5 Concepts Every Feminist Should Know

Do you consider yourself a feminist?  If so, here are five important terms you should know to educate yourself on the many movements that stem from feminism.  With knowledge behind these concepts, you can help do something about the many forms of oppression in our society today.

  • Systemic Forms of Inequality

The three most commonly talked about forms of inequality in today’s society are race, class and gender.  These inequalities are not just descriptors used when one person or group attacks another person or group because of a difference in race, class, gender.  They are disparities ingrained into our social and economic structures.  To fully combat them, we must combat the socioeconomic system itself.

  • The Matrix of Domination

The matrix of domination is defined as the intermingling of all the different systemic forms of inequality.  As previously discussed, these are not separate forms of oppression; they combine within a societal structure to subjugate certain sections of society, some more than others.  As described by Margaret Andersen and Patricia Collins, it is a “system of simultaneous, interrelated social relationships” used to oppress certain groups.  It is not possible to fight a single one of these inequalities without also addressing the others, as well as related social differences like sexuality, ethnicity, and disabilities.

  • Color-Blind Racism

Color-blind racism is a recently developed form of racism that occurs when non-oppressed groups, usually white people, proclaim that they see no difference in races at all, and that racial differences don’t matter anymore.  Those who adopt this stance believe they are fighting racism because they assume seeing differences in race can only lead to negative outcomes; in fact, the propagators of color-blind racism are furthering racial oppression by refusing to recognize and help already existing racial disparities.  We cannot fix the socioeconomic disparities surrounding racial differences without first acknowledging that there are differences in race.

  • Heterosexism

As opposed to homophobia, the fear of homosexuality, heterosexism can be defined as the established social power and capital granted with heterosexual behavior in our society.  Being heterosexual is the Western societal “norm.”  This can easily be seen in movies, TV shows, or almost any other forms of pop culture.  Being straight is “normal,” anything else is usually “weird” or grossly stereotyped.  

  • Masculinities

There are several different types of masculinities propagated in today’s capitalistic society.  Two main types are “Hegemonic” and “Subordinate” masculinities.  Hegemonic masculinities are those where masculinity is automatically granted to historical authority figures, validating their power and granting social capital.  Subordinate masculinities are similar in that they give social capital to the usually lower-class, blue collar men to whom the masculinities are granted; however, they do not carry with them an unquestionable legitimacy to holding power over other men.  Both masculinities do, however, further gender and racial segregation by awarding white men power in a capitalist society designed around masculinity.

 

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