This article on the topic of intersectionality is being published on behalf of Applied Worldwide’s 2021 student essay competition. Students were prompted to respond to the question, “Why is sociology important?” We have awarded 17 finalists from all over the world, and published these essays over a period of several weeks.
This essay was written by Zara, a student at Valentines High School in the UK. This essay received a first place award. We had a really great turnout and would like to thank everyone who submitted an essay. We received a wide variety of creative interpretations and responses, so browse our essay directory!
Zara on the Topic of Intersectionality
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own”Audre Lorde
March 3rd, 2021 Sarah Everard was reported missing, eventually found dead this case broke the internet as a police officer was a suspect. Protests filled the streets. Screams from women of “it could have been you!” pointing at me through the screen of my television as I eat breakfast whilst they are wrestled to the ground by a police officer-ironic isn’t it. But they are right it could have been me or you and may soon be if we do not fight for change and it was this realisation of how prominent sociology is in my life to the extent that it dominates my own home.
Inequality in our Society
As a young woman of colour, I am all too familiar with the struggles imposed upon me by society-it has become normalised. These hardships have enabled me to acknowledge the impact sociology has upon me in my everyday life. The ONS recently discovered nearly a quarter of women have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault since the age of 16 in the UK alone. In a global perspective WHO reported one in three women have experienced violence, in their lifetime.
In my everyday life I encounter these struggles and as Critical Race theorists such as Crenshaw, identify my experience as the ‘intersectional approach’. Intersectionality is a framework identifying many discriminations one may face the intersections including: age, gender, sexual orientation, race disability etc.
It is these disadvantages according to her crossroads analogy when each vehicle (representing an intersection) collides the individual encounters their own intersectionality. This sociological approach can help solve problems myself and many others like me face in our daily lives, becoming aware of these issues is one step closer to our goal of being heard.
Labeling and Identities
As a student I feel the need to define myself other than what I am, labelling myself as a woman-connotations of independence and liberty entail that identity. Yet simultaneously I am still a student-connotations of dependence and endurance conquer this other half of my identity. Despite this, what I have just stated of a woman is the opposite of how society perceive them to be rather that they are indeed dependant and endure the patriarchy present.
Although there is a feminisation of the workplace in institutions such as education, sociologists like Sewell view this negatively. Claiming the education system fails to nurture ‘masculine’ traits and instead celebrates ‘feminine’ ones like quietness. What strikes me as alarming is the traditional gendered stereotypes inflicted upon individuals to the extent that ‘feminine’ attributes liked from teachers include general passivity-exactly how society see women. From an early age male students witness the celebrated qualities of their female peers fuelling their alpha masculine complex later in life.
Intersectionality and Socialization
Secondary socialisation has become poisoned, it is this reason as to why adult males deem it acceptable to assault women in any form-from a young age they were taught it was okay, because they will never be punished. The saying ‘boys will be boys’ present in the education system reinforced this.
Male students acting immature is normal behaviour for them whereas female students acting the same faced the risk of being negatively labelled. Interactionists such as Becker note that the labelling theory defines the ‘ideal pupil’ as middle-class, white, female students who are quiet solidifying the notion that teachers expect the best from these female students only.
The perceived moral panic about boys in education poses as an excuse for their declining educational achievement unlike their female peers’ success. I have noticed the stark contrast amongst both students in education but also beyond the classroom into wider society. The education system must be held accountable for the norms and values it displays as male students progress into wider society blissfully ignorant of the patriarchy present that they reproduce. The education institution dominates my life and growing up witnessing its flaws we are told to accept it rather than question it.
Patriarchy is denied amongst men, yet it is deaths like Sarah’s that only became publicised due a to a police officer suspect acting as evidence for this type of society. Had it not been a police officer suspect, the death would not survive a chance of being aired-just another number in the 97% figure of assaults and the 61% number of femicide deaths. It never fails to amaze me that 97% of women have been assaulted in their lifetime, the fact that the figure is incredibly close to being all women terrifies me.
It is because of this that I fear walking alone at night, my own streets and environment intoxicated with unfamiliarity and dread my own society deteriorating. It is because of this me and many other women are told “we’re asking for it” or it is “not all men”, yet surely the 97% figure is a just reason to feel paranoid of our safety. It is because of this that I doubt myself, I question if it is my fault for the suffering people like me are inflicted upon.
But it is not.
Applying Intersectionality to my Own Life
I have learnt to accept the fact that I live in a society that condemns my mere existence. This may never change at least not yet but as an aspiring sociologist it is my dream to have future generations of women of colour to not feel the way I feel today. Thus, it is the task of sociologists to not simply blame different members of society or assume society works as smoothly as the ‘organic analogy’ of Durkheim’s because it is these outdated perspectives that is leading to the demise of society itself.
It is time for sociology to have a revolution, and it is this reason why it holds great impact in my life today. Without it I would not have been able to become aware of not just the society I inhabit but my own identity.
Sociology defines me.
The theories allowed me to contemplate myself as a member of society and that society is not as positive as the rose-tinted views of functionalism tell me it to be as. Our voices have been silenced, our issues unheard and our existence ignored. Instead, society is focused on proving it is because of gender that she is oppressed according to Feminists or it is because of her social class that she is oppressed according to Marxists. It is multiple factors just as the ‘intersectional approach’ highlights and it needs to be applied in contemporary society.
Final Thoughts on Intersectionality and Why Sociology is Important
Change does not come by one dreaming of it, it comes when one acts upon it. I refuse to continue longing for freedom-it will happen in someone’s lifetime perhaps not mine, but it is this reason that fuels my desire to voice these concerns. These words on paper are more than my thoughts alone, it represents all women. I am voicing it for us, to start a revolution one must take the first and biggest leap there is-admitting their disadvantages as I have finally accepted and understood throughout my everyday life with sociology.