Discussion 3: Octavia Butler, Sojourner Truth, Kimberley CrenshawCOLLAPSEIn the five selected stories written by Octavia Butler, we experienced five different science-fictional or speculative settings and worldviews. The characters living in these worlds deal with certain difficulties respectively. Which character do you identify with the most? What did this character do? Fully human, subhuman, or non-human, which one is this character categorized in that worldview? Did this character do something that crosses the boundaries of human?For the third week (December 31 – January 6), we will finish the following tasks:1. Read the following five selected stories from Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories: “Bloodchild”, “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”, “Speech Sounds”, “Amnesty”, and “The Book of Martha”.2. Read Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” please find it under “Content.”3. Read Kimberley Crenshaw’s social analysis, “Mapping the Margins.” please find it under “Content.”lecture notesIn the last two weeks, we started investigating “what does it mean to be human” by looking at the living experiences of those people that are categorized by the social norms as less human, subhuman, or the “missing link” between human/culture and animal/nature. These dehumanized beings (re)presented by Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Chris and other black folks (in “Get Out”), and Cash and his people-of-color underclass comrades (in “Sorry to Bother You”) are pushed into a liminal space of the society by different forces that share the same, or at least similar, logic. As this logic has been carefully historicized by many ethical and responsible thinkers (, including all of us here), this logic has been called in many names: coloniality, neocolonization, racial capitalism, fascism, color line, racialization, the sociogenic dependency and inferiority complex, so on and so forth. People that are being sociogenically (in Fanon’s term) segregated and categorized by the social norms fell into this liminal space that provides them with a good opportunity to empathize, understand, and eventually make coalitions with each other. This liminal space is represented by the basement of underclass telemarketers (in “Sorry to Bother You”), the mesmerized status (in “Get Out”), the in-betweenness of mimicry that kills a person’s self (in Black Skin, White Masks), and the ontological and biological dyselected space-time (in Wynter’s article). Science fiction as a literary and cinematic genre is powerful in using speculative methods to extend our imagination about what science and technology can do to access this liminal space. As this liminal space is usually hidden by the positive discourse of how human beings and science are co-prosperous and co-evolved, science fiction trains our vision on “human” and “science” to be more flexible, creative, and critical. This week, we will practice our speculating ability by adding one more element: gender. It does not mean that “gender” is conceptually separable from other dehumanizing social categorizations such as “race.” On the contrary, they are intermeshed. They came into form with the same history, but they are made separable in discourse and became very hard to deal with. By “adding one more element” I mean we are now uncovering how dehumanization really works in complexity and the fact that dehumanization is for a long time being simplified in our analysis as if the gender issue is merely additional. Many women-of-color thinkers such as Kimberley Crenshaw discovered that they are made invisible by both feminists and black civil right/black lives movements. In the mainstream feminisms, it seems that there is no race issue. “Women” is claimed to be a universal concept applicable to every society and community. “Woman” defined by the modern social norm, instead of being a useful tool to analyze the dehumanized societies and communities, became a disciplining, colonial tool that describes the relationality and sociality in those societies and communities in an inaccurate and ahistorical way and erases other possible understandings of human relation. Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”, voiced out from the liminal space, helps us to see this disciplining and erasing power of “gender.” Truth’s speech took place in 1851, the moment that both white women and black men were both fighting for their civil rights. (***I tentative uses “she” as the pronoun for Truth, but it is obviously problematic and debatable.) Truth told people the truth that she had never been categorized as a “woman.” Instead of being reduced to a reproductive machine that reproduces a modern Man’s bloodline and capital and being confined in the private/domestic space as feminine and cultured human being, she does heavy-duty work in different fields. However, she was not considered as a human being in the public sphere like a working-class man either, because she was biologically fixed as an animalistic being that was not entitled to be properly paid. Another aspect that was not revealed as much in her speech but is definitely noteworthy is that while having no gender in front of modern men and women, many Black women have to be submissive, feminine, and hyper-sexualized in front their Black male counterpart. According to many “scientific researches” such as the Moynihan Report, the black communities (and extensible to the black civilization) cannot “evolve” or “prosper” because the modern gender system that frames the “correct” social division and power relation is not