Question 1

In “The Mother of All Questions” by Rebecca Solnit, she writes, “Being unable to tell your story is a living death and sometimes a literal one,” she continues “Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories. A free person tells her own story. A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place.” This extraordinary essay is about how women are prohibited, obviated from speaking, or just not heard when they do.

It is a truth that we treasure in our hearts but avoid looking ot closely because it is hurtful subject. Some individuals say that the stories they hear are unimaginable and dreadful, which those who are the oppressor do not want the story told. Solnit points out, “those with power did not want to know, to hear, to believe, they did not want them to have voices.” Solnit also explores what this hyper-masculine culture means for males.

Them being punished for showing their feelings or any emotional human characteristics. Solnit encourages us to tell our stories and listen and believe others. She discusses rape, consent, and domestic violence. She talks about the chaos which exists because nobody speaks. Regarding new and challenging discussions that have begun to arise in attempts to reconcile the inconsolable.

I side with Solnit when it comes to silencing. Around two years ago, in an unmoderated online storytelling forum, I decided to write a story about my own personal journey. The story details my childhood sexual abuse as well as an emotionally brutal and physically abusive romantic relationship from a couple years ago.

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I wrote the story to continue my path of recovery. I thought that if I had the strength to conquer and speak up, somebody else might find their bravery and realize that they are not alone. I started receiving online private messages, thanking me for sharing my story with the world. Some individuals wrote about how I encouraged them to start their own healing journey. Hearing how others wanted to let go of the silence that threatened to overtake them was the best part of me.

The social media revolution has allowed the public to learn of the heartbreaking stories of marginalized individuals. Sometimes this harassment may come from those in positions of power, or those working to protect the public because their positions place them in an environment to subject consequences on those who try to speak their truths. Their response always starts with, “I never saw this person act like this, this story is a lie,” As if the person has to be present during the abuse to believe that it took place. This kind of victim-blaming and victim-shaming is why so many individuals stay hidden in their silence, fearing the negative commentary. In Sarah Gailey’s, “Fear of the Female Voice” she encourages women to become more “outspoken, opinionated, and confident.” She urges us to use our mind and our voices to change the way that others think, so that there is less fear, hatred, and violence, and murder. The historic and contemporary demand for female silence stems directly from fear of what women’s voices can do. If women can speak to each other and to the world at large, the ideas of women threaten to influence and shape society in the same way that men’s voices have for centuries. Gailey says that “You can be exactly as powerful as they fear, and you can use that power to make the world safer for other women who are afraid to speak.”

Victims must acknowledge the value of their experiences and emotions No one should convince them that their emotions from being abused are not valued because of the insecurities resulting from silencing. We need to realize their experiences will change lives, open doors, and encourage others to try the same remedy. We cause others to be subjected to the same hurt by not speaking out against violence. We need to realize that our voices matter because silence is not golden.

Question 2

In “On Psychological Oppression,” Sandra Lee Bartky argues that the ordinary concept of oppression needs to be altered and expanded because it does not consider individuals who are oppressed psychologically or become victims of psychic alienation. She says that to be psychologically oppressed is to be weighed down in your own mind to the extent where the oppressed become their own oppressors. She regards this as the “internalization of intimations of inferiority”. She goes further to explain that stereotyping, cultural domination, and sexual objectification are some of the ways in which inferiority messages are delivered in society. Bartky says that psychological oppression is institutionalized and systematic and that it serves to make domination easier, by simultaneously breaking the spirit of the oppressed while leaving them mystified about the origins of their oppression. This allows the beneficiaries of the established order to maintain their elevated status with a fa?ade of legitimacy without resorting to physical violence.

Bartky draws many parallels between the factors perpetuating both racism and sexism. She says that both attitudes are heavily reliant on stereotyping to sustain themselves. She notes that a person who holds stereotyped views would also likely be fundamentally ignorant of the rights and needs of those that they are prejudiced against. Furthermore, she says that if the prejudiced hold the majority, the oppressed may begin to believe lies about themselves as well. One instance of stereotyping would be in the performance of women in fields of math and sciences. Stereotype that women lack skill in field of math and sciences induces implicit bias amongst people who would place gender as opposed to skill as the governing factor of performance. Such an implicit bias may further threat the potentials of women in such fields by sub consciously framing their behavior to conform to the stereotype, limiting their positive freedom and depersonalizing them to doubt their own capabilities. Another being, the stereotypical patriarchal idea that a woman needs a man to look after her discourages women from pursuing autonomous development; further internalizing the feelings of inferiority felt by the oppressed and making them prisoners of their own mind. This relates to the concept of autonomy, essentially the idea that a person can take care of themselves, and how cultures of patriarchy are interwoven within the narratives of these stereotypes.

