Hello kind readers
Allow me to explain this space and the intention behind it. I am an artist and critical theory scholar, who teaches Gender Studies at a college in rural Indiana. I am always looking for teaching tools and have developed, with the help of many people, a wide variety of activities, articles, and materials that I find useful in understanding critical thinking, social justice, and art. I am always frustrated by how often the materials that we find out in the world are decontextualized- they appear outside of a broader framework to try and make sense of them, their individuals projects, and how those projects connect to other disciplines, fields, and objects.
My aim here is to provide some context and some materials to help anyone who is interested in learning more about art, gender studies, critical race theory, sexuality, popular culture and the intersections of all of these ideas.
We often assume a certain level of fluency with visuals and with critical thinking. However, not everyone has the skills or the practice in reading and analyzing cultural texts. The above image may seem obviously feminist to some, demonstrating that a woman can wear a hardhat, ie, do labor traditionally coded as male, and that a man, with his oven mitts, can manage domestic labor, coded as female. However, after teaching Gender Studies for a number of years, I know that many educated and capable people have not learned these skills. Moreover, while we often see images, we rarely “read” them, or analyze them deeply. The above image may seem feminist, but what type of feminist? Certainly not Third Wave, as the image continues to perpetuate a gender and sex binary that many scholars no-longer embrace. Where is an intersex person meant to see themselves in this image? Or someone who eschews the gender binary? What are we to understand about gender roles from this image- that they have simply flipped? Is there liberation in that, or just a new class of marginalized people? Where is race? Is it really a coincidence that the figures are white, or is it just the overwhelming cultural script that the default race is white, and that anything else is a deviance from the norm or white supremacy?
The title of this blog is meant to evoke intersecting fields of study, but more importantly it is meant to evoke the feminist analytic of intersectionality. Intersectionality describes the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.
As an analysis, intersectionality takes into account how two or more identity categories, like race, gender, sex, sexuality, class, religion, nationality, immigration status, etc, interact. This idea comes from critical race theory, specifically the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, and has been applied widely by Women of Color Feminists in particular.
Intersectionality can be a difficult idea if you are not familiar with it or the ideas that white middle class cis-gender women are often placed at the fore front of feminist discourse. May I suggest following short video “On intersectional Feminism and Pizza” from the wonder Akilah Hughes.
As all oppression is connected and much art has to do with oppression or marginalizatoin in one way or another, intersectionality must be something that is discussed more in the arts. As the project of this blog is both education and liberation, I offer here a collection of works and hopefully the context to make sense of those works. I appreciate feedback and hope that readers will contribute their own materials, other possible uses for the materials here, and helpful comments.