Intersectionality is a framework for understanding different aspects of an individual’s social and political identities (such as gender, sexuality, caste, race, class, religion, disability, etc.) that intersect to create unique forms of discrimination and privilege. The interjection of different routes reflects a particular aspect of an individual on which that individual is oppressed or rewarded. There can be single or multiple intersectionalities in a single individual according to which his life operates in society.
Kimberle Crenshaw, in 1989, invented the term intersectional feminist, which is “a prism to see how various forms of inequality often operate together and compound each other.”
When it comes to inequality, it doesn’t always happen in an equal and measured way; social identities overlap and intertwine, creating experiences of different discrimination and privilege, making the degree of inequality different for everyone. Intersectional feminism examines the voices of these experiences that intersect with other forms of oppression, to better understand the depth of inequality and the relationship between them.
I found the image quite problematic when navigating and analyzing content circulating in the digital world through an intersectional feminist lens. Almost all content in and around digital media has a sexist approach. From hypersexualization and objectification to ideal beauty standards, every aspect had a very prejudiced and stereotyped system. The hypersexualized and objectified image of women painted on the canvas of digital media through songs, movies, memes, etc., depicts nothing but how women are treated not as human beings but as mere objects of pleasure.
Similarly, with the ideal beauty standard approach, the heroines of movies or daily soap operas are seen as blonde, thin, and mostly straight women, ignoring the presence of women of any different shape. In contrast, women of darker complexion with other body types are seen in the role of domestic help and other supporting characters; this illustrates the underlying biases we have against other races and body types.
It also shows how digital media associates the idea of a darker complexion with the lower class of society, discriminating and oppressing them for the same. Additionally, men who wear makeup and exhibit characteristics other than well-defined and generalized masculinity are portrayed in a very effeminate light. In popular media, the image of women, the image of a standardized woman, has been drawn, attracting all women into the pool of similar characteristics, traits and emotions, ignoring the reality of the situation.
Even though the media sometimes tries to break the taboos of menstruation, such cases are extremely rare and in most cases either menstruation is a silent topic that is avoided or the images of stereotypical notions are produced in front of the public. Another famous child of digital media is the “meme”. Undoubtedly, many memes make us laugh and engage us all through our social media, but some of the memes are extremely insulting and demeaning to the oppressed class of society.
Additionally, memes are sometimes considered to be based on very strict societal norms, such as gender roles, performativity, and body politics, which directly or indirectly captivate us within the walls of defined roles, for example, memes making fun of men. make-up, plus size models or even women with body hair.
Watching everyday movies and soap operas, I couldn’t ignore how stark the difference was between characters playing different classes of society. The lower classes are seen as devalued, discriminated against, and dressed in a particular traditional way, while the upper class is seen as extremely wealthy, influential, and dressed either in extremely heavy jewelry and traditional clothing or in Western and classy attire. mean. were surprisingly nowhere in the photo, representing nothing of their side of society.
Theirs, most of the time, is the story of invisibilization. Digital media images never truly portray the real picture of poverty, already creating a barrier of class difference. The differentiation and prejudice towards the majority religion and the presentation of minorities as lower class people is another characteristic that I have seen in these shows, which portrays the discrimination and ignorance that we have as a society at their regard.
While homosexuality, trans people and people who do not confirm their gender are almost completely ignored and devoid of any form of digital image and if presented in a very negative and unrealistic way, women are still considered to be placed lower than men. , with both sexes performing traditional gender roles and performances. Pornography is another child of digital media, which portrays the image of discrimination and prejudice that plays between genders. Sexual violence against women and the angle of videography to appeal to male audiences show how gender biased our society is. The male gaze is an important figure in digital media, making it visible in all forms of media.
Intersectional feminism is important today because it shows us the image of society as well as the image that women are not only oppressed by the fact of patriarchy but also by different layers that are closely linked to patriarchy, such as racism, casteism, communalism and various other class issues. It further helps us understand the relationship between inequalities, hidden themes and symbols of oppression that may have been overlooked, giving us a deeper and greater understanding.
When we look through these digital media images, we don’t see the painting of reality, such as ignoring or misrepresenting natural processes like menstruation, images of sexual orientation and transgender realities, portraying too dramatic of poverty, etc. Also, sometimes we see these spaces give false ideas about barriers and stereotypes between classes, religions and gender, such as the semiotics of fashion – the difference between the dress patterns of different classes, or judging and characterizing genders depending on their clothes and behavior, etc. which creates a sense of inequality and difference in the minds of the public.
Hypersexualization makes the environment extremely toxic, increasing the gap between how genders see themselves and the value of the other.
In my opinion, the current form of digital media is primarily aimed at increasing the privileges of the superior rather than closing the inequality gap. Looking at all the ways in which our system has given rise to these inequalities, there is a need for a bridge to ease the march from a state of oppression to a state of privilege. As a society, we must not only fight for justice, but rather work to eradicate all forms of oppression.
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“If you see inequality as a ‘them’ problem or some other unfortunate problem, that’s a problem”— said Crenshaw. So, if we look through an intersectional lens and see how different communities and people are struggling together against various interconnected issues, perhaps we can change the image of society, painting the picture of equality on the canvas of the world.
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Majoring in Women’s Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Shradha has a background in English Literature. She is a philomath who enjoys reading, writing, researching, defending and analyzing. Her areas of interest revolve around gender, sexualities, power, violence, intersectionality, law and policy, SRHR, mental health and cultural studies. It can be found on LinkedIn, instagram and Facebook.
Featured Image Source: Shreya Tingal for Feminism in India