Race Ethnicity Gender and Class Journal

Pages: 5 (1596 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Race Class Gender

The intersection of race, class and gender determine social, political, and economic power. Our readings solidify my awareness of the multiple methods and modes of oppression. Each of these authors centers an argument on one or more of these facets, all reaching similar conclusions of the causes and effects of racism, heterosexism, misogyny, and classism.

In "Prisons for Our Bodies, Closets for Our Minds," Patricia Hill Collins argues for a "black liberatory politics that affirms black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexualities," (p. 89). This politics affirms Otherness in a total, all-encompassing way. We need to extricate ourselves from many different -- and intersecting -- types of hegemony including white, rich, male, and heterosexual hegemonies. What is remarkable about Collins's analysis is the ways in which the author draws connections between the different forms of social oppression, showing that they are inextricably linked. Hers is a call towards solidarity, asking all women and all persons of color to recognize their own role in perpetuating -- or overcoming -- oppression.

Collins draws dramatic analogies between imprisonment and the closet. Racism is a real and symbolic prison, notes Collins. In the United States, a shocking percentage of prison inmates are persons of color -- making the analogy an apt one. A closet imposed on homosexuality is also a prison, albeit an ideological one. Prisons, notes Patricia Hill Collins, "breed intolerance," (p. 91). Breaking free is a collective metaphor for multiple types of liberation.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Journal on Race Ethnicity Gender and Class Assignment

I appreciate Collins emphasis on breaking free. Empowerment is a keyword in hers, and in all the other readings. It is one thing to acknowledge oppression and quite another to combat it, overcome it, and reverse it. One of the ways in which African-American youth broke free from the bonds of institutionalized racism is via the arts: "With few other public forums to share their outrage at a society that had so thoroughly written them off, Black youth used rap and hip-hop to protest the closing door of opportunity in their lives and to claim their humanity in the face of the dehumanization of racial segregation and ghettoization," (Collins p. 92).

In the Invention of Heterosexuality, Katz also focuses on breaking free. Focusing on liberation from the heterosexist closet, Katz calls for a deeper examination of social constructs and norms that define sexuality. I had never before contemplated the extent at which heterosexuality is socially constructed and how much of our sexual socialization we take for granted. For example, the language we use to describe our sexuality signals the depth of our heterosexism. Katz explores the "history, power, and social uses of language" noting how words can be used to victimize or to liberate (p. 2). Sexuality and sexual identity are constructed using various modes, stemming from both the personal and the collective realms. Self-image informs our interactions with others, and vice versa. Just as Collins refers to the artificial creation of deviance, so too does Katz. A person is not socially deviant because he or she is gay; the label of deviance is completely artificial.

The heterosexist hegemony has become so deeply entrenched in the human public consciousness, the taboo of homosexuality seems almost as permanent as a tattoo. I cannot help but think about the slow pace of progress made with regards to rights for African-Americans, rights for people who like to sleep with people of the same gender, and especially rights for women.

Even after reading about the multiple forms of social oppression, I truly believe that the ultimate barrier of oppression is the one related to gender. As racial barriers crumble -- however slowly -- the final frontier of equality is that of gender. Even as income disparity climbs in the United States, sexism remains a more entrenched prejudice than classism. Women around the world and in many if not most social circles continue to be "the second sex." As Levy shows in "Get a Life, Girls," women are often partner to their own oppression. Sometimes, female complicity in patriarchy bothers me until I remember the interplay between gender and power. How many women are willing to die for what they believe in? I do not believe that enough women around the world realize they can empower themselves by using nonviolent resistence.

This is especially true in the developing world. Denise Brennan deals with a difficult subject in "Sell Sex for Visas: Sex Tourism as a Stepping-stone to International Migration." A discussion of the phenomenon is rich and multilayered, touching on the intersection between gender, class, race, and power. Brennan's research reveals the complex ways in which women and especially women of color and poor women survive in a patriarchal world. Complex emotions arise upon reading Brennan's text. Yet I know that it is a matter of life and death for women in the developing world: they either conform to patriarchy or they die.

"Get a Life, Girls" reveals the ironies in the popular culture norms of femininity and female sexuality. I appreciate Levy's candid analysis of popular culture imagery, showing the complex and contradictory messages that young females receive from the media, from marketers, and even from friends and relatives. On the one hand, females are supposed to be as bombshell sexy as possible and on the other hand, not rely on that sexuality to achieve political and economic power. The dichotomies of female empowerment can be frustrating indeed.

Levy uses the term "raunch culture" to describe the prevailing cultural phenomenon and "mystique" of female sexuality and power. In her analysis of Paris Hilton, Levy calls her "the perfect sexual celebrity for this moment, because our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure," (p. 3). Paris's sexuality is artificially created, bought, and sold. Raunch culture, as Levy describes it, "is not essentially progressive; it is essentially commercial. It isn't about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality," (p. 3). Reading Levy's "Get a Life, Girls," I wonder whether raunch culture represents a necessary stepping stone from the old days of complete objectification of women to one in which women are taking back and literally owning their own power. This is not to suggest that Paris Hilton is an empowering role model necessarily, but that her being absolutely in control of her brand, her image, and her body makes her at least one step better than Marilyn Monroe. Monroe seems passive and submissive compared with Paris Hilton, whose attitude conveys a sense of sexual liberation that is plastic but still powerful.

Lareau's Unequal Childhoods raises poignant points about the social and political constructions that govern access to wealth, class mobility and social power. The most difficult of the readings, Unequal Childhoods addresses multilayered aspects of social privilege. It would be unfair to criticize those born privileged -- like Paris Hilton, for instance -- any more than it would be to chastise those born into poverty or to intellectually impoverished households. Lareau does not, however, seem to be making any judgment. The author simply points out the ways "individuals carry out their lives within a social structure," (p. 14). Roles are proscribed, which in turn influence behavior and communication patterns. Choice of occupation and even what to study in school are all influenced by socialization and normative behavior.

Yet what all these readings show is how possible -- even necessary -- it may be to break out of those proscribed roles. Forging a new personal identity in the midst of social stigma is one of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake. This is why creating subcultures offers a social support system that is unparalleled. In a world in which families may disown their children who come out of the closet, subcultures are the key to forming healthy identities. Subcultures create positive self-concepts… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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