Intersection Between Gender, Religion And Race

In our society today, there are several things which can easily be identified as factors which play into the overall perception people have of each other. These differences have been prominent features in the development of modern society, and there are substantial cases in which they have been the source of limitations placed upon one group, by another. Over the years, this has been a focal debate between many circles, which have highlighted the source of the divisions in regards to gender, religion, and race, and the ways in which these constructs intersect, as a result. The dissemination of certain types of knowledge have been promoted or inhibited, depending on the correlating societal views of the aforementioned points of difference.

One of the most potent ways in which the promotion of one viewpoint has been expressed or dictated, is in the successful dissemination of opinions or societal views through the implements of knowledge that are presented to the general public. The use of imagery and symbolism have promoted the dominance of a patriarchal society on many occasions. One of the prominent notions of this mentality is the inherent aggressiveness of masculinity, and the inherent passiveness of femininity. This is a long-held belief in most societies, with stories and tenants promoting this notion. This is something that has long been a precedent in American society, where icons and other forms of imagery have been developed and promoted by mass media.

For example, phallic images have been long employed through media as a means to symbolize the respective genitals of males and females, which are consistently dominant in the depictions of both. The symbolism and representations of genders and the reinforcement of gender roles have been prevalent in several forms over the years, and as a result, phallogocentrism has developed.

In Luce Irigary's work, “The Sex Which is Not One,” the formulation of gender roles, and the way in which they were propagated by a patriarchal society, form the central thesis of her piece. The symbolism further expressing her point is present from the on-set. The tile, “The Sex Which is Not One” alludes to the definition of a woman's sexuality as being defined by the lack of a penis. The title itself is also a reference to the notion that women are seen as having no sexual organs (in which the vagina is seen as lacking a sex organ), despite the fact that they actually have multiple sex organs. This stands in stark contrast to the views held by Jacques Lacan held in his piece, “Signification of the Phallus,” in which he establishes women's inferiority due to the lack of a penis. This ideology is relevant to modern society, because it is a reflection of the constructs in which the society are created.

For instance, within the context of contemporary religion, there is a heavily male-dominated social hierarchy. Typically, religious leaders are all male, and positions of influence within several religions are prohibited for women. “The Sex Which Is Not One” highlights this mentality, in which Irigary says, “Female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters”. This is reinforced by the strict tenants to which most women are supposed to live by, in accordance with the religion they follow.

For instance, most religions enforce the notion of women remaining virgins before marriage, further solidifying the innocent role that they're expected to maintain, and the gender roles which the society has in place. There are typically no restrictions placed on the men in these societies, as they are allowed to be promiscuous without the same repercussions that women would face, if they were to act in a similar fashion. Several cases exist in most religions in which the scripture that has enabled the religion itself, is reworded and manipulated to push this sort of male-dominated ideology that's present in the society of the time.

There are sects of most religions, including prominently Islamic sects, in which women are even found responsible for leading the men astray, with their allure. A common belief in this ideology is that men are easily swayed by their desires for their female counterparts, and as a result, society places tight restrictions on the women among them. Such examples can be found in the implementation of the burka into Islamic society. Often times, sex is viewed as something that's supposed to be for procreation. The limitations placed on sex, and the immorality of sex itself, as viewed by most members of these societies, create a male-dominant stigma surrounding the act of sex.

The nature of sex is something that Irigary covers in great depth, comparing the act of female masturbation to one which promotes oneness for the female.

She later goes on to refer to intercourse with a male counterpart as a “violent break-in”, and continues to describe the feeling of desecration that is associated with a lack of virginity, on the female's part. While the act of female masturbation and representation of their genital stimulation in this section is portrayed in an almost passive, appreciative way, the section continues by highlighting the male tendency to compare, and compete, over factors such as the size of one's genitals. It is here that we see the inherent cause of the formation of society's patriarchal view on women, and the way religion has an effect on how genders are perceived.

Women are often times defined by their ability to mesh with the requirements of the male-dominant society around them, and are often times fit into varying social classes accordingly. A woman's value is placed upon her stature in class, which is propagated by the male society's pursuit of the members to which they deem most satisfactory. This division in class structure makes it difficult for women to organize as an entity. Judith Butler discusses this in her work, “Gender Trouble, Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” In this piece, she argues for the value of declassifying women, and critiques the feminist movement for blanketing.

She essentially makes the argument that the power of the female population, as an entity, is inhibited by following the ideologies and practices of the society before them, and that there are more factors which determine a woman, than just her class, including her race, religion and sexual preference. This idea, that women could represent a greater power in unison, is a concept that Karl Marx strongly related to, in regards to what he believed would overthrow capitalism. He believed that unity created a sense of strength, and that a large proletariat uprising would suffice to provide for the downfall of the system in place. In this sense, this ideology is mirrored in the overthrowing of patriarchy, which would require a majority, if not all female-identifying, members of a society to join forces.