enough applied and operated. Thus, it was Black women’s duty to learn how to be proper women for their own good. The question “Ain’t I a Woman?” was a cry deep inside Truth’s mind. She was disoriented by the social norms that categorized her into a “female,” which is not yet (or never will be) a woman because she is not yet (or never will be) fully human. Nonetheless, she clearly knew that she was not graspable by the social norms. She was more than the norms. Just like Frantz Fanon, she was calling for a new way to understand humanity. Truth’s simple, demonstrative speech makes us reflect upon not just what we see, but how we see. If we do not change the way we see the world, we cannot change the game. “Intersectionality” as a method is Kimberley Crenshaw’s influential experiment to change the game. She points out that when we intersect “gender” and “race,” two modern social analytical categories in front of the law, we can see nothing in the intersected area. The intersected area is the zone of nothingness. It is not that we are adding on “gender” and “race” together to make ourselves able to see those people like Sojourner Truth, but rather we discover the fact that we are unable to see them. To the people like Truth, “gender” and “race” are never separable. To assume that these two categorial tools are separable is to deny those people’s existence. Man / Woman (Human)————————————————– Male / Female (Non-human) I hope Truth’s speech and Crenshaw’s article are helpful for you to think with the characters in Octavia Butler’s short stories. Apparently, many of them cannot be comprehended if we do not have the vision of intersectionality and the differentiation between man, woman, male, and female. How do we understand the ability of pregnancy, a translator, people of communication disability, a diseased, and a god-like figure with the vision of intersectionality? Octavia Butler tells us: use your imagination.Response Papers: 75% (5 x 15%), 4 pages each + a list of cited works
Response papers are the short written responses on the literary and cinematic materials. Students may
choose one or several from the indicated materials and engage with it/them deeply. They can also engage
with the films and literature from the former weeks. The response should include a paper title, a clear
research question, logical and well-structured analyses, examples from the indicated materials or daily
life, and a list of cited works. The response papers should be turned in on those specific dates marked on
the tentative schedule. The paper will be submitted via the Turn-it-In system on MyCourses.
MyCourses Discussion: 25% (5 x 5%), at least one post that contains 150 words
This is a weekly discussion considered just like your participation in usual class meetings. It takes place on
MyCourses, under Discussion section. Every week, the instructor will raise one question. Students are
required to participate the discussion by leaving at least one post that comes with more than 150 words in
total. That means, students will have conversations together by replying to each other’s thoughts as well as
adding new elements. They can stay in the discussion and leave as many posts as they like.
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Stanford Law Review
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of
Color
Author(s): Kimberle Crenshaw
Source: Stanford Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 6 (Jul., 1991), pp. 1241-1299
Published by: Stanford Law Review
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229039
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Mappingthe Margins: Intersectionality,
Identity Politics, and Violence Against
Women of Color
KimberleCrenshaw*
INTRODUCTION
Over the last two decades, women have organized against the almost
routine violence that shapes their lives.1 Drawing from the strength of
sharedexperience,women have recognizedthat the politicaldemandsof millions speak more powerfullythan the pleas of a few isolated voices. This
politicization in turn has transformed the way we understand violence
againstwomen. For example,batteringand rape, once seen as private(family matters)and aberrational(errantsexual aggression),are now largelyrecognized as part of a broad-scalesystem of dominationthat affectswomen as
a class.2 This process of recognizingas social and systemic what was for* ? 1993
by Kimberle Crenshaw. Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles.
B.A. Cornell University, 1981; J.D. Harvard Law School, 1984; LL.M. University of Wisconsin,
1985.
I am indebted to a great many people who have pushed this project along. For their kind assistance in facilitating my field research for this article, I wish to thank Maria Blanco, Margaret Cambrick, Joan Creer, Estelle Cheung, Nilda Rimonte and Fred Smith. I benefitted from the comments
of Taunya Banks, Mark Barenberg, Darcy Calkins, Adrienne Davis, Gina Dent, Brent Edwards,
Paul Gewirtz, Lani Guinier, Neil Gotanda, Joel Handler, Duncan Kennedy, Henry Monaghan, Elizabeth Schneider and Kendall Thomas. A very special thanks goes to Gary Peller and Richard Yarborough. Jayne Lee, Paula Puryear, Yancy Garrido, Eugenia Gifford and Leti Volpp provided
valuable research assistance. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Academic Senate of
UCLA, Center for Afro-American Studies at UCLA, the Reed Foundation and Columbia Law
School. Earlier versions of this article were presented to the Critical Race Theory Workshop and the
Yale Legal Theory Workshop.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Denise Carty-Bennia and Mary Joe Frug.
