By Stephanie Gonzalez
Intersectionality is a layering of sorts, meaning it is a multidimensional existence in a society that has set up compounding barriers. Not only is a person facing discrimination regarding one aspect of their identity, but they are facing multiple fractions of discrimination for being either female, colored, LGBT, or all of the above. In a Eurocentric male dominate society women of color are continually regarded as the “others”. A narrative has been created that is not of themselves and has been naively accepted by many. It’s a narrative that dates back to colonial conquest and the violent demeaning locus of control. It continued on even throughout the first wave of women’s rights movement as the issues of women of color were conveniently left out. Women of color had permeated the work force long before white women pushed for a place in it. Women of color worked for little or no pay as they cooked, cleaned, child reared, and did the “dirty work” of the white families that depended on them. We see in Collins writings the push to break free of the oppressions and representations that keep women of color from being able to use the very toilets they are forced to clean. It’s a narrative that continually works against the movement of women of color. If she is successful and independent she is classified as an overachiever and deviant from our patriarchal society, but if she is a single parent or under educated then she is a burden on society. The odds on always against her, that is unless we fight to change it. We see a projection of sexism, racism, and classism that creates intersecting systems of exclusions.
We have seen the issue of intersectionality bleed over to the sphere of feminization of labor. Feminization of labor can take on more than one meaning as it addresses the more than 5% increase of women in the workforce specifically on the factory floor as describe by Caraway, but can also represent the feminization of categories of labor such as dishwashing, housework, childcare, etc. All explanations expose damaging ideologies that attempt to suppress, control, and create glass ceilings for women of color. As we saw in the readings of the female factory workers in Juarez and in Malaysia, there is a devaluing of women as to keep them pliable. Women were not consider fit or dependable enough for supervisor roles. They were indispensable and seen as a better fit for repetitive menial task. They were treated as something other than what they truly were, not fit for motherhood either but more of an objectified sexual tool. Ironically the very narrative that was pushed out onto these female factory workers was used against them as they became a target of violence in Juarez. Their intricately mutilated bodies displayed an outburst of hate towards the sexualized persona they had become. They were not seen as good girls or housewives, or mothers or daughters, but rather renegades that bucked the system and stole jobs from men that fear emasculation. These ideologies continue to penetrate our work culture today when white males see women of color as menial low grade workers, simply there for their sexual indulgences.
Time magazine has an article on sexism and racism in the tech industry that continues to go unaddressed. It speaks of a modern cutting edge industry that continues to lag behind in inclusivity. It mentions CEOs such as Uber’s that has a complete lack of respect for marginalized groups and has no recourse regarding his blatant discrimination towards women of color. It speaks of the history of the tech world and how its foundations are rooted in white men helping white men that continues to permeate the industry today. It mentions that the only exception that has been given to women, is the hiring of some white women as they were seen as daughters, but the line stopped there. The author Ellen Pao, states “Racism, sexism, ageism, transphobia and many other forms of discrimination and exclusion are now part of tech’s core identity and structure” (Pao, 2017). She points out the experiences of women of color that are only offered lower level jobs and the complete lack of respect for women in general. As we have seen throughout history, sometimes these environments become acceptable and even open public discrimination goes unpunished. She speaks of a push for women to speak up and speak out against the injustices waged against them. It is only in exposing the behavior and holding corporations accountable, and refusing to support companies that exclude marginalized groups that we can hope to see change. Pao is the co-founder of Project Include which compiles recommendations on diversity that are given to CEOs in hopes of creating a more diverse work environment. It is an attempt to change the startup culture.
In an article by Crystal Emery (filmmaker and writer) she described being a triple threat to society as a black disabled woman. She wonders what people see first when she enters the room in her mechanized wheelchair, do they see “my disability, my blackness or my gender?” (Emery, 2016). She ask the question of whether J.K. Rowling or Clint Eastwood ever gets accused of plagiarism. She says that many times people in the creative art field will ask, “Did someone else write the film for you?” as if she is incapable of producing quality work by mere fault of her appearance. She points out that every marginalized group is fighting for representation and a place on political agenda, but where does she fall on the map? She feels invisible and left out. Despite her long and successful career in the creative arts, she is still overlooked. She ends the Times Magazine article with a question of “How do we change the limited view of the binoculars into a beautiful kaleidoscope of humanity?”, but I found that she has already answered her own question with her existence, talents, voice, refusal to give into opinions, and pursuit of success. At one point in the article she states that she, “never allowed other’s perceptions to define her capabilities or sense of self” as she built a creative business identity separate from the “armor” people first encounter (Emery, 2016). Her life is a living breathing testimony of the value of marginalized groups. The more they thrive, the more they find a voice and the more they refuse to be over looked is all a march in the right direction. I believe we have to lead by example. As a Hispanic woman pursuing a higher education, I can only hope that my pursuit will pave the way for more women of color to fight for more than what we are given. The buck does not stop here, we must continue to expose the wrongs, continue to fight for a voice and equality, and we must continue to strive for what others believe we cannot achieve.
Emery, Crystal. (2016). I Am a Black Woman with a Disability. Hear me Roar. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4681336/ellen-pao-uber/?iid=sr-link7
Pao, Ellen. (2017). Former Reddit CEO: Toxic Behavior at Uber Reveals Tech’s Existential Rot. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4401986/black-disabled-woman-power/?iid=sr-link4