What are the culture wars, and what do they have to do with feminism? (Use the Faludi and Heywood readings to find an appropriate definition—whose definition are you using?)
The Culture Wars were two sides fighting for the same thing but didn’t even know it. Both sides are fighting for equality but are letting other problems get in the way of seeing the common goal. White women have more privilege over women because of the color of their skin, but they are not seen as equals with men because in men’s eyes, they are the weaker gender. Black women are at a disadvantage both ways. We are already at a fault because of our gender, but when you throw skin color into the mix, it’s even worse for us. We would have to work twice as hard to reach the white women of our society. Both sides aren’t good enough overall because of their gender.
The most impactful readings to me this semester were Judith Butler: Gender Trouble, José Esteban Muñoz: Disidentifications, and Toni Morrison: Playing in the Dark. All three readings offered very different perspectives and approaches on identity. Butler taught me about gender being a construct and a performance which is used to reinforce the power of the patriarchy. Muñoz taught me a lot about navigating the world of dominant heteronormativity and finding a safe but comfortable place in it. Morrison challenged me to think about the context of identity and how identities relate to and affect each other. I have learned so much this semester. I think a major element that I would add to my former definition of feminism is an emphasis on never mimicking the oppressor in order to gain power. That strategy perpetuates the systemic oppression in place and is not an effective method to empowering others.
Judith Butler is talking about gender as a performance, rather than an identity. She believes gender can be thought of as something we do (all day every day), not who we are. She questions why our bodies are assumed to have an identity. She suggests that there is no gender behind the way we behave but, rather, our behavior is what stabilizes gender identities. She thinks that gender is a social construct and even the term “woman” comes with an assumed universality of oppression for all women– ignoring race, class, sexuality, etc.
In a general sense, I agree that gender is a social construct and a performance. I feel like my existence is a gender performance– even if the goal of that performance is to reject gender expectations and heteronormativity. Elements of this performance include what I wear every day, the tone and pitch of my voice, the way I walk, all of my mannerisms, the way I assert myself, etc etc etc. I feel most aware of my gender performance when at work (a restaurant manager) or when I enter a space that has only men present. I feel consistently aware of the way I present myself in that I want to be true to who I am but I often feel like I have to be aware of how I am being perceived.
In Playing in the Dark, Morrison delves into American literature and, specifically, literary whiteness. Historically, a lot of American literature only included black characters as plot devices. As a reader, this is very clear to Morrison and she can only see the absence of blackness in American literature. She then shifts her perspective to analyze American literature as a writer and sees things very differently. She emphasizes that whiteness and freedom exist greatly in the contrast of blackness and slavery. In other words, whiteness wouldn’t be a concept or an identity without the existence of blackness and freedom was largely seen in contrast to slavery. So, blackness, slavery, and racism actually played a huge role in the shaping of whiteness, white stories, and white perspectives; and in enriching American literature. Additionally, Morrison shines light on the fact the impact of racism on the objects of racists policies is a well-established study but that it should be joined with another, equally important one: the impact of racism on those who perpetuate it. Morrison acknowledges that discussing race in American literature is largely avoided, which is often regarded as the “polite approach” when, in reality, it is in-and-of-itself an act of racism. To treat the topic of color as something to be avoided is to imply that being black is negative while erasing a huge part of that person or character’s identity. I read Beloved for my book report. Playing in the Dark and Beloved are very different pieces of writing in terms of style and content, but there are connections in context and concept. Beloved tells the story of the life of a black woman, Sethe, who was formerly enslaved but who is now “free” and living in Cincinnati with her daughter. Beloved is told on two different planes of time— the present is 1870’s in Cincinnati; and Morrison uses flashbacks told from the perspectives of various characters to detail the devastating experiences of being enslaved 20 years earlier. Both Beloved and Playing in the Dark approach the topics of identity and humanity. The white characters in Beloved are always a reflection of freedom, or the constant lack of freedom that the main characters have. Even when Sethe and her family are living in Cincinnati and considered to be “free,” there is always the trauma of being enslaved looming— the trauma of white men possessing their bodies in more ways than one. Even when they are “free” their freedom looks very different than freedom of the white man and there is the constant fear of losing that freedom. In this way, Morrison is exploring black and white identities in a similar fashion as in Playing in the Dark— that is, identities existing by contrasting one another.
What do you need to know about in order to contextualize and discuss your subject? Meaning, what academic subjects does your project relate to? Through research at the library and on the web, identify the different facets of your project, including whether it concerns contemporary news/events, race, gender, sexuality, history, important countries (the US, India, China, etc.), social status/class, media (which media? film, broadcast tv, streaming shows, social media) and any other salient factors.
The hypersexualization of black women’s bodies has been a subject fought through the years since the 1600s when slave women and children were put on display due to their large buttocks, lips, and hips. Since then, the image of black women in the United states and all over the world has been coveted for their sex appeal, while simultaniously being mocked and ridiculed through history. According to Connie Johnson’s research, “images of minority women are distorted to fit the dominant group’s ideals and cultural relevance, which affect the identity of minority women.”(5). Johnson’s research on this subject focuses mainly on magazines, where black women were seen as being representative of only 4.7% of images. These images, though low, have a huge impact on black girls who are being fed this white washed image of those of their race throughout their lives. Featurism was very obviously applied in these select few women, as select black features deemed as unattractive such as large noses and kinky-curly hair were ostracized. The featurism and hypersexualization of certain features are still shown today, where social media plays a big part in it. Things such as “blackfishing”, a term made up by black twitter to represent white women who use select black features as a dressing tool for likes and attention, are still in use today. White influencers on social media are known to get lip injections to plump their lips up, melatonin injections to make their skin darker, and surgery in order to give the appearance of rounder buttocks. This sends the message that black women are only accepted in this society if body parts that are hypersexualized by men and women alike are present. This also gives the impression that while black women are looked down upon for having these features, women of other racial groups will be praised and given more opportunities because of these same features.
Material feminism puts capitalism and patriarchy as the focal point of women’s oppression. Gender is a social construct and material feminism is one tool used to construct it. Gender roles come from society. what society tells us woman should do and what men to do. Gender roles are like women being the caretaker of the children and care for the house and men being the breadwinners and going to work and mow the lawn.