1. Feminist academics and activists have played a central role in forwardingan ideological and
institutional challenge to the practices that condone and perpetuate violence against women. See
AGAINSTOUR WILL: MEN, WOMEN AND RAPE (1975);
generally SUSAN BROWNMILLER,
LORENNEM.G. CLARK& DEBRAJ. LEWIS,RAPE:THE PRICEOFCOERCIVE
SEXUALITY
(1977);
R. EMERSON
DOBASH& RUSSELLDOBASH,VIOLENCE
AGAINSTWIVES:A CASEAGAINSTTHE
PATRIARCHY
(1979); NANCYGAGER& CATHLEENSCHURR,SEXUALASSAULT:CONFRONTING
RAPE IN AMERICA(1976); DIANA E.H. RUSSELL,THE POLITICS
OF RAPE:THE VICTIM’SPERSPECTIVE
ANNE STANKO,INTIMATEINTRUSIONS:
WOMEN’SEXPERIENCE
OF
(1974); ELIZABETH
MALE VIOLENCE(1985); LENOREE. WALKER,TERRIFYING
LOVE:WHY BATTEREDWOMEN
KILLANDHOWSOCIETY
RESPONDS
WOMANSYN(1989); LENOREE. WALKER,THE BATTERED
DROME(1984); LENOREE. WALKER,THE BATTERED
WOMAN(1979).
2. See, e.g., SUSANSCHECHTER,
WOMENAND MALEVIOLENCE:
THE VISIONSAND STRUGGLESOFTHEBATTERED
WOMEN’SMOVEMENT
(1982) (arguing that battering is a means of maintaining women’s subordinate position); S. BROWNMILLER,
supra note 1 (arguing that rape is a
1241
1242
STANFORDLAWREVIEW
[Vol. 43:1241
merly perceivedas isolatedand individualhas also characterizedthe identity
politics of African Americans,other people of color, and gays and lesbians,
among others. For all these groups,identity-basedpolitics has been a source
of strength,community,and intellectualdevelopment.
The embraceof identitypolitics, however,has been in tension with dominant conceptionsof social justice. Race, gender, and other identity categories are most often treatedin mainstreamliberaldiscourseas vestigesof bias
or domination-that is, as intrinsicallynegativeframeworksin which social
power works to exclude or marginalizethose who are different. According
to this understanding,our liberatoryobjectiveshould be to empty such categories of any social significance. Yet implicit in certain strands of feminist
and racial liberation movements, for example is the view that the social
power in delineatingdifferenceneed not be the power of domination;it can
instead be the source of social empowermentand reconstruction.
The problemwith identity politics is not that it fails to transcenddifference, as some critics charge,but ratherthe opposite-that it frequentlyconflates or ignores intragroupdifferences. In the context of violence against
women, this elision of differencein identity politics is problematic,fundamentally because the violence that many women experienceis often shaped
by other dimensionsof their identities, such as race and class. Moreover,
ignoring differencewithin groups contributesto tension among groups, another problemof identity politics that bears on effortsto politicize violence
against women. Feminist effortsto politicize experiencesof women and antiracist efforts to politicize experiencesof people of color have frequently
proceeded as though the issues and experiencesthey each detail occur on
mutuallyexclusiveterrains. Although racismand sexism readilyintersectin
the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracistpractices.
And so, when the practicesexpoundidentityas woman or personof color as
an either/or proposition,they relegate the identity of women of color to a
location that resists telling.
