does not constitute a racial justice program.

And a program that focuses only on boys and men of color does active harm and injustice to black and brown women and girls.  If President Obama wants his political legacy to be that he cared the least about the demographic that supported him the most, it should be clear that black women are not going to lie down and take it.

If our votes count, that means our issues ought to count, too. And this is why today, more than 1,000 women and girls of color, including me, have signed a letter urging the president to include women and girls of color in all forthcoming My Brother’s Keeper initiatives.

Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination…But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.
— 

Black legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in her insightful 1989 essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” The concept of intersectionality is not an abstract notion but a description of the way multiple oppressions are experienced. Indeed, Crenshaw uses the following analogy, referring to a traffic intersection, or crossroad, to concretize the concept: (x)

Intersectionality did not start as a catch all term meaning to acknowledge a set of differing identities. Kimberlé Crenshaw started it as a way to articulate BW’s  complex experiences as they navigate through racialized misogyny, economic subjugation and heterosexism.  But as it is the case with most of BW’s intellectual productions, the meaning of the word was co-opted and distorted to such an extent that  “intersectional feminism” became a new way to distinguish oneself from an antiquated and exclusive second wave feminism. Intersectionality as a concept belongs first and foremost to BW/Black femmes, and was created for BW and Black femmes to name an experience often unnamed and untought of. People have also latched on to that concept as a way to describe their multi pronged experiences while erasing Black women from the conversation. In the same breath, people are exploiting concepts created by Black women for Black women/femmes while disappearing them from the very things they created. Worse, they admonish Black women/femmes for not being “intersectional enough” even as their very lives embody intersectionality and originated the concept.

http://hoodoodyke.tumblr.com/post/134529966574/like-being-very-clear-when-i-asked-patricia-hill

http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could