THE INTERSECTIONALITYOF CLASS, RACE, GENDER& SEXUALITY IN DEEREESS PARIAHIndya Jackson
AbstractDee Rees‟ 2011 film Pariah invites its viewers into the life of an AfricanAmerican teenager as she struggles to come to terms with her identity. Hailingfrom a black middle class Brooklyn family, the film‟s main character Alike aidsviewers in becoming acquainted with the complex world in which she resides.To date there is little to no scholarship on Pariah. Film critics and casual viewers have widely considered the film onewhich most markedly acknowledges the difficulties of experiencing life as asexual outcast in a hostile heteronormative dominated society. In this paper,however, I examine and analyze correlating contributing factors that directlyrespond to Kimberle Crenshaw‟s feminist and sociological theory ofintersectionality. The theory of intersectionality dictates that one experiencesoppression not from independently controlling components of one‟s selfhood,but one is oppressed by an entanglement of intermingling components ofone‟s identity. In accordance with popular interpretation of the film, BetsySharpley of the Los Angeles Times notes, “At its soulful heart, "Pariah" is astinging street-smart story of an African American teens struggle to come ofage and come out[.]” Although Alike‟s struggle for identity is thought to stem wholly fromher sexual orientation, I argue that hers is the plight of one greatly driven by anintertwining web of oppression rooted in an amalgamation of class, gender,race and sexuality.
“Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.” - Audre Lorde
Pariah (2011) Dee Rees – film‟s director Plot – Pariah is the story of an African American teens struggle to come of age and come out. Primary character - Alike Secondary characters – Audrey, Arthur, Laura, & Bina. Themes – coming of age, searching for self- identity, & self-liberation.
Intersectionality First emphasized by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Suggests biological, social, and cultural categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and other axes of identity interact on multiple (often simultaneous) levels in order to propagate social inequality. Points towards the critical view on becoming “the other” in a normative setting within a general Western culture.
My Research Responds to popular interpretation of the film. Although Alike‟s struggle for identity is thought to stem wholly from her sexual orientation, I argue that hers is the plight of one greatly driven by an intertwining web of oppression rooted in an amalgamation of class, gender, race and sexuality.
Class, Race, Gender &Sexuality Heterosexual Sexual Contract - The refusal to become (or to remain) heterosexual always means to refuse to become a man or a woman, consciously or not” (Wittig 556). Heterosexism - [A] particular economic, political, and emotional relationship between men and women: men must dominate women and women must subordinate themselves to men in any of a number of ways. As a result, men presume access to women while women remain riveted on men and are unable to sustain a community of women (Hoagland 28-29).
Class, Race, Gender &Sexuality Rejection of non-male-dominated family units in the African American community. Homosexuality as opposition to class status. Bina (the church) vs. Laura (the heathen).
Methods My study uses black feminist, queer, and critical race theories as applied to close readings of primary and secondary texts articulating the experiences of members of the LGBT and African American communities. I utilize these texts to contextualize the film in culture, history, and politics.
Review of Literature To date there is no available scholarly work conducted on Pariah, yet many works and theories that consider the reality of the lesbian identity are available and will be referenced when conducting research including: Kimberle Crenshaws theory of intersectionality Monique Wittigs heterosexual contract. Patricia Hill Collins "The Sexual Politics of Black Womanhood.“ Cheryl Clarkes "The Failure to Transform Homophobia in the Black Community."
Works CitedCollins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics ofEmpowerment. 1st ed. Routledge, 2008. Print.Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violenceagainst women of color." Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299.Dunning, Stephanie. Queer in Black and White: Interraciality, Same Sex Desire, andContemporary African American Culture. Indiana University Press, 2009. Print.Hoagland, Sarah Lucia. “Heterosexualism and White Supremacy.” Hypatia 22.1 (2007): 166–185. Print.Richardson, Matt. “Our Stories Have Never Been Told: Preliminary Thoughts on Black LesbianCultural Production as Historiography in The Watermelon Woman.” Black Camera 2.2(2011): 100– 113. Print.Ross, Marlon B. “Camping The Dirty Dozens: The Queer Resources of Black Nationalist Invective.” Callaloo 23.1 (2000): 290–312. Print.Sender, Katherine. “Sex Sells: Sex, Taste, and Class in Commercial Gay and Lesbian Media.”GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 9.3 (2003): 331–365. Print.Sharkey, Betsy. “Movie Review: „Pariah‟.” Los Angeles Times 28 Dec. 2011. Web. 9 July 2012.Wittig, Monique. "One Is Not Born a Woman." Everyday Theory: A Contemporary Reader. ByBecky Renee. McLaughlin and Bob Coleman. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2005. 554-60. Print.