Reading Summary for November 4: Online Feminism and Intersectionality

intersectionality 2

Intersectionality Mapping the Movements of a Theory
by Carbado, Crenshaw, Mays, Tomlinson

The authors reflect, examine, and seek for the possibilities of the theory of intersectionality to critically question the system of discrimination and oppression. It is a theory that attempts to illustrate the complexity of the social movements that are supposed to empower the socially constructed and marginalized group of people. They are complex, as the groups cannot be defined by single framework, such as gender, race, or social status, but they are the aggregation of them. Intersectionality is an attempt to disclose the hidden dynamics of the institutionalized inequalities in the society. The authors bring in the discussion of scholars who have adopted or contested the criticisms against the theory since it was first introduced in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She introduced and developed this theory not only to map out the complexity of the unequal power relations, but also to point out the irony that movement of resistances were themselves reproducing “legitimized marginalization” which they were supposed to fight against.

I wonder, however, whether not creating marginalized group of people is possible or not. Social Dominance Theorists claim that group-based discrimination is an inevitable consequence of human living in the society.

“Stated most simply, social dominance theory (SDT) argues that intergroup oppression, discrimination, and prejudice are the means by which human societies organize themselves as group-based hierarchies, in which members of dominant groups secure a disproportionate share of the good things in life (e.g., powerful roles, good housing, good health), and members of subordinate groups receive a disproportionate share of the bad things in life (e.g., relatively poor housing and poor health)”
(Sidanius & Pratto, 2012, p. 419)

Sidanius and Pratto (2012) also argue that “various forms of group-based oppression (e.g., sexism, racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, classism) should be seen as specific instantiations of group- based social hierarchies” (p. 420). Thus, as long as we human form any kind of group, creation of marginalized is an inevitable result. Still, as Carbado et al. (2013) point out the characteristic of “work-in-progress” as one of the themes of the theory of intersectionality, it is a quite meaningful and essential “method and a disposition, a heuristic and analytic tool” (Carbado, Crenshaw, Mays & Tomlinson, 2013, p. 303) in order to always be aware that we are never free from marginalization.

Here is a short discussion by feminist bloggers. One speaker says that online space is the place for one to be able to engage in conversation and to do movement building.

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is
by John Scalzi

Scalzi draw out what it means to be the “privileged” person in the society by using a game as a metaphor of the real world dynamic. According to him, in the game named The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting for the character whose goal is to win the game. Simple contrary to this setting is “Gay Minority Female.” As a Straight White Male, one can easily gain points, level up, and receive help when needed. However, although the player wishes to try to play the higher difficulty setting, since it is given automatically, one has no other choice. Also, you have only one chance to play the game, as that is life. Throughout his writing, he is attempting to explain the intersectionality. In The real world, if your setting is a “Straight White Male,” there is also a “Gay Minority Female,” “Disabled Female Muslim,” “Working-class Latin Mother”….and the list goes on.  

Queer Female of Color: The highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital
by Lisa Nakamura

Scalzi’s article was quite effective as he provided his audiences, which the majority is White Straight Male often ignorant about topic like intersectionality, a critical way of identifying their privilege. However, Nakamura points out that his use of the game culture is problematic as it legitimizes that gaming is a world for White Straight Male and that excludes people like Black Female gamer Aisha Tyler. Nakamura criticizes that Scalzi’s metaphor of White Straight Male as an automatically given setting one can never change is obscuring them to recognize their power over people in more difficult settings and freeing them to feel responsible for the oppression they consciously or unconsciously command. Also, as a female Feminist scholar, Nakamura emphasizes that she and her other colleagues are working at the “highest difficulty setting” trying to be heard by the public, while White Straight Male writers like Scalzi gain attention so easily.

Toxicity: The True Story of Mainstream Feminism’s Violent Gatekeepres
by Aminah Khan

Is Twitter Toxcic?

The sphere of social media is being “toxic” is a sign that the marginalized are challenging to speak against the privileged. Twitter has been called “toxic” by mainstream (white) feminists who were called out as “privileged” or “ignoring the race perspective” by feminists of color. However, as Khan argues, social media sphere is never independent from the dynamics of oppression in the real world. Thus, that the tendency to portray women of color as “menacing” “scary” “threatening” or “toxic” is also brought into the social media sphere is not a new phenomenon. The desire to control the place you live and silence the Other is an inevitable consequence, both online and offline, where hierarchy exists. Although feminists has been claimed the importance of intersectionality, unfortunately, they themselves are trapped in the shackle they were to remove. Khan also points out the limited platforms open to feminists of color, such as Twitter and personal blogs, compared to mainstream feminists who have the platform to speak and to be heard by the public. (pic)

Discussion Questions

  1. Nakamura says that “today there is wide agreement that online communities create real affective environments with real economic value.” How could this phenomenon adopted and utilized in order to expand the voice of the marginalized, such as the Black women who know how to combine their Afrocentric forms of cultural capital and ICT, and bring the emerging change in the offline world out to offline?
  2. Demarginalization is an ever ending work. How can intersectionality be better understood and incorporated by people like Scalzi?
  3. Do you see possibilities for just world through the digital world?

Works Cited

Brock, André, Lynette Kvasny, and Kayla Hales. 2010. “Cultural Appropriations of Technical Capital.” 
Information, Communication & Society 13 (7): 1040–59.

Carbado, Devon W., Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Vickie M. Mays, and Barbara Tomlinson. 2013. 
“INTERSECTIONALITY: Mapping the Movements of a Theory.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 10 (02): 303–12. Khan, Aaminah. 2014. “Toxicity: The True Story of Mainstream Feminism’s Violent Gatekeepers.” 

Nakamura, Lisa. 2012. “Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming 
Rhetoric as Gender Capital.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology. <>.

Scalzi, John. 2014. “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” <

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About tigerkay

Hi, my name is Kay. Interested in immigration, race, and diversity in the society we live. For now, I will be focusing on mainly writing stories about people living around Fukuoka, Japan who have cultural/national/racial roots other than Japan. Through this listening (interview) and writing process, I wish to find out how differences foster creativity, imagination and tolerance in the society, what it means to be living in a place where one is the minoroty, how we can accept differences, and how we can all live together by respecting each other.

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