By Dr. Christina Sisti
|Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash|
“Intersectionality means being aware of and acting on the fact that different forms of prejudice are connected, because they all stem from the same root of being ‘other’, ‘different’ or somehow ‘secondary’ to the ‘normal’, ‘ideal’ status quo.”
Mainstream society has placed races into categories. For example, the Three Bears Effect is the name given by Aiyo at the blog Black British Girl for how whites stereotype blacks and Asians as opposites and whites as just right.1
Asian women are perceived as very feminine whereas black women are thought of as manly thus placing white women in the middle and classified as just right. Abagond of Restructure! Writes “Mainstream society perceives Asian women as “ultra-feminine” and extra submissive, and when we are sexually objectified, we are perceived as literal sex objects, even more, dehumanized than white women. 1 Social, gender and sexual stereotypes are played out through commonly held beliefs of society.
To further investigate public policy and sexual perceptions that create vulnerability it is necessary to examine the foundation of sexual stereotyping of women and then individual stereotypes of different races and abilities. In the Medico-Legal system, the view that sexuality exists in early childhood permeates the medical literature of the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century.2
The idea of an unsullied child is a notion held onto by adults, yet the sexualization of girls existed through child prostitution. It is here that the difference between classes is noted.
Friedrich Hugel drew a parallel between poverty, unemployment, and low wages of female workers and the biological and psychological weakness of the female. The lower class, poorly educated female is by nature physically weaker, and more given to “coquetry, love of pleasure, dislike of work, desire for luxury and ostentation, love of ornament, alcoholism, avarice, immorality, etc..”2 Hugel’s study was conducted in 1865, yet the stereotype of the lower-class woman exists in this century.
In America society labels those in disadvantaged classes with negative stereotypes and persists on focusing on race rather than on the cause of poverty often which is a lack of education, financial and social opportunity.
Those in the lower socio-economic rungs of society face harsh criticism for their poverty but none more so than African-Americans. They are subject to age-old prejudices rooted in trade with Western Europeans and slavery which can be found as far back as the Middle Ages. The association of the black with concupiscence reaches back into the Middle Ages. The twelfth-century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela wrote that “at Seba on the river Pishon…is a people…who like animals, eat of the herbs that grow on the banks of the Nile and in the fields. They go about naked and have not the intelligence of ordinary men.”2
The conventional belief of intellectual inferiority carried throughout the ages leaving African-Americans in a precarious situation in society. They were not thought of as equals yet the belief that they were intellectually inferior was combined with the belief that they were also sexually deviant. A widely held theory of racial inferiority included female genitalia.
Edward Turnispeed of South Carolina argued in 1868 that the hymen black women “is not at the entrance to the vagina, as in white women, but from one-and-a-half inches to two inches from its entrance in the interior.” From this, he concluded that “this may be one of the anatomical marks of the non-unity of the races.”2
Black people carry the stigma of promiscuity or excessive or unrestrained heterosexual desire because Western Europeans labeled Africans as animals and uncivilized due to the differences in cultures. Studies of African-American slave women routinely point to sexual victimization as a defining feature of American slavery.3
Why is it important to understand the history of racism and its relation to female sexuality?
The views held in the eighteenth and nineteenth century spawned miscegenation, a word which described the fear of interracial sexuality and the decline of the population. Emile Zola sees in the sexual corruption of the male the source of political impotence and provides a projection of what is a personal fear, the fear of loss of power, onto the world.2
The “white man’s burden,” his sexuality and its control, is displaced into the need to control the sexuality of the Other, the Other as a sexualized.2 The need to control female sexuality and the fear of interracial sexuality is evidenced in the Eugenic Movement and the oppressive nature of poverty often suffered by minorities and those who are disabled.
1 Abagond (2011, January 1). White women are stereotyped differently from Black and Asian women, Restructure!, London, UK.
2 Gilman, Sander L. (1985). Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness. (1st ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.
3Collins, Patricia Hill (2004). Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and The New Racism. (1st ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
This article is extracted from the Research paper titled 'America's Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations' in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation 'Safety First for Girls'.
The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis.
The Safety Report Research paper is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.' The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:
- The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
- Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
- Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
- Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
- LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
- Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177) by Steffica Warwick.
- America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.
The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: 'Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.'
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.
This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.