My objectivein this article is to advance the telling of that location by
exploring the race and gender dimensions of violence against women of
color.3 Contemporaryfeministand antiracistdiscourseshave failed to conpatriarchalpractice that subordinateswomen to men); Elizabeth Schneider, The Violenceof Privacy,
23 CONN. L. REV. 973, 974 (1991) (discussing how “concepts of privacy permit, encourage and
reinforce violence against women”); Susan Estrich, Rape, 95 YALEL.J. 1087 (1986) (analyzing rape
law as one illustration of sexism in criminal law); see also CATHARINE
A. MACKINNON,SEXUAL
HARASSMENT
OF WORKING
WOMEN:A CASEOF SEX DISCRIMINATION 143-213 (1979) (arguing
that sexual harassment should be redefined as sexual discrimination actionable under Title VII,
rather than viewed as misplaced sexuality in the workplace).
3. This article arises out of and is inspired by two emerging scholarly discourses. The first is
critical race theory. For a cross-section of what is now a substantial body of literature, see PATRICIA
J. WILLIAMS,
THE ALCHEMY
OFRACEANDRIGHTS(1991); Robin D. Barnes, Race Consciousness:
The Thematic Content of Racial Distinctivenessin Critical Race Scholarship, 103 HARV. L. REV.
1864 (1990); John 0. Calmore, Critical Race Theory, Archie Shepp, and Fire Music. Securing an
Authentic Intellectual Life in a Multicultural World, 65 S. CAL. L. REV. 2129 (1992); Anthony E.
Cook, Beyond Critical Legal Studies: The ReconstructiveTheology of Dr. Martin Luther King, 103
HARV.L. REV. 985 (1990); Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, Race, Reform and Retrenchment:Transformation and Legitimation in AntidiscriminationLaw, 101 HARV. L. REV. 1331 (1988); Richard
July 1991]
INTERSECTIONALITY
1243
sider intersectionalidentities such as women of color.4 Focusing on two
dimensionsof male violence againstwomen-battering and rape-I consider
how the experiencesof women of color are frequentlythe product of intersecting patternsof racism and sexism,5and how these experiencestend not
Delgado, When a Story is Just a Story: Does Voice Really Matter?, 76 VA. L. REV. 95 (1990); Neil
Gotanda, A Critiqueof “OurConstitutionis Colorblind,”44 STAN.L. REV. 1 (1991) Mari J. Matsuda, Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim’s Story, 87 MICH. L. REV. 2320
(1989); Charles R. Lawrence III, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection:Reckoning with Unconscious
Racism, 39 STAN. L. REV. 317 (1987); Gerald Torres, Critical Race Theory: The Decline of the
UniversalistIdeal and the Hope of Plural Justice-Some Observationsand Questionsof an Emerging
Phenomenon, 75 MINN. L. REV. 993 (1991). For a useful overview of critical race theory, see
Calmore, supra, at 2160-2168.
A second, less formally linked body of legal scholarship investigates the connections between
race and gender. See, e.g., Regina Austin, Sapphire Bound!, 1989 WIS. L. REV. 539; Crenshaw,
supra; Angela P. Harris, Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory, 42 STAN. L. REV. 581
(1990); Marlee Kline, Race, Racism and Feminist Legal Theory, 12 HARV. WOMEN’SL.J. 115
(1989); Dorothy E. Roberts, Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality
and the Right of Privacy, 104 HARV. L. REV. 1419 (1991); Cathy Scarborough, Conceptualizing
Black Women’s Employment Experiences, 98 YALE L.J. 1457 (1989) (student author); Peggie R.