Butler reinforces this point by stating in her work that there needs to be a sense of declassification of women, within the female class, and that women should identify more with themselves. Monique Wittig expresses this mentality in her work, “One is not Born a Woman.” She falls victim to the language of the oppressor by describing feminism as a means for women to fight for women and claims that the shortcoming of the feminist movement was that they accepted Darwinian evolution that was based on the biological differences of men and women.

Then, she compares gender and race by saying that your race is assumed based on your appearance. Despite her acknowledgment of the presupposition of race, she applies the blanket term of women across racial, class, political, religious differences. By choosing to acknowledge gender as a construct similar to race, Wittig is subconsciously acknowledging the difference. While it is true, thought, that she manages to uphold a very Marxist view of women throughout her essay, in the conclusion of her essay, she mentions the importance of recognizing individualism within a class, one that is highly idealistic.

Butler argues something similar in that she believes the true ability to overcome the male-dominant society that's been established must be in the female-identifying members' ability to identify themselves as singular individuals, but retain an identity as a whole through expressing that individualism. As a result of this sort of self-awareness, is the fact that most members of this male-driven society, and femininity in itself, have come to be defined by their ability to oppose masculinity. This need to define identity in opposition to the views expressed by the majority, the notion of feminism has in turn become centered on standing simply in opposition to the status quo.

What Butler is calling for here, is a more in-depth analysis of the societal structure in place, and an acceptance of less blanketed forms of identity. In 's work Eve Sedgwick discusses the nature of male-driven societies, and what causes this generalization of identity. Within this analysis, she offers a view into the driving forces behind what has allowed for a male-dominant society to occur on the scale that ours has, and what is required of a female-identifying society, to topple the one present. As Sedgwick argues, “obligatory heterosexuality” is something that's ingrained into the very nature of male-dominated kinship systems.

Witting continues to argue that the very essence of a patriarchal society requires some sort of homophobia. Historically, the notion of this sort of exclusion from the male-dominant societies, on part of homosexuals, can stem from the inherent fear of the patriarchal society that the homosexual mentality is one that can be proven to be equally dominant. This fear is possibly generated upon the idea that, such as with the female vagina being a notion of passiveness, the male penis could be equally viewed as one of activeness, or aggression.

Sedgwick's point in saying this is that the patriarchal system in place relies on a system of fear, which is primarily propagated by the notion of controlling particular groups of individuals, who might be able to challenge that. In this piece, Sedgwick calls the Greek society as a point, and the ability of the men to lead heterosexual or homosexual lives, as was equally accepted. She continues to make the point that, in this society, there existed several, complex instances of “men loving men'.

As discussed by Monique Wittig in “One is Not Born a Woman”, at the core of this conversation is the overarching notion of sexuality, and what defines certain types of sexual tendencies. One thing that is constantly implied by the authors of these works is the stark differences between female and male sexuality, and the nature to which those have an effect on males and females. The nature of sexuality in itself is one that is complex and varied, and not easily classifiable. As Witting references the homosocial relationships between men, as she calls them, she references the fact that in ancient Greece, men behaved in accordance with what provided them the most intrinsic satisfaction, and not entirely on pregendered, societal restrictions. This idea of more open, complex classifications of sexuality and sensuality called into question the nature of the patriarchal society in place, and characterized interactions between men, not based on a hypersexualized notion.

Even such, classifications existed in a social hierarchy, in which members of the upper class were dominant over members of the lower class. At the core of this society was a need for one group to claim dominion over another, and as a result, there still existed instances of a submissive, second-class of citizens, which as Sedgwick said, was composed primarily of women and slaves. This need to classify citizens and show dominance is one that the authors allude to being contributed by the patriarchal nature of the society. This has attributed largely to the modern feminist identity being one that strictly goes against the masculine notions that society implements. While there is a sense of identity within this feminist community, there's also a strict governance by the presiding male clas, in that the feminist society is often geared towards standing in stark opposition to the masculine one.

This, in turn, creates a scenario in which the feminists blanket themselves in classifications, and adversely, seek to become a construct of what the masculine society wants of them. As a whole, society has been largely a patriarchal one, driven by a male-dominant upper class, which has classified and impeded those who don't fit so strictly into the mold, such as members of other genders, races and religions. All of these constructs provide a basis for which the dominant society is able to isolate and contain individuals. As Butler and Wittig discuss, the benefit of the female population would best be served in stepping outside of the classifications provided for them, identifying themselves on a more personal level, and acting not just in opposition of the society in place, but in the benefit of themselves as individuals.

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