The world is not homogeneous
In WGS, the term patriarchy has often been used to explain and diagnose social systems in which power is placed disproportionately in the hands of men. Although the term is an important one for WGS students to understand, it has also been a site of critique, especially for those feminist scholars and activists for whom it is clear that the sexism that perpetuates patriarchy never works outside of other systems of domination. In the lesson, we learned that inequalities associated with political representation and economic power cannot be fully understood if we simply apply a gendered lens. We also learned from a number of activists and researchers about the ways that power and privilege are unevenly distributed. In order to understand how systems of domination are gendered, it’s clear that any robust and indeed socially just model of understanding must recognize the interrelationships between patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, and capitalism’s class structure.
This is where the big idea of this module comes in. Intersectionality is the theory that a number of systems of oppression work together to create specific experiences of discrimination and oppression. What matters most about intersectional analysis is that it reminds us that there is no one-size-fits solution to oppression, and that feminist projects are at their best when they begin with the recognition that women are an extremely diverse and varied group with diverse and varied needs. The assigned readings for this week gave us a sense of the many ways in which women, men, and the rest of us experience the interlocking, or intersecting, nature of various systems of domination.
CHALLENGE ONE: If you use a web browser to search the term “privilege and oppression wheel,” you’ll find a number of images that visualize the social hierarchies that are associated with racism, class bias, and ableism. Explore the different kinds of privilege and oppression wheels and assess them for their ability to draw attention to structures of domination. Do the privilege and oppression wheels that you’ve found on-line adequately represent the social forces of white supremacy or colonialism? How would you use a privilege and oppression wheel to assess social inequalities? What improvements or additions would you add to a privilege and oppression wheel?
CHALLENGE TWO: Find out more about Poverty in Canada by exploring this factsheet prepared by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Pay attention to the way that the report identifies poverty as a structural problem with social solutions rather than an individual problem. If you were in a position to contribute to one of the CWF’s initiatives to end poverty, which one would you support and why?
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