Smith, Separate Identities: Black Women, Workand Title VII, 14 HARV.WOMEN’SL.J. 21 (1991);
Judy Scales-Trent, Black Women and the Constitution:Finding Our Place, Asserting Our Rights, 24
HARV.C.R-C.L. L. REV. 9 (1989); Judith A. Winston, Mirror,Mirroron the Wall: Title VII, Section
1981, and the Intersectionof Race and Gendet ‘n the Civil Rights Act of 1990, 79 CAL. L. REV. 775
(1991). This work in turn has been informed oy a broader literature examining the interactions of
race and gender in other contexts. See, e.g., PATRICIA
HILLCOLLINS,
BLACKFEMINIST
THOUGHT:
AND THE POLITICS
OF EMPOWERMENT
KNOWLEDGE,
CONSCIOUSNESS,
(1990); ANGELADAVIS,
AIN’T I A WOMAN?BLACKWOMENANDFEMIWOMEN,RACEANDCLASS(1981); BELLHOOKS,
NISM(1981); ELIZABETH
V. SPELMAN,
IN FEMIOFEXCLUSION
INESSENTIAL
WOMAN:PROBLEMS
NISTTHOUGHT(1988); Frances Beale, Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female, in THE BLACK
WOMAN90 (Toni Cade ed. 1970); Kink-Kok Cheung, The Woman Warriorversus The Chinaman
IN
Pacific: Must a Chinese American Critic Choose betweenFeminism and Heroism?, in CONFLICTS
FEMINISM
234 (Marianne Hirsch & Evelyn Fox Keller eds. 1990); Deborah H. King, Multiple Jeopardy, Multiple Consciousness:The Context of a Black Feminist Ideology, 14 SIGNS42 (1988); Diane
K. Lewis, A Response to Inequality: Black Women, Racism and Sexism, 3 SIGNS339 (1977);
Deborah E. McDowell, New Directionsfor Black Feminist Criticism, in THE NEW FEMINIST
CRITICISM:ESSAYSON WOMEN,LITERATURE
AND THEORY186 (Elaine Showalter ed. 1985); Valerie
Smith, Black Feminist Theory and the Representationof the “Other” in CHANGINGOUR OWN
WORDS:ESSAYSONCRITICISM,
THEORYANDWRITINGBYBLACKWOMEN38 (Cheryl A. Wall ed.
1989).
4. Although the objective of this article is to describe the intersectional location of women of
color and their marginalization within dominant resistance discourses, I do not mean to imply that
the disempowerment of women of color is singularly or even primarily caused by feminist and antiracist theorists or activists. Indeed, I hope to dispell any such simplistic interpretationsby capturing, at least in part, the way that prevailing structures of domination shape various discourses of
resistance. As I have noted elsewhere, “People can only demand change in ways that reflect the
logic of the institutions they are challenging. Demands for change that do not reflect . . . dominant
ideology . . . will probably be ineffective.” Crenshaw, supra note 3, at 1367. Although there are
significant political and conceptual obstacles to moving against structures of domination with an
intersectional sensibility, my point is that the effort to do so should be a central theoretical and
political objective of both antiracism and feminism.
5. Although this article deals with violent assault perpetrated by men against women, women
are also subject to violent assault by women. Violence among lesbians is a hidden but significant
problem. One expert reported that in a study of 90 lesbian couples, roughly 46% of lesbians have
been physically abused by their partners. Jane Garcia, The Cost of Escaping Domestic Violence:Fear
of Treatment in a Largely Homophobic Society May Keep Lesbian Abuse Victimsfrom Calling for
SPEAKING
OUT ABOUT
Help, L.A. Times, May 6, 1991, at 2; see also NAMINGTHE VIOLENCE:
LESIBIAN
BATTERING
(Kerry Lobel ed. 1986); Ruthann Robson, LavenderBruises. Intralesbian Violence, Law and Lesbian Legal Theory, 20 GOLDENGATE U.L. REV. 567 (1990). There are clear
parallels between violence against women in the lesbian community and violence against women in
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STANFORDLAWREVIEW
[Vol. 43:1241
to be representedwithin the discoursesof eitherfeminismor antiracism. Because of their intersectionalidentity as both women and of color within discourses that are shaped to respondto one or the other, women of color are
marginalizedwithin both.
