A few years ago, a friend and I started thinking through identities and how they shape us. More specifically, we were thinking through how the number of “minority” identities a person has, impacts their experiences in life. In essence we were thinking about intersectionality; defined as:
“The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”
Seemingly the more hyphens we have, the more complicated our lives become; especially as we try to juggle the supposed water and oil nature of certain identities living together in one person. The older I get, the more I think back on the different hyphens in my own life; how I happened upon them, and how they shaped me.
The first television commercial I remember seeing as a child was one that advertised the education of girls.
“Mama, I wanna go to school. Papa I wanna be in school. I wanna be a doctor, a teacher, and a technician… send your girl child to school. Mama fa me ko suku. Papa fa me ko suku…”
I was around 4 or 5 years old, and while this experience of not being allowed to go to school was not my own, I could see markers of it around me. In first grade, Mr. Konadu informed us “The man is the head of the house. He is supposed to go out and work, and the woman stays home and makes sure that the house is kept” “So who is selling in the markets.” I thought.
In 4th grade a boy in class told me “You are supposed to respect me because I am a man. God created you from my rib.” “First of all, women birth you!” I retorted.
In 5th grade my teacher informed us “…but if she is wearing short or tight skirts and she is raped, then it is her fault.” “That’s just strange logic.” I thought.
Throughout my childhood I would experience the different positives and negatives of girlhood. I would come to arm myself with one of the most important tools that all members of minority groups come to arm ourselves with, mental resistance, which for me has always manifested as the black girl side eye. After all, we live in our world, and also live in their world, but they can never survive a day in our world, and that in some ways is our power.
Happy Women’s History Month