Concept Of Intersectionality

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Universalism refers to the concept which argues that some ideologies have can be generalized and are thus applicable universally. Marxists feminism is one of the most popular examples of such a universalist theory in feminism, which states the capitalist mode of production as the inherent reason for female oppression in the world (Glenn 1992: 1). The concept has been challenges heavily in the postmodern world, which presents the argument that theories are merely metanarrative that has been overgeneralized, while in reality, these theories represent only a proportion of the population or the reality they intend to explain (Glenn 1992). The concept development has also emerged in the theory of feminism, where initially, feminism as a concept argued against the patriarchal nature of the society, which made power dynamics between the men and the women unequal.

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The intersectionality concept in feminism is, therefore, a concept, which argues that the nature of oppression of every woman is different, owing to the different social institutions, which exert influence and oppression to a different degree on different women in relation to their class and color. According to Cole (2018), intersectionality can be defined as the simultaneous experience of categorical and hierarchical classifications including but not limited to race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality. The concept, therefore, argues that the oppression of women by one institution cannot be looked at in isolation, as such institutions are mutually dependent on one another and through such mutual repression, resulting in the individual experiences of oppression for women.

The emergence of the concept of intersectionality is important, as it looks at the deep ranging reasons and tools of oppression used by social institutions against women. Looking at the theory of intersectionality as developed within Marxist feminist, the initial theory has evolved from arguing that the capitalist mode of production requires men to labor their hours for the bourgeoisie capitalist production and to pacify the labor men (Glenn 1992). The women work at homes to care of the men, provide them entertainment, rear the next generation of the working class and become a way of venting the stress of the working class by providing them with an ability to exert their greater power and dominance within the household (Glenn 1992: 3). It has evolved into the idea that race and gender are further social constructs which act to further the oppression faced by women, providing additional layers to their level of oppression (Glenn 1992: 31).

These institutions, such as the race, class, and gender, are heavily interlinked and work together rather than in their separate ways to increase the oppression of women. Under such a case, a working-class black woman is most heavily oppressed under the system of capitalism (Glenn 1992: 32). He points out that in America, African American, Hispanic, and Japanese women are more likely to get jobs related to domestic work, because of limited opportunities, economic need and educational and qualifications limitations (Glenn 1992: 32). All such factors, such as economic need, limited opportunity, and educational qualifications are reinforced by institutions such as race, class, and gender. Thus, it is a continuous vicious cycle where multiple factors and institutions work to maintain the unfair power dynamics between men and women in a patriarchal society.

Not only do social institution oppress women directly through limiting opportunities on different levels based on additional, interlinked factors such a race and class, but also, these institutions put pressure on men to conform to the power dynamics of the patriarchal society and assume their superior position. Miller (2014) for example points out that according to research, men who tend to take paid paternity leaves are at a higher chance of developing deeper bonds with their children, which contribute to the overall health of their children, but on the other hand, these men stand to lose in terms of their careers in the long run. Too much attention to family obligations by the man of the family has a social stigma attached to it which causes such a loss in long-term career opportunities that are similar to those faced by most women (Miller 2014). Social institutions insinuate the abnormality ea put forward by Bennett (2014), who writes on the conventions by stay at home dads, and argues that these fathers feel the need for such conventions to connect with other like-minded fathers, simply because there are very few of them in the first place.

Intersectionof such fathers, where the home is the natural abode of the mother, and the workplace the natural abode of the father. This can be seen from the idality presents a more diverse spectrum of the variables, which contribute to the many layers of discrimination faced by women across the world. Such a development in the understanding of female oppression is important, as it highlights that no one institution can be targeted in isolation in an attempt to decrease the oppression of women and that equality between the sexes requires a complete transformation of all social institutions rather than just one.

Gender is a concept in sociology, which argues that gender is a social construct, which is different from the biological identities of a man or women. As such, the most sociologist would argue that the identification of self as male or a female is not determined by physiological characteristics, but rather from the individual identifying as a man or women. An individual born as a male can develop a feminine or a female identity while an individual born female may grow up to identify as a male with masculine characteristics (Messner 2000). However, sociologists also greatly emphasize the role of the social institutions, such as the family, religion, culture, education and the government, in determining and influencing such gender identities. As such, the term Doing Gender refers to the idea that the society inculcates gender identities into individuals starting from a very early age through the process of socialization.

