Professor speaks about intersectional feminism

Dawn Hinton discusses intersectional feminism in America with students and staff. Vanguard Photo | Adam Stepanski

Sociology professor Dawn Hinton stresses the importance of intersectionality and black feminism. According to Hinton, intersectionality affects every person. Intersectionality is the point at which all a person’s identities interact and influence their life experiences.

Hinton said that the experiences of white women are different from black women’s, which are different from Asian women’s. Beyond race and gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and education levels can even be taken into consideration.

“All of these things work together at how we see the world,” Hinton said. “It is impossible for me to wake up and say I don’t want to be black today. … I can’t say I don’t want to be a woman.”

Hinton shared some statistics about what men and women of the white, Hispanic and black race groups make at work in the United States. She noted that black women get paid the least out of any group, even though women in general are more likely than men to get a bachelor’s degree.

“This helps us to see economic inequality does not fall evenly on everybody,” Hinton said. “Everybody doesn’t get their fair share.”

She stressed the importance of talking about race despite how uncomfortable people feel talking about it. Black feminism, Hinton says, allows black women to use the images that portray them to create realistic and accurate images of themselves.

“There is power in being able to define who you are,” Hinton said.

Hinton said she is passionate about how the way black women are portrayed in the world influences how they are treated. In her presentation, she described different types of black women present in media.

The first that she covered was the mammie, the caretaker or domestic worker. She discussed how the mammie is viewed as asexual and placed in a servant’s role. To prove her point, Hinton asked the audience whether they knew about Mrs. Butterworth syrup. The shape of the bottle is in the image of a mammie, with the apron, heavy set figure and hair in a scarf.

Other examples she gave were the matriarch, welfare recipient and jezebel. The matriarch is the strong independent woman who is thought to castrate men and often be a single mom who works but supposedly does not spend enough time with her children.

The welfare recipient was painted most aggressively by former president of the United States Ronald Reagan. He coined the stereotype of a “welfare queen” who sat at home, living off government benefits and doing nothing. The last image Hinton described was the jezebel, the sexually aggressive black woman.

Hinton played the music video of “Trip Drill” by Nelly to explain her point of the image portraying black women as sexual objects. After discussing the images, Hinton talked about safe spaces for black women, including music, writing and friendships with other black women.

She read several poems, including Sojourner Truth’s poem “Ain’t I a Woman.” Hinton also played songs such as Salt-NPepa’s “None of Your Business.” Hinton said such spaces show ways black women have created their own realistic definitions for themselves. S

he also spoke about Billie Holiday, who sang “Strange Fruit” in clubs where black people could perform but not take part as an audience. Holiday sang as her form of protest against discrimination and lynching of black people. Hinton’s goal was to educate others of the reasons black feminism is so important for black women and why other people should understand it.

“There’s power behind having the ability to define yourself for yourself,” Hinton said, “particularly if you come from a community where people have historically defined you in ways that have been objectifying, in ways that have been not favorable.”

Olivia Nelson, a pre-occupational therapy sophomore, said the lecture opened her eyes to a lot of issues. She said she enjoyed the discussion of music and literature and how they give black women a way to connect with each other.

“I don’t think intersectionality is talked about enough because I really wouldn’t have been able to find it before this lecture,” Nelson said.

Melissa Vennix
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