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Gender Equity Is Useless Without Racial Equity

Janice Gassam


Women’s History Month (WHM) takes place during the third month of each year and is a time when the United States recognizes and shows appreciation for the achievements, accolades, and accomplishments of women from every era since the nation’s inception. In addition to recognizing the women who have paved the way, WHM is a time when the public revisits conversations that pertain to women’s rights. These topics include the gender wage gap, the abortion debate and femicide. While these topics are relevant and important to address while striving to create a more equitable world, one issue that is of ever-increasing importance that is not talked about enough is the role of racial equity in the gender conversation. During WHM, a spotlight is placed on systemic barriers that perpetuate inequity but few conversations center around the intersecting effects of a gender and race. No gender equity discussion is complete without discussing the impact of race. 

Why is race an important topic to include in the conversation? Gender equity is meaningless if we are not analyzing the influences of intersecting identities and how they impact women’s experiences in this world. Kimberlé Crenshaw is responsible for coining the term ‘intersectionality’ and her pivotal research assessed the compound effect of race and gender, and particularly the unique experiences of Black women. Crenshaw was able to conceptualize a model to describe what women had been experiencing, at a time when there was a lack of empirical research to support it. But not everyone understands or agrees with society’s supposed fascination with the concept. Some have claimed intersectionality has become “identity politics on steroids.” In a recent interview, Crenshaw reflected on her seminal work 30 years later, and explained that the meaning has morphed over time. Her description of the term she coined is “how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life.” The combined impact of race and gender on women’s experiences is often overlooked. When women of color share their stories and experiences of marginalization, they are often dismissed, overlooked and ignored. Rachel Cargle wrote in a Harper’s Bazaar piece that when women of color share their outrage over inequitable systems, they often experience tone policing, where they are asked to modify the manner in which they deliver their message so that it is more palatable for a White audience.

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    Gender Equity/Diversity
    Racial Equity/Diversity

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