Bartky wants to explain that women do not have a culture of their own. Women are grouped differently than other oppressed groups such as racial, ethnic, or sexuality groups. There is not a separate culture for women. The culture of men in society is the norm for culture. Women do not have any autonomy because they are usually aligned up against men instead of other women because culture is saturated in sexism. Fragmentation figures into cultural domination because males and females are both apart of society, yet females are not a part of culture. Women are told to be themselves while also being a universal subject for men. For example, in the English language we use the word “men” to represent people. In our book, movies, and music, we get the sense that we are referring to everyone, but everyone is not represented. The culture itself has historical been male dominated which lead to a sexist and misogynist culture. This results in women being fragmented humans.

Bartky goes on to address sexual objectification, stating that women’s sexual function and parts are reduced to an instrument and extended to all areas of life separate from their personality and capabilities. She points to examples such as catcalls and whistles that humiliate and objectify women. As a result, women are forced to see themselves as men see them. The objectified become the ones who objectify themselves while attempting to conform to images of a perfect woman. This brings in Bartky’s beliefs of mystification, the “systematic obscuring of both the reality and agencies of psychological oppression so that its intended effect, the depreciated self, is lived out as destiny, guilt or neurosis.” Through mystification, an individual reverts to blaming themselves for their current situations instead of the system. They internalize them being wrong. This subliminal nature is one of the ways in which psychological oppression differs from more overt forms of domination like political and economic restrictions which are more readily identifiable. An example being a woman professor being interviewed for a teaching position by a male member of the department but he can only focus on the size of her bosom instead of her qualifications and abilities This serves to elevate one interest above another with male member maintaining his dominance and the female being humiliated.

Fyre’s and Bartky’s beliefs of oppression differ in their forms of methods. Fyre idenified the conditions for oppression by identifying oppression as systematic and needs to be identified from a macroscopic point of view. She believed that the oppress possess a direct connect to the barriers and the targeted members are of distinctive groups. Bartky showcases oppression through her personal gaze throughout her lifetime. She shows that all women may experience sexual domination but may not experience it in the same ways. Bartky’s sense of psychological oppression is a significant aspect of sexist oppression today. For example, in advertisements women are given more revealing and figure flattering outfits than their male counterparts.

Question 3

In “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex,” Kimberle Williams Crenshaw argues that black women are discriminated against in ways that often do not fit within the categories of racism and sexism but as a combination of both. Sexism refers to the injustices encountered by every woman, and racism refers to people of color. This framework frequently contributes to black women getting lost in the middle and becoming unseen. She seeks to challenge both feminist and antiracist theory and practice that neglect to “accurately reflect the interaction of race and gender,” arguing that “because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.” Crenshaw argues that a key aspect of intersectionality lies in its recognition that multiple oppressions are not each suffered separately but rather as a single, synthesized experience. Intersectionality is a way to acknowledge where power collides and intersects. It not only allows us to see that there is a racial problem present but also a gender, class and sexual identity problem present. Often, people who are subject to experiencing a collective of the problems are overlooked.

In other words, certain groups of women have several features in life that they must deal with when it comes to oppression. There is no one-size-fits-all type of feminism. For example, I am a black woman and as a result I face both racism and sexism as I navigate around everyday life. Whenever the subject of racism is brought up in feminism, the result is the same from when it is brought up in any other discussion, it is neglected. There is the mistaken belief that the only ‘privilege’ that you can have relates to skin color. This is not the case. You can be privileged because of your class, educational background, religious background, the fact that you’re able bodied or cis-gendered. A lot of black women can and do have privileges too. Intersectionality is the attempt to make feminism, anti-racist activism, and anti-discrimination law showcase the multiple avenues through which racial and gender oppression are experienced so that these problems would be easier to discuss and understand.

Intersectionality is also a breakdown sensibility that can be used a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power. Primarily articulated on behalf of black women, the term brought to light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members, but often fail to represent them. Intersectional deletions are not exclusive to black women. People of color within LGBTQ movements; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse — all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more. Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion. Intersectionality has been the banner under which many demands for inclusion have been made. Intersectionality is not just about identities but about the institutions that use identity to exclude and privilege. The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fail. However, intersectionality alone cannot bring invisible bodies into view. Simply talking will not change the way that some people continue to wait for leaders, decision-makers and others to see their struggles. In the context of addressing the racial disparities that still plague our nation, activists and stakeholders must raise awareness about the intersectional dimensions of racial injustice that must be addressed to enhance the lives of all youths of color.

Bell hooks states that “defining feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression is crucial for the development of theory because it is a starting point indicating the direction of exploration and analysis” Crenshaw and Bell hooks, both understand that the experiences of feminists through class, gender, and sexuality cannot be adequately understood unless the influence of racialization is carefully considered. An understanding of intersectionality must present to gain any political, economic, or social equality to improve our administration systems.

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The Mother Of All Questions By Rebecca Solnit. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

The Mother Of All Questions By Rebecca Solnit
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