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Intersections Small and Large

When thinking of my own life, I have never really realized how many things need to "come together" to make me who I am in a social context. Our society is so complex and we are such social beings that every historical event has led to my "place" on earth at this time. I feel because of how modern-day American society runs, my race, class, gender, and sexuality play a role in how I perceive the outside world and how the outside world perceives me.

Take my sexuality for example. I am "defined" as a heterosexual female. However, what does this mean? In previous readings from the Ore text, we learn that heterosexuality is socially constructed in such strict terms, but I feel that it is a part of who I am somehow. In this society, it somehow places me at an advantage in certain arenas over someone who is not heterosexual with regards to financial obligations, options for marriage and benefits, and the lack of discrimination I feel in my surroundings. I know this to be true, but I don't know why there is such emphasis on it. I have subconsciously simply "accepted" this to be true.

My sexuality also intersects with my class. I have more co-health care options as I enter into the workforce with my spouse, I will have more options for jobs because I am not discriminated against by homophobics in positions of hiring power. There have been laws to banish such ridiculous practices, but it still exists. Again, I cannot talk about my class without regards to my race and gender.

My race and gender intersect with my class. Again in this society, unfortunately race and gender still play a part in our life opportunities. Because of my gender (female) I may be paid less or discriminated against in the workplace. I will also have the perceived extra burden (as talked about in the readings) of extra housework because of my gender. My race (European-American) also plays a role, but for me it has been in a neutral, therefore positive way. I have never felt burdened because of my skin tone, so I can assume that is an advantage.

These categories play out in both small and large arenas, from within my individual self, to conversations with small groups, to my University classes, to my city, state, region, country, and even world. These intersections leave us confused and challenge the notion that everyone has a set "place" in society. If we can deconstruct these categories and have everyone understand how superficial they all are, we can promote change and simply become human beings.

Comments

I would have to admit that i am a lot like you in the since that i never
realized that there was a social construct that "made me who i am." Being a
pillaged white male and growing up with people of similar background the
struggles associated with race, class, gender, and sexuality rarely, if
ever, came up. It was something we could not relate to and removed from our
daily lives. because of this, i feel my social classification has been
reinforced and i too "fell that it is a part of who i am," although unsure
of its complexities. i believe that it is a beautiful notion that "if we can
deconstruct these categories and have everyone understand how superficial
they all are, we can promote change and simply become human
beings;"however, i believe first that we have to point it out to people
like myself. I feel comfortable speaking for a large population in saying
that we simply do not know. its hard to discuss things that are intangible
and nonexistent let a lone "fix" them.

I think you made some great points as well and even though some of us may have already completed or are completing the readings, it is still an important issue to bring up. I don't think many people realize the effects our society has on our until we are put into situations that make us aware of it. This probably explains why you never realized the effects of your race, gender, class, and sexuality. Race, class, gender and sexuality are so deeply rooted in our society that when someone claims to be something outside our norm, we categorize them because it is how we make sense of the world. I also think that Sadie's observation about individual's belief because there are some people who can cope with those whose opinions are seemed out of the norm but only because those individual's belief are the norm of society.

I think you make some important points. Although to us in this class, that have completed (or are completing) the readings, this all sounds quite familiar, I do think it is one of the most difficult barriers to cross for people that are not involved in these types of social examinations

All too often, when discussing with people race, class, or gender discrimination, I will receive a response like "well that's a whole different thing" if I try to incorporate one of the others into the conversation. It is really difficult for a lot of people to understand that perhaps their white privilege connects strongly to their sexism or their heterosexism. It's a common defense for "quietly conservative" individuals: I'm not pushy, me carrying my beliefs doesn't hurt anyone, I'm entitled to beliefs and respect for those beliefs just like anyone else. What they don't realize is that those beliefs are privileged, and usually exclusionary. Even if they don't feel like they are actively projecting their beliefs or using them to hurt others, being in the dominant 'belief group' they are doing so just by allowing them to continue and supporting the current exclusionary processes.

I definitely agree that an understanding of intersectionality is essential for change.