Tag Archives: intersectionality

Gender, Race, and the Wage Gap: Why Intersectionality Matters

We often talk about the wage gap solely in terms of gender. From the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the argument over whether a wage gap exists at all, we are usually only talking about men vs. women. The wage disparities that many people face, however, have more to do with the intersection of gender and race. White women, the group of people who are most talked about and targeted in the discussions of the wage gap, actually make more money than everybody except white men. Black men make less than white women, and black women make less than black men. Hispanic men make less than black women. Finally, hispanic women are most disadvantaged by the wage gap, making only $0.60 to a white man’s dollar.

Before I continue on with this discussion, I’d like to address some of the confusion that arises when we talk about the wage gap. The wage gap exists and is affected both by race and gender. However, the statistics that are used in order to locate the wage gap vary enormously. Many people argue that choices, not racism or sexism, create the wage gap¹. They argue that men work more hours per week than women and that women tend to enter lower-paying career fields. These arguments have been debunked time and time again². No matter how many outside factors you control for, women make less money than men for doing the same work.

Women are not the only demographic affected  by the wage gap. Race weighs more heavily on wage disparities than gender. But the wage gap is still seen as merely a feminist issue. This is why feminism and other movements for equality need to look at this and many other issues with an intersectional lens. The wage gap affects working women, but it also affects men of color, single-parent families, and poverty levels. Media coverage of the wage gap needs to include these groups that are affected the most, not just focus on white women vs. white men. Feminism does not own the fight against the wage gap. This fight belongs to men and women of color, families in poverty, gay and transgender workers, as well as women everywhere.

For more information on the wage gap and intersectionality, see:

Infographic: The Gender Pay Gap– See What Inequity in Earnings Costs Women and Their Families Each Year and Over Their Lifetimes

Top 10 Facts About The Wage Gap 

Pay Equity and Single Mothers of Color: Eliminating Race-Based and Gender-Based Wage Gap Key to American Prosperity

The Gay and Transgender Wage Gap: Many Workers Receive Less Pay Due to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

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Filed under feminism, gender, identity, politics, privilege, sexism, social justice, Uncategorized

WTF is a Kyriarchy?

If you are familiar with feminism or other movements for justice and equality, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about intersectionality. Intersectionality is an idea in feminist discourse that highlights how forms of oppression do not operate independently of each other. Structures of power and privilege relating to race, gender, sexuality, age, class, and ethnicity all interact in different ways. By being aware of intersectionality in feminist discourse, feminists attempt to create a more inclusive movement for equality.

A more obscure vocabulary word for feminist discourse is kyriarchy. Kyriarchy is a word that is very closely related to intersectionality because it highlights privilege and power relations beyond our traditional dichotomies of oppression, i.e: men over women, white people over people of color. Here is a great definition of kyriarchy in contrast with the traditional “patriarchy”:

Kyriarchy - a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression. 
 
Patriarchy - Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms.  The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves). 
 - Glossary, Wisdom Ways, Orbis Books   New York  2001
Kyriarchy explains why historically oppressed people can also become oppressors in the shifting social contexts of our increasingly intersectional world. Our understanding of social relationships within the kyriarchy does not place the blame for all oppression on rich, white, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual males, but rather holds everyone accountable for contributing to systems of domination and oppression in society. Kyriarchy is complicated because it forces us to confront our own role in the Master/Slave dichotomies that we create and does not define a single innocent victim. It implicates everyone in systems of oppression rather than just blaming the patriarchy, which is why it is the tool that the feminist movement needs to use more often.
As more people are abandoning hope in feminism and creating movements like Men’s Rights, humanism, egalitariansm, and masculinism to stake claims for their own issues of oppression, feminism needs to embrace and promote understandings of oppression through a kyriarchal, rather than patriarchal, lens. The feminist movement has just begun to realize that it will sink very soon without intersectionality. It now needs to spread this knowledge of oppression through intersectionality and kyriarchy in order to work effectively with all victims and perpetrators of oppression.

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Why Men Need Feminism (Part 1)

There is a disturbing trend growing in the movements for gender equality. Most likely a response to the gendered etymology of the word ” feminism,” many people are creating new movements that address issues of gender. From men’s rights activism to egalitarianism to humanism, these movements attempt to call attention to the fact that men today are often just as disadvantaged by our strict gender binaries as women are.

I am a very big supporter of most of the ideals that these movements espouse, however, there are many aspects of these new movements that rub me the wrong way.

