Second Wave Of Feminism - Race And Social Status



Identity politics brings up a key question in second-wave feminism: should women be treated differently or the same? 


The problem is really threefold. 

  1. First, the equality/difference dichotomy relates to whether women want equality with men or different acknowledgment for their distinct abilities while pursuing equality. 
  2. Second, the equality/difference dichotomy refers to the metaphysical issue of women's nature: are all women fundamentally the same or do they vary significantly? 
  3. Sex/gender and sisterhood show some of the benefits and drawbacks of equality as sameness; the discussion of identity politics elucidates some of the benefits and drawbacks of concentrating on diversity. 

Despite the fact that there is no feminist consensus on how to address these problems, there is widespread agreement that race, class, sexuality, and disability should all be included in feminist theory. 


Critical race theorists have posed the issue, 

"What is race?" over the last three decades. 

They questioned the notion of race as a natural category in the process. 

  • People of the same race, as a natural category, will have at least one trait in common – and are often believed to share several. 
  • A natural or inherent inferiority would be one of the hallmarks of a racist culture. 
  • For example, early twentieth-century white social scientists looked for a biological explanation for black people's inferiority. 
  • Critical race theorists undermined the naturalistic basis for social inferiority by deconstructing the biological grounds for race. 
  • Furthermore, rather of being a natural or biological concept, race became a political one. 
  • In a racist culture, the political category of race is mainly determined by those in power or those who are favored by the racist system. 
  • Anti-black racism, for example, includes acts of violence and unfair stereotyping of black people, as well as the giving of undeserved advantages to white people. 


Feminism may discover similarities between sexism and racism, or it may discover that it participates in or benefits from racism. 

For feminist thought and liberation theory in general, class oppression presents a unique set of challenges. 

  • One's social class is often assumed to be the product of one's own efforts (or lack of efforts). 
  • This is undoubtedly true for some individuals, but the bulk of us owe our social position to rigid social institutions that allow certain people to progress while preventing others from doing so. 
  • Status as a member of a certain social class becomes almost unassailable. 
  • Even if a person is able to advance up the social ladder, some signs of lower class position may persist. 
  • Vocabularies, preferences, school pedigrees, fashion sense, and other elements of one's public presentation may reveal one's lower-class origins and limit one's potential to rise. 


This example demonstrates that class is more than simply an economic position; it is also a social status or social mark. 

The difficulty for feminists is to comprehend how class influences or influences sexist oppression, as well as what concerns a feminist theory based on class should prioritize. 


The first efforts in second-wave feminism to acknowledge the impact of racism and classism on women's lives provided a kind of building block approach. 

  • Each new type of tyranny was piled on top of the previous ones. 
  • Occasionally, debates would erupt about which kind of tyranny was the most heinous, or who had it the worse. However, the building block methods are ultimately ineffective. 
  • They promote rivalry among people fighting for freedom, as each group uses limited resources and compares its position to that of others. 


Alternative models use the terms "intersections" and "interconnections". 

  • KimberlĂ© Crenshaw's work on intersectional thinking is addressed. 
  • Crenshaw demonstrates the limits of thinking in terms of race or gender, as well as the limitations of thinking in terms of building blocks. 
  • We can identify some of the elements of oppression that impact women because they are "black women," not simply because they are "black" and "women," by thinking about the intersections of forms of oppression. 

By focusing on the failings of social and political theory and practice rather than race, class, and gender identities, intersectional thought goes beyond the proliferation issue of identity politics.


~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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