The influence of social institutions starts from birth and is so strong that the gender differences between the sexes are seen as natural. Scholars like Messner (2000) argue that the socialization process instills and reinforced gender identities and boundaries into individuals from the primary and secondary level of socialization, which is the family and the school (Messner 2000: 781). The institution of the traditional family, for example, represents already available role models for gender identities and behavior, as the father is the patriarch of the household, and is responsible for breadwinning, and identifies with ‘masculine’ characteristics such as dominance and strength (Messner 2000). The mother, on the other hand, is traditionally responsible for the household, and for bearing and rearing children, and identifies with a more feminine characteristic of being gentle, caring, delicate and motherly. Looking at the argument, we can understand how the family affects the gender socialization of children into their prescribed gender identities.

The daughter is encouraged to follow the mother while the son is to act as the father. Even the toys of the children reinforce these gender differences, where the boys are given toys like cars and guns, while the girls are given Barbie dolls and cooking sets to play with, actions which work to reinforce gender roles and identities (Messner 2000). Boys are also dressed a certain way which is more masculine and different than the way girls are dressed. These roles are reinforced in secondary socialization, by the education system, wherein schools, uniforms for boys involve shorts while those for girls involve skirts (Messner 2000). Even the media, with its portrayal of women as feminine and beautiful, and of men as masculine and strong, work to reinforce these gender differences in roles further.

Additionally, the influence of such social institutions is so strong, that not only adults act to reinforce gender identities and differences between boys and girls, but also that children at the age of four to five years old are also active participants in determining these boundaries between genders (Messner 2000: 765). He argues that across cultures, the reconstruction and reinforcement of dominant gender ideologies is a salient feature that is reinforced by social institutions, and even the children themselves, where girls and boys identify as different (Messner 2000). Messner (2000) observed a group of four to five-year-olds in a youth soccer opening ceremony and concluded that gender differences between the boys and the girls were a highly salient feature of the group, where each group member was acting to reinforce the differences between the genders (Messner 2000: 781).

However, there are always instances of exception, which have been increasing in the recent decades. Gender roles and differences have started to blur, owing to economic conditions and mainly to the emergence, and relatively increasing acceptance of the LGBT community. Chesley (2011) conducted a study in which she interviewed 42 individuals, who essentially formed 21 married couples, all of whom had stay at home dads and working mothers. She argues that for most of the couples, it was economic circumstances such as job instability for the man, which leads to such domestic arrangements that are essentially non-traditional. As such, Chesley (2011) argues that such conditions work to ‘undo’ gender in a way that it takes away the stereotypical roles of the man and the woman in the household, which in turn leads to a shift in power dynamics to a more equitable distribution of power within the family (Chesley 2011: 642). Moreover, such unconventional roles as followed by parents lead to children with less determined gender ideologies.

Similarly gender queer is a modern concept, which acts to redo and undo gender from its conventional understandings. The emergence and growing popularity and strength of the LGBT community have added a layer to gender dynamics by redoing gender. Nanney and Brunsma (2017) for example argue that the need for identifying gender queer with a third gender rather than the two dominant gender ideologies lead to the movement of redoing gender, where the third gender was free to form its fluid gender ideology and characteristics (Nanney and Brunsma 2017: 145). They argue that the emergence of the gender queer, and the need to adjust admittance policies in universities to cater to the gender queer, resulted in a redoing of gender, where admittance policies were forced to realize the different and diverse characteristics of a third gender, which was extremely different from the two conventional identities of gender as being inherently male or female.

As such, the dominant ideology of the society, which acts to govern social institutions, still defines and reinforces gender identities and roles according to the conventional understandings of the differences between a male and a female. However, things are changing with the emergence stay at home dads, sharing of financial and domestic responsibilities by all members of the household, and of the LGBT and gender queer community, as they become more active in voicing their opinion and gain greater representation in the society. These agents act to undo and redo gender.

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