In an earlierarticle, I used the concept of intersectionalityto denote the
variousways in which race and genderinteractto shape the multipledimensions of Black6women’s employmentexperiences.7My objectivethere was
to illustrate that many of the experiencesBlack women face are not subsumed within the traditionalboundariesof race or gender discriminationas
these boundariesare currentlyunderstood,and that the intersectionof racism and sexism factors into Black women’s lives in ways that cannot be
capturedwholly by looking at the race or genderdimensionsof those experiences separately. I build on those observationshere by exploringthe various ways in which race and genderintersectin shapingstructural,political,
and representationalaspects of violence against women of color.8
I should say at the outset that intersectionalityis not being offeredhere
as some new, totalizing theory of identity. Nor do I mean to suggest that
violence against women of color can be explainedonly through the specific
frameworksof race and gender consideredhere.9 Indeed, factors I address
communities of color. Lesbian violence is often shrouded in secrecy for similar reasons that have
suppressed the exposure of heterosexual violence in communities of color-fear of embarassingother
members of the community, which is already stereotyped as deviant, and fear of being ostracized
from the community. Despite these similarities, there are nonetheless distinctions between male
abuse of women and female abuse of women that in the context of patriarchy, racism and
homophobia, warrants more focused analysis than is possible here.
6. I use “Black” and “African American” interchangeablythroughout this article. I capitalize
“Black” because “Blacks, like Asians, Latinos, and other ‘minorities,’ constitute a specific cultural
group and, as such, require denotation as a proper noun.” Crenshaw, supra note 3, at 1332 n.2
(citing Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agendafor Theory,7
SIGNS 515, 516 (1982)). By the same token, I do not capitalize “white,” which is not a proper noun,
since whites do not constitute a specific cultural group. For the same reason I do not capitalize
“women of color.”
7. Kimberle Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex, 1989 U. CHI.
LEGALF. 139.
8. I explicitly adopt a Black feminist stance in this survey of violence against women of color.
I do this cognizant of several tensions that such a position entails. The most significant one stems
from the criticism that while feminism purports to speakfor women of color through its invocation
of the term “woman,” the feminist perspective excludes women of color because it is based upon the
experiences and interests of a certain subset of women. On the other hand, when white feminists
attempt to include other women, they often add our experiences into an otherwise unaltered framework. It is important to name the perspective from which one constructs her analysis; and for me,
that is as a Black feminist. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that the materials that I
incorporate in my analysis are drawn heavily from research on Black women. On the other hand, I
see my own work as part of a broader collective effort among feminists of color to expand feminism
to include analyses of race and other factors such as class, sexuality, and age. I have attempted
therefore to offer my sense of the tentative connections between my analysis of the intersectional
experiences of Black women and the intersectional experiences of other women of color. I stress that
this analysis is not intended to include falsely nor to exclude unnecessarily other women of color.
9. I consider intersectionality a provisional concept linking contemporary politics with
postmodern theory. In mapping the intersections of race and gender, the concept does engage dominant assumptions that race and gender are essentially separate categories. By tracing the categories
to their intersections, I hope to suggest a methodology that will ultimately disrupt the tendencies to
see race and gender as exclusive or separable. While the primary intersections that I explore here are
INTERSECTIONALITY
July 1991]
1245
only in part or not at all, such as class or sexuality, are often as critical in
shapingthe experiencesof women of color. My focus on the intersectionsof
race and genderonly highlightsthe need to account for multiplegroundsof
identity when consideringhow the social world is constructed.’0
I have dividedthe issues presentedin this articleinto three categories. In
Part I, I discuss structuralintersectionality,the ways in which the location
of women of color at the intersectionof race and gender makes our actual
experienceof domestic violence, rape, and remedialreformqualitativelydifferent than that of white women. I shift the focus in Part II to political
intersectionality,where I analyze how both feminist and antiracistpolitics
have, paradoxically,often helped to marginalizethe issue of violenceagainst
women of color. Then in Part III, I discuss representationalintersectionality, by which I mean the culturalconstructionof women of color. I consider
how controversiesover the representationof women of color in popularculture can also elide the particularlocation of women of color, and thus become yet another source of intersectional disempowerment. Finally, I
address the implicationsof the intersectionalapproachwithin the broader
scope of contemporaryidentity politics.
I.
STRUCTURAL INTERSECTIONALITY
A. StructuralIntersectionalityand Battering
I observedthe dynamicsof structuralintersectionalityduringa brieffield
study of batteredwomen’s shelters located in minority communitiesin Los
Angeles.” In most cases, the physical assault that leads women to these
shelters is merely the most immediate manifestationof the subordination
they experience. Many women who seek protectionare unemployedor underemployed,and a good numberof them are poor. …
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