MRAs (men’s rights activists) do not work towards achieving equality, but rather work against the gains of feminism because they believe that feminism has diminished their rights. MRAs would benefit from allying with feminism, but instead they create their movement in opposition to it. One of the largest issues that MRAs support is the gender bias that has become part of divorce and custody cases. There is a bias towards giving child custody to the mother in most cases, even when there is no evidence that the father would make a less competent custodial parent. This is one of the biggest issues discussed by MRAs and it is a feminist issue. The problem is not anti-men, pro-women bias in courts. The problem is outdated beliefs about gender roles in marriage and parenting in society as a whole. One of the biggest issues of modern feminism is contesting gender roles and media representation of both men and women.

Another misguided way that people for gender equality are rebranding the movement is by being against feminism but for “egalitarianism” or “humanism”. The concept of egalitarianism is a wonderful one because it addresses not only gender inequalities, but inequalities on the intersectional level. However, many who identify as “egalitarian” create that movement’s label in opposition to feminism. It assumes that feminism means that women want to be privileged over men and that feminist are only concerned with issues that affect women. The label of feminism includes the root word femin- because it was originally begun to make women more equal with men, who were clearly more privileged in society. Today, our levels of privilege are much more complicated. Many claim that since women can vote and attend college, we don’t need feminism. Though earlier waves of feminism have succeeded in earning women rights, less obvious issues of privilege, representation, and gendering still need to be dealt with. Feminism is a movement that has evolved over time, and its current evolution needs to be understood. Feminism is not just for women, not just by women, and not just concerned with issues that affect women. Modern feminism is inclusive to all people and fights against the gender binaries, sexual mores, strict gender roles, racism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormativity that affect men just as much as they affect women. And while there are plenty of issues that affect men and their rights (see Reddit’s MRA group), women, people of color, and LGBTQ people still suffer the most from the patriarchal system of society.

While feminism might benefit from a name change, I don’t think that is the best way to convince people that the movement is more than just a bunch of angry misandrists. Feminism needs to communicate to people outside the feminist movement that it is not just for women. The Good Men Project  is a great venue that attempts to challenge notions about masculinity and men’s rights without being hostile towards feminism. I would also recommend checking out Hugo Schwyzer’s How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong, and Amanda Marcotte’s The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism.

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Class, accessibility, and rebranding feminism

Captain Obvious has brought the news to us this weekend: abortion is not the cause of society’s ills and feminists are not all man-hating, childless, cold-hearted, career-minded bitches.

Today’s feminist movement has tackled so much, but one issue of supreme importance that is still being fought for is a more favorable view of feminism. Criticisms of feminism include the very important fact that it is led primarily by affluent, educated, white, cisgendered women. While movements to include men, women of color, and queer and trans persons have been gaining traction in modern feminism, I believe that one form of intersectionality- class – is too often ignored.

Feminism is stereotypically white and liberal, but it is also affluent. Feminism is lousy with privilege. Feminists are more likely to be college-educated, while the people who need feminism the most, those who are disadvantaged by working-class wages, high costs of childcare, and poor access to reproductive healthcare, are often misinformed about feminism. Breaking down the old stereotypes about bra-burning feminist is the first step in introducing feminism as a tool and an identity to the people who may be most affected by sexism, racism, heteronormativity, lack of representation, and abuses of power committed by our patriarchal systems of government and law enforcement.

This class divide within the feminist movement enforces a traditional binary within anthropology, where the educated, white, affluent person has more power, and therefore speaks on behalf of the disadvantaged person. This speaking on behalf of is a problem that contemporary anthropology tries to address by allowing the subaltern and the disenfranchised to speak for themselves. This is where modern feminism most often fails. The movement is dominated by white, educated, affluent, cisgendered women who are constantly speaking on behalf of the issues that most affect people of color, transwomen, and women in the “third world” or the global South.

One of the most important things that modern feminism can do is rebrand the movement. We need to make feminism not only acceptable, but cool, and cool from many different angles. Books like Jessica Valenti’s Full-Frontal Feminism and Julie Zeilinger’s A Little F’d Up address this issue for a very specific class and racial identity, but fail to reach out to people who may not be willing or even able to read. The ideals of feminism needs to be subliminally introduced earlier, on the Disney Channel, on reality television, in our schools, so that once young people hear what feminism is about, they won’t be automatically turned off by the image of a bra-burning, man-hating, lesbian feminist.

Important links:

Feminist class struggle by bell hooks

Enough middle-class feminism by Carrie Hamilton

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