Sunday, April 10, 2011

Summary: Brownmiller and Crenshaw

Brownmiller “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape”
Brownmiller’s article focuses on rape and how it supports male dominance over women because it keeps women in constant fear.  She describes rape as a method of intimidation, used by men to remain superior to women and keep them in state of less power.  Therefore, the idea of rape illustrates the power relationship between men and women.  When “rape” is heard, women are immediately thought of as victims and thus obtain a victim mentality.  Even young girls are taught that they are victims through stories such as Red Riding Hood.  Girls are informed that women are helpless and that men take advantage of them and thus their only possible hope is another “good, friendly” male to save them.  This type of story teaches girls not to be adventurous and not to take risks for fear that they may be taken advantage of. 
            Furthermore the many false ideas circulating about rape change people’s perceptions about it.  For instance, the claim “no women can be raped against her will” leads people to think that rape is never forced and thus it is “the will of the women”.  This concept Brownmiller explains is detrimental to our understanding of what rape really is.  Women are not “asking for it” or enjoying rape, as many claims would lead people to believe.  Furthermore, women are not at fault for this consciously violent and degrading act. 
            To address rape as a political act, Brownmiller emphasizes making rape a “speakable crime”, one that is open and can be talked about.  Thus through initiatives such as speak-outs, rape crisis centers, rape legislation study groups and conferences women can fight back.  Furthermore through self-defense class women can be on the offense to fight back against this hostile act. 

Crenshaw “Mapping the Margins”
            Crenshaw explains that rape and violence towards women has shifted from being recognized as a private, individual matter to a more open, political.  The growth of identity-based politics allows people to come together as a community and organize against this violence.  However it also works to ignore differences within a group, which can lead to tensions among group members.  For instance, by lumping all people together, Crenshaw argues that we marginalize Black women whose experiences often result from both racism and sexism, and thus are not fully included in the politics of gender discrimination.  Her concept of intersectionality describes how the experiences of Black women are shaped by the interaction of race, gender and class.  This intersection impacts women at battering shelters as well as immigrant women.  Furthermore, language barriers and other vulnerabilities demonstrate what Crenshaw terms intersectional subordination.  She explains that this subordination “is frequently the consequence of the imposition of one burden that interacts with preexisting vulnerabilities to create yet another dimension of disempowerment.” 
            Politically, Black women are also disadvantaged because of the political intersectionality of having two political agendas against racism and sexism.  Neither agenda encompasses the intersections of racism and patriarchy, resulting in a political agenda.
            With regards to domestic violence, Crenshaw emphasizes the difficulty of Black women to seek protection against assault due to a community norm against public intervention, and thus societal views that see the house as a private domain.  Furthermore, there are many stereotypical perspectives of the “battered women” as a minority.  Politicians and the media often reinforce this view.  Also, she argues that feminist interventions are sometimes criticized as marginalizing women of color through things such as a language barrier at domestic violence support agencies.  Crenshaw stresses that many of these support services seem to have been created without the consideration of non-white women.
            Thus, a major issue with this project is categories and the values that we associate with them.  These valuations work to create social hierarchies, which often lead to subordination of certain groups and thus are detrimental to society.

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