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There are many different aspects of identity and they have various impacts on our lived experiences. Often, we are judged by society simply by the way we look. It is rare that we are judged by our character when we are first introduced to a person. It isn’t our intent to judge someone just by the first glance of them it a natural thing we simply do it just because we can. Our identity isn’t just from our environmental surroundings and how we were brought up from childhood. It is how we choose to distinguish ourselves from others. We learn from our parents, teachers, and others while growing up, but the decision is entirely up to us on how we choose to identify ourselves. Two assigned aspects of identities that interconnect are Race and Gender. These two aspects of identity tend to impact negative minorities. However, race and gender identity have also been used to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy. In our society being female indicates that you are inferior to your male counterpart. Being a black woman makes you inferior to not only males but also white women, literally at the bottom of the totem pole. Malcolm X once said “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black Woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected woman in America is the Black woman” (Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?). Black women are treated less than simply due to our gender and race, things that were not chosen but given to us at birth. There is absolutely no way we can change who we are, so instead of allowing ourselves to be treated as the ultimate minority, we can stand up for ourselves.
First and foremost, gender stereotypes make people lose their own personal identity. In the media men are usually the breadwinners and they’re the ones who provide for their families, while women are subjected to take care of the house and mind the children. These stereotypes emulate what women are supposed to do, making us seem weak. While racially women of color are looked down on by their female counterparts. In the article “Women of color and Feminism: A History Lesson and A Way Forward” by Anthea Butler, she talks about the “tension between white feminists and feminists of color.” Although feminists essentially want the same thing white feminists find it hard to “embrace, celebrate, and partner with their sisters of color” (Butler). She believes that racism threatens feminism she wants to shed light on the situation and hopefully put race aside so that the feminist movement has a brighter future. Butler wants all women to move forward in a positive direction, color should not play a role in that movement. At the end of the day, all feminists want the same thing, so they should combine forces and ideas for the advancement of women, despite the color of their skin. The whole feminist movement is based on the idea that women and men are equal, and we should be treated like so. Butler’s argument is projected to show that white feminists feel as if they are better than the WOC. The thing that pushed her to speak on the topic is the fact that in a PowerPoint at a Feminist Conference, there was only 1 woman of color shown to represent WOC in the Feminist movement. This angered her because since the beginning of the feminist movement she states, “Women of color never had the luxury of simply focusing on women’s issues.” They always had to take their race into consideration when dealing with the issues. The feminist movement began with women wanting the right to vote, and they wanted to be able to work instead of being stuck at home to tend the house and raise the children. I personally don’t identify as a feminist, I agree with some of their ideas and believe that both men and women should be considered equal, but nothing else beyond that. The way that I present myself, I could be considered a feminist because I’m not easily intimidated by men, and I have no problem speaking up about something I feel is unjust to a group of people. I’m not sure what I have to the movement to make me not want to be a part of it, but I’m simply not intrigued by it. I don’t see the movement as being negative, but due to their lack of representation for WOC, it looks as if we are irrelevant to the program its self.
Predominately, due to the fact men are considered superior to women, we tend to agree with that and stay quiet. In an essay titled Speaking While Female by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, the two talk about “two young female writers who were always quiet during story meetings” for a hit TV series called The Shield. When asked why they stayed quiet during meetings they told Grant to watch what happened when they did try to pitch their ideas during meetings. The result was “almost every time they started to speak they were shot down or interrupted before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought.” (Sandberg & Grant). Constantly being dismissed, interrupted, and in some instances, being completely ignored caused the two women to sit back and hold their ideas for the show in their minds. This constantly happens in our society, women walk a “tightrope” around men to not seem “aggressive.” This is very controversial because who knows what kind of great ideas or inventions that could have been without the intimidation of men. There are infinitely many different ideas that the two women could have had to make the show much better than it was, but due to their lack of confidence when surrounded by men they stayed and watched the show unravel without their ideas.
Furthermore, race and gender identity are intersectional. In our society being a woman automatically makes you lower than your male counterparts. Being a black woman is being substandard to the white female. Being a black woman is considered the lowest of minorities. With that in mind, society never lets us forget that we as black women should feel lesser than all others. For my part, I never believed in that impression. I am a human being; my gender and race shouldn’t have anything to do with the way I am treated. If I feel as if I am treated less than I should be treated I take matters into my own hands. I don’t need others to stand up for me, I believe that I am divine feminine energy and absolutely nothing is going to stand in my way and make me feel unworthy of the way I should be treated.
A memory that makes me cringe when I think about it is of my best friend. She had been with her boyfriend for about two years. I feel as if she was immune to all the discreet racist and sexist comments that he made towards her and sometimes me as well. One episode that I can’t seem to forget is one time I was talking about how I wanted to be a pediatrician when I got older and how hard it was going to be, being in school for 8+ more years. His comment was “You’re a girl you have it easy, just get a sugar daddy and you’ll be fine” if he stopped there would have brushed him off but he continued to say, “But that might be harder for you, considering the way you look”. I automatically knew he was referring to my skin color. This made me FURIOUS, I lost my mind. Growing up being a black girl I was taught at an early age that I would have to work twice as hard because of both my gender and skin tone. The fact that he dismissed my determination to become a doctor and took a jab at the way I looked made me feel mediocre but I didn’t let him see that. I decided if he could do it so could I and I insulted him in ways I would rather not say. While this all happened, I looked to my best friend to see what her response was going to be, but she just looked away as if he didn’t say anything. I haven’t spoken to her since that happened, the situation made me completely lose all respect for her, it felt as if she didn’t even respect herself for allowing him to speak the way he did. It was hard not talking to her but I had standards and I absolutely couldn’t accept that kind of action. My experience is almost similar to Nicole Chung’s experience in her article titled What Goes through Your Mind: On nice Parties and Casual Racism. She was at a holiday dinner with her in-laws when a family friend, whom she’s never met, made a slightly racist comment, asking if anyone has ever told her that she looked like every character from the primetime show Fresh Off the Boat she had no clue how to react to the comment. She was conflicted as to how to reply because of the setting she was in and who she was talking to. She didn’t want to make the situation uncomfortable, she took everyone in the rooms feelings into consideration. The opposite of what I did, I took my feelings into consideration, I was hurt by the comment and I wanted him to feel how I felt. At the end of the day I had no clue what hurt Chung more, whether it was speaking up and making the environment at the dinner tense, or staying silent and basically being ashamed of her ethnicity.
As a WOC from a young age I was taught I would have to work twice as hard for anything I wanted. There were many times I felt cheated because I put my heart and soul into my work and still end up falling short of a white woman. Although having to work twice as hard on every task is a burden, it taught me to persevere, to take all the tasks I encounter head on and not to be afraid of the unknown because I will conquer. The world was never an easy task for me to encounter, and growing up taught me to appreciate that because it made me tougher due to the many obstacle that I faced. Race and Gender identity are two aspects of identity that people see when they first encounter you, immediately making assumptions about you. These two aspects interconnect due to how they have a negative connotation to them, they could either represent white supremacy and patriarchy, or a negative minority.
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