In her discussion of political intersectionality, Crenshaw provides an example of a 48 Hours documentary made for television about domestic violence. The documentary was intended to show how widespread domestic violence is, in order to motivate policies and programs that can address it. But the documentary mostly told the stories of white women. There was one story of a woman of color, but she was not given as much time, and her story tended to depersonalize her. Whereas the exploration of the stories of the white women included discussions of their family and life, for instance, no such context was provided for the nonwhite woman. Crenshaw analyzes the situation:
I offer this description to suggest that “other” women are silenced as much by being relegated to the margin of experience as by total exclusion. Tokenistic, objectifying, voyeuristic inclusion is at least as disempowering as complete exclusion. (1261)
Here, bringing in one nonwhite woman to speak for all women of color actually had the effect of further marginalizing women of color. White women get to have their full stories told, suggesting they are more worthy of narration and empathy. In contrast, including just one nonwhite woman suggests women of color do not deserve this kind of empathy or attention. The irony is that inclusion actually yields exclusion. Bringing in the margins without actually centering the margins just leads to more marginalization.
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color study guide contains a biography of Kimberle Crenshaw, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.