Blogging the Theoretical

Gender – a point of oppression in the matrix of domination- final

September 23, 2011 · No Comments

Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought is centered on the idea of gender and gender differences because it is a study of black women’s feminism.  For Collins, the term “gender” has a specific role in the construction of black feminist thought. She puts forth the convincing argument that everyone has an individual standpoint on the world based on his or her specific place in the “matrix of domination”. Collins says; “U.S. black women encounter a distinctive set of social practices that accompany our particular history within a unique matrix of domination characterized by intersecting oppression.” (Collins, 26) What she means by this is that no two black women experience the exact same oppression but because all American black women share intersecting oppressions they can build a collective standpoint. The intersectionality of the matrix of domination implies that all of the different oppressions are linked to each other and build off each other. In the U.S. the different oppressions that can intersect to build even greater oppression are race, class, sexuality, citizenship, religion, and gender. A lower class black female is never thought of as being a woman alone without the other oppressions. For Collins and the construction of black feminist thought the two most important and disadvantaging oppressions that all black women share are race and gender and it is based on these intersecting oppressions that a collective group standpoint is built.

Collins brings up some important distinctions between what it means to be white and female versus black and female and notes that gender construction is different for different races. Historically black women have never been able to split the spheres of their public and private lives because starting during slavery they have had a history of their privacy being violated. This poses a problem for black women and their gender ideology because “the public/private binary separating the family households from paid labor market is fundamental in explaining U.S. gender ideology.” (Collins, 53) It is generally assumed in our society “that real men work and real women take care of families.” (Collins, 53) This causes black women to be thought of as less feminine because they have to work outside their homes and are often the primary breadwinners for their families making their construction of the female gender different. “Framed through this prism of an imagined traditional family ideal, U.S. Black women’s experience and those of other women of color are typically deemed deficient.” (Collins, 53) What Collins is getting at is that of Black women’s sense of the female gender is forced to be constructed differently because of their shared intersecting oppressions of race and gender. This construction of what it means to be a black female is widely accepted and perpetuated by controlling images of black women that were created and are still used by the media to create a completely hegemonic cultural view of black women.

For Collins what the black female gender is conceptualized as comes from a historic inability to split the public and private sphere and is perpetuated by the medias controlling images. This creates a shared intersection of oppression for all black women that puts them in a unique standpoint in the matrix of domination. Black feminists have had a long history of resisting the power the matrix of domination creates against them. It is believed that the only way to get rid of the oppressions of the matrix of domination is to transform the unjust social institutions that that perpetuate the different oppressions. Maybe a start could be to remove the controlling images that help perpetuate the difference of black female vs. white female from the media, one of our unjust social institutions.

Patricia Hill Collins (2008) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge

-Violet Batcha

Categories: Group Three · Violet

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