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Fluidity of gender and sexuality

opinion

Social movement activists have frequently used a variety of embodied tactics to negotiate cultural conceptions of gender and sexuality, which are in constant flux.

Incorporating queer, transgender, critical race, and disability studies, this chapter emphasizes the ways that women seeking to attain gender and sexual justice have used the body both as a site of everyday resistance against repressive gender and sexual norms and as a tool for performing overt political protests.

Efforts to distinguish a legible category of womanhood represented strategic attempts on the part of many women to produce a body of knowledge that recognized women as a distinct sex-class subordinated under p.

By arguing that women have unique qualities that should be respected and even venerated above those of men, feminists have succeeded in uniting women under a shared identity and facilitating the development of women-centered countercultures Hurwitz and Taylor ; Taylor and Rupp ; Taylor and Whittier For example, because of their standpoint at the intersections of racial and gender oppression, Black women are likely to have unique insights into the gendered and racialized workings of structural oppression that White women do not have access to Fluidity of gender and sexuality In the Combahee River Collective authored a statement outlining the need for women of color to work toward ending oppression on multiple levels, rather than being forced to choose between gender liberation in White feminist spaces, and racial liberation in Black, male-dominated spaces.

While cisgender 1 women can generally assume that their gender identities will be respected, trans women often experience sexism inflected by assertions that their identities are false. Transgender feminists have thus expanded the goals of feminist activism to pursue gender and sexual liberation not only for women, but also for all people subordinated under heteronormativity 2 Koyama ; Serano Identity politics allows individuals to transform "Fluidity of gender and sexuality" identities into individual and collective sources of validation Bernstein; Taylor ; Taylor and Whittier Social movement activists rally around preexisting social categories p.

These processes allow movement participants to reconfigure identities so that they take Fluidity of gender and sexuality new meaning and become symbolically empowering to participants. The ways that Fluidity of gender and sexuality make claims about rights on the basis of a shared identity are contingent on the political contexts in which they are organizing. The political climate, cultural context, and goals of the movement affect whether activists choose to emphasize sameness with or difference from the identities reinforced by the dominant society Bernstein ; Ghaziani, Taylor, and Stone In the cultural climate of the early twentieth century, White, middle-class women who emphasized the value of stereotypically feminine qualities were able to secure civic participation under the premise that they added a gendered component of morality to the existing public sphere McCammon et al.

Because gender stereotypes can invalidate feminist claims and further stigmatize women who fail to live up to cultural standards, many women have found it strategically useful to resist gender expectations. Women who were incarcerated for infanticide recognized that shame over their own incongruent feelings regarding motherhood had kept them from seeking support that might have helped them to cope.

By challenging the assumption that joyful motherhood was an essential feature of woman-ness, women involved in these networks attempted to de-stigmatize negative postpartum feelings, and facilitate new support systems for women experiencing depression after childbirth Taylor and Leitz Arguing that the pro-choice movement had overlooked racial and class-based discrimination faced by women of color, reproductive justice advocates expanded their focus to include forced sterilization of women of color, high levels of incarceration in their communities, and racially motivated violence and discrimination Price Noting that these social conditions mitigated their rights to make decisions about whether to have children, SisterSong and other reproductive justice organizations reframed reproduction as a fundamental human rights issue.

The politicization of everyday experiences allows women to develop systemic analyses of problems previously considered to have only individual implications. Activists attempting to highlight the pervasiveness of gender Fluidity of gender and sexuality have analyzed the ways that status inequalities between men and women rest on normative understandings and expectations of gender Acker ; Collins ; Lorber ; Ridgeway ; Whittier To highlight the social constructedness of femininity, activists have frequently deployed counter-normative gender expressions.

With the increased visibility of lesbian communities and politics, however, some feminists grew critical of butch lesbians, whom they perceived as benefiting from heterosexual passing privilege, or as reproducing heterosexual gender norms when partnered with feminine lesbians Stein While anti-pornography feminists criticized the sexualization of women, pro-sex feminists denounced politically correct views of sexuality and promoted in-your-face forms of assertive, feminine sexuality Duggan and Hunter ; Rubin [] The Riot Grrrl movement popularized alternative representations of feminine sexual autonomy in the s.

Riot grrrls hailing from the punk rock scene deployed aggressive tactics, taking up literal and figurative space through music, spoken word, and self-published zines.

These activists argue that child sexual abuse, like rape against women, is not an isolated act by a sick individual, but rather is symptomatic of the patterned domination of the socially powerless Whittier Noting Fluidity of gender and sexuality survivors are most often young girls, activists frame the sexual abuse of children as an early manifestation of the systemic sexual objectification and subordination of women Whittier Racist stereotypes that women of color are hypersexual have been integral to ideological maintenance of the trope of White, pure, middle-class womanhood that slutwalks resist—standards from which women of color have been historically excluded Collins While appropriating a slut identity may be strategically sound for White women expected to adhere to chaste notions of womanhood, this same practice among p.

STWTS brings attention to the continued harassment and sexual objectification of women through the use of wheat-pasted posters that primarily feature portraits of women of color. Spanish captions on some posters provide a multilingual platform, challenging assumptions that women should be passive and sexualized. This tactic provides women opportunities to speak out without being hypersexualized or engaging in potentially dangerous confrontations. While feminists agree that gender and sexual violence are serious issues that must be addressed, movements undergo constant negotiations over appropriate tactics and goals.

Since non-White, lower-class, non-heterosexual, and transgender women are likely to be assaulted under the presumption that they fail to meet the standards of womanhood, resistance to feminine ideals is likely to increase, rather than reduce, the stigmatization and often violent regulation of women within these communities. InCrenshaw raised concerns about a single-issue gender approach to domestic violence for women of color living in communities where their men are already the targets of criminalization in a racist legal system.

Critical legal scholars have suggested that hate crimes legislation, designed to protect gender and sexual minorities, strengthen the governing power of a state that disproportionately targets racial, gender, and sexual minorities Spade Violence perpetrated against transgender women requires a nuanced analysis of how gender and sexual violence is framed and resisted.

When heterosexual men are the perpetrators, their actions are often interpreted as attempts to restore the gender order and their own masculinity through the stereotypically masculine enactment of violence Lamble ; Schilt and Westbrook But homophobia and transphobia do not explain why trans women of color are disproportionately the targets of violence.

While transphobia provides a strategic framework for addressing violence against trans women, an intersectional approach acknowledges the interplay of structural racism, classism, and transphobia at stake in each of Fluidity of gender and sexuality tragedies Lamble Many feminist activists have attempted to utilize symbolic associations between lesbian desire and challenges to male dominance.

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