Group Identities Across Relations of Power

Group Identities Across Relations of Power


As you read down the table, you will probably find yourself in both dominant and minoritized group positions (i.e., falling sometimes on the left side and sometimes on the right side of the oppression column). One is not simply a man, but a cisgender man, a White man, or a man of Color; or a working-class White man, perhaps a working-class gay White man, or a heterosexual Christian able-bodied man of Color—and each of these identity positions intersect in important ways.

In the case of women’s suffrage, we can see how these intersecting group identities add more layers of complexity. Women’s suffrage is a more complicated story when we add the dimensions of class and race. White women of the upper classes led the initial movement for women’s suffrage in both Canada and the United States (Davis, 1981; Devereux, 2005; Newman, 1999). In Canada, racial exclusion in suffrage was not removed until the 1940s and did not extend the right to vote freely to Indigenous peoples until the 1960s. In the United States, Black women did not have full access to the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So while the women we commonly refer to as suffragists were oppressed as women, they were privileged as White women: Their race was made neutral and natural to the exclusion and marginalization of women of Color, as they were held up as representing all women. For example, one of the key issues of suffragists was entry into the workforce. But of course women of Color had long been working outside the home. Their interests may have been better served by calls for economic justice. The life and work of Dolores Huerta (Figure 5.2) embodies the concept of intersectionality.

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