Stirring the Mind into Thought

767px-no_sexism_racism_homophobia21The matrix of domination is the union of different social factors, including gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, age, social class, disability, handedness (I am left-handed), religion, and citizenship status, that have a large impact on a person’s social status in a society. Three of the most prominent ones are racism, sexism and homophobia. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to others and the others are naturally inferior. Sexism is the belief, mostly by males, that one sex is superior to the other. Last, homophobia is the fear or prejudice against homosexuals. All of these are the product of a straight, male, youth-oriented, capitalistic, and WASP (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) dominated society in which we live. Every factor in which we are not the dominant in gives us less choices and opportunities, and affects our social interaction with others.

Both Espiritu and hooks describe parts of this matrix in their articles “The Racial Construction of Asian American Women and Men” and “Gangsta Culture-Sexism, Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap,” respectively. In Espiritu’s article, she discusses the different stereotypes of Asian American women and men, and how it affects our view of Asian Americans and how they view themselves. Through these “controlling images,” as Patricia Hill Collins calls them, the dominant group is able to validate economic exploitation and social oppression, creating a group of low social class (Espiritu, Page 83). These images naturalize racism, sexism, poverty and homophobia. “As indicated by these stereotypes, representations of gender and sexuality figure strongly in the articulation of racism. These racist stereotypes collapse gender and sexuality: Asian men have been constructed as hypermasculine in the image of the “Yellow Peril,” but also as effeminate, in the image of the “model minority,” and Asian women have been depicted as superfeminine, in the image of the “China Doll,” but also as castrating, in the image of the “Dragon Lady”” (Espiritu, Pages 83-84). This gender polarization and “gendering of ethnicity” (Espiritu, Page 84) makes Asian women and men become characterized as both genders and at the same time no gender at all. In result, Asians as a whole can be seen a dangerous threat to white Americans or a subservient, weaker group for their benefit, which justifies white male’s domination because both threaten and offend their masculinity.

Even further, since Asian women were often excluded from America and there were anti-miscegenation laws, Asian men formed bachelor societies, which turned the view of their masculinity from “hypersexual” to “asexual” and homosexual. The asexual and homosexual views made Asian men more effeminate, weaker and more passive, furthering dominant white culture and increasing discrimination against Asian men socially and economically. An Asian man can be either the homosexual villain (Fu Manchu type) or the sexless sidekick (Charlie Chan, Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, and Kato in the Green Hornet), thus continuing the image of the Asian man who is always frail or submissive. On the other hand, Asian women are seen as only sexual and exotic, but untrustworthy, through the images of the “servile Lotus Blossom Baby, “ geisha girl, or “China Doll,” and the “Dragon Lady.” Asian women are sexualized and at the same time criticized for their sexuality. Once again, sexuality is used to prove white man’s power and leaving women very little economic and social mobility.

Bell hooks’ “Gangsta Culture—Sexism, Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap?” is about how the African-American gangsta culture is a product of the larger white, male dominated society. The criticism against gangsta culture is a way to degrade black youth culture and neglect the similar behaviors of White dominant culture. Black people, especially black males, are viewed as a threat to society and behaviors that are misogynistic, like rape or abuse, are seen as a black male behaviors. However, the misogynistic views in gangsta rap reflect the misogynistic culture in America that keeps males in power. For example, it was only a little over 100 years ago that domestic abuse was declared illegal. In addition to that, gangsta rap hypersexualizes black males, so they can appear more tough in order not be seen as homosexual, reproducing the homophobic attitudes. Has anyone ever heard of a gay rapper? Black women are also hypersexualized and seen only as sex objects through words like “hoes.” Moreover, it is usually white males who are the head of the labels, pay these rappers, market these albums, tell them the type of songs to produce and buy the songs. Also, the gangster films, like Scarface and the Godfather, made by white culture, usually inspire these rappers. Black males are willing to produce the songs and black women are willing to degrade themselves in the videos and album covers as long as there are material rewards for them. Race, gender and social class are reflected in the whole gangsta culture.

Both of the articles have the same dominant group tactic of blaming the victim, especially with the women. Male culture has over-sexualized women, for example Freud calling us sex objects, and then turning it around to criticize us for being over-sexual. In “Gangsta Culture,” hooks speaks about her interview with Ice Cube and how there should be respect towards women, but he also justified anti-woman lyrics saying that some women carry themselves in a way that determines how they will be treated. What do you expect from a male dominates society that treats women as sex objects in general no matter how they dress and gives women fewer options than to dress like that. Usually, non-White women are criticized more for their “hypersexuality” than White women, which is a way for dominant culture to make both their race and gender inferior. Rappers, like Snoop Dogg, and even Rock stars still put half-naked or naked women on albums and videos, but black rappers get more criticism for it. Pornography featuring Asian “China Doll” women and bathhouses with Asian women are still promoted and sold. This tactic of blaming the victim is what keeps the males dominant over females because whatever they do in regards to females can easily be put as a responsibility for females to deal with. Also, it makes it harder for the reverse; there are no “Guys Gone Wild” videos or very little videos and albums with guys who are half-naked or naked along with the women.

However, both articles differ when it comes to the stereotypes of African-American and Asian American men. Black men are often seen as these big, dark, and intimidating figures that threaten White women. Their stereotype has to do with hyper-masculinity and looking dangerous. They are often seen as the rapists, murderers and drug dealers. On the other hand, Asian men can be seen as hyper-masculine or effeminate. Asian men are either a threat to white women or passive men who cannot please or protect any women. Bruce Lee or Jet Li have been labeled as the hyper-masculine types, while monks, Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, and more extreme Yoda from Star Wars are labeled as passive, asexual types. Both groups are stereotyped based on exaggerated views of actual physical features of African American and Asian American men. African-American men are darker and usually taller and more muscular in appearance than Asian American men, so they are seen as more aggressive and frightening. Still, the stereotypes of both male groups are used to keep White men as the “normal” ones.

No matter what how it is discussed, none of the parts of the matrix of domination can be discussed alone. They do not live in a singular vacuum by themselves and they all have an effect on each other. Just imagine if you were considered the inferior of all the parts, life would be to say the least, extremely difficult. Despite what others may say, the matrix also affects our daily lives from the decisions we make to behaviors to the way we look (come back later for my post on how racism affected black women’s hair choices). The only way to overcome the matrix is to stop hiding it and open it up for discussion. As James Baldwin said, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

July 13th, 2009 at 9:36 AM and tagged , , , , ,
One Response to “The Matrix of Domination and Its Effects”
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    […] Arts and Culture With Reese » The Matrix of Domination and Its Effects By Sherese Francis Even further, since Asian women were often excluded from America and there were anti-miscegenation laws, Asian men formed bachelor societies, which turned the view of their masculinity from “hypersexual” to “asexual” and homosexual. … Arts and Culture With Reese – […]