Throughout the semester, a concept that has continuously emerged is the formation of identities. For some people, identities can be created, redefined, and renegotiated, as was the case with the black men who participated in the down low culture where they had sex with men but did not identify as homosexual; these men were able to separate their behaviors from their identities. However, some members of society were not as lucky. For instance, sex workers, once they gained that label, were criminalized and dehumanized; the criminalization of these women stripped them of any ability to recreate their identity because their supposed criminality
The intersectional approach to the formation of identities is very interesting because in today’s society, one’s identity can determine his or her quality of life. The intersectional approach to the formation of identities is important because it is in this argument that we see that terms such as masculinity and femininity are not monolithic terms. The definition of these terms may vary throughout different sectors of the population. The intersectional approach takes into account race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc. to help better understand the lived experiences of certain individuals relative to the lived experiences of other members of society. For instance, a black male will have to deal with racism; a homosexual black male will have to deal with racism, homophobia, and the possibility of being ostracized from his black community by his black community seeing as how religion is central to the African American community and it denounces homosexuality. On the other hand, you may have an affluent, straight, white male; affluent, straight, black male; and a poor, straight, white male. One could assume that because the affluent, straight white male and black male may have a better quality of life because they have access to several resources that influence the quality of life; however, if all of these men walked into the same store at the same time, who do you think would be more likely to be viewed as “suspicious?” Statistics tell us that the affluent, straight, black male, even though he is wealthy, more readily reads as a criminal than his white counterparts due to the negative portrayal of black men in the media.
Another reason that the intersectional approach to identity formation is important lies in the fact that it gives people a chance to identify with several different sectors of society; this can be beneficial as people progress throughout life. Using the feminist movement as example, the unification of women of different races and classes with different experiences who shared a common goal was more efficient in identifying inequalities that may or may not spread across racial lines; this, in a sense, gives everyone a voice in different political debates.
Acknowledging the intersectionality of identities gives us as a society a better way to address and eradicate issues by allowing us to realize that social issues, much like our identities, are multi-faceted and provides us with a better understanding of these problems.
Can you identify an issue that involves the intersectionality of identities?
Hint: (Murder of Michael Brown is one)