Framework Essay #1: Constructing Categories of Difference

Master Statuses ~ Statuses (positions we fill) that affect our daily lives, lived realities.
                          Ex. For me, being a woman (my gender) is a master status
Essentialism vs. Constructionism
                    Essentialism ~ Master Statuses, or statuses in general, are seen as separate from each 
                     Constructionism ~ Difference is constructed (built and learned from society). Master
                                                statuses also interlock/intersect. 
The authors choose to use the constructionist perspective. Although they do understand the importance of not being purely essentialist or purely constructionist. 
Why do you think this is important? 

Disability is NOT the same as impairment.
Disability is relative upon the society/culture a person with ____ impairment has. If the society/culture does not make life accessible for said person impairment becomes disability. 
discrimination = ableism
Does this differ from what you originally perceived disability as?

Constructionists believe:
Socially Constructed ~ built, learned values through specific societal norms.
                                 Ex., racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, & the values in society
                                        that perpetuate such oppressions are social constructions.

Naming is not only an important topic, but can also be a sensitive one for many people. 
                                    Ex. Black vs. African – American, Girl vs. Woman
Anglo ~ White, mostly used in mid-western United States
Chicano ~ Mexicans who are separating themselves from the term “anglo”
Names are more than just names ~ they shape how we view ourselves and how we want others to view us.

Creating Categories of People
~ The U.S. census creates categories of people based on race/ethnicity
~ Why is this important?
~ Essentialists use this as an example of seen differences
~ Constructionists understand the importance of the Census

Aggregating & Disaggregating
Aggregate ~ to lump groups of people together
                   Ex.: When people lump Latino/a’s together as a homogenous (same) group when, 
                          individually, each group comes from different cultures and traditions
Disaggregate ~ to break apart into fragments.

Aggregation and Disaggregation are important, especially when talking about social movements
                            ~ The Black Power movement used aggregation in order to bring unification
                               among black americans.
                            ~ At the same time, disaggregation can be used to distinguish oneself from the group.
                                                Ex.: Native Americans were lumped together as one whole group,                 
                                                when in reality there are over 400 different individual tribes.
“Since difference is always ‘difference from’ from whose perspective is ‘difference’ determined? Who has the power to define ‘difference’? If ‘we’ are in the boat looking at ‘them’, who precisely are ‘we’?” (page 17)

What does this quote tell us about difference?
How do we know someone is different?
Different from what? 

Androcentrism ~ the world as seen from a male-centered perspective.
                        Ex.: Using his/him pronouns to describe the entire human experience.
~ assumption that everyone is of european origin
Physicalist ~ assumption that everyone is physically agile. 
Heteronormativity ~ heterosexuality as the norm. It is built into daily life, in both sexual and non-sexual instances.
                             Ex.: Assuming that everyone has one mother and one father for parents.
~ defined in text (page 18)
an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship or community
                               Ex.: illegality of gay marriage, (legal) firing of lgbtq people for simply being gay.

Dichotomizing Race

Dichotomy ~ to divide something into 2 parts; these two parts are mutually exclusive; polar opposites
                  Ex.: non-white/white, female/male

To be American means to be “white”
At one point in history the Irish were considered non-white ~ now, they are considered “white”
Is white simply skin color? Or is it more than that? What is it?

“One drop rule” ~ idea that if one has “one drop” of “black blood” they are then considered black.

Defining Race and Ethnicity

Ethnic groups ~ “categories of people who are distinctive on the basis of national origin or heritage, language or cultural practice” (page 21)
Race ~ used to refer to “breeding stock” now refers to “the one major symbol & mode of human group differentiation employed extensively for non-European groups and those in Europe who varied in some way from the subjective norm”
               So, we see ethnicity is different from race.
               Also, that race is an invention used to divide human beings into groups according to    
               specific features.

The race concept is a relatively new one, historically. Former societies did not have divisions based on “race.”
Race does not exist biologically, but socially it does. Social scientists cannot ignore society’s view of race, simply because there are social factors at work. Power & Privilege.
Does this surprise anyone? Thoughts?

Dichotomizing Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation gets separated into 2 categories: gay and straight
Sexuality is more complex than this dichotomy allows.
Sexuality is more than gay/straight ~ it acts as a continuum between exclusively gay and exclusively straight.

Essential identity ~ An identity assigned to an individual, despite her/his actual behavior.
How can one “know” if someone is gay?
Is there a gay trait?
If we know this is false, why do we perpetuate this idea in our culture?

Dichotomizing Class

Class is not discussed in American society often.
Why? Do social classes not exist?

Individual merit ~ the boot strap myth
Does this mean everyone who is poor is lazy & don’t work hard enough?
Are there other forces at work here?

Dichotomizing Sex

Sex ~ hormonal, anatomical, and physiological differences
Gender ~ socially constructed roles

The sexual binary of male/female can be seen as restrictive by those who do not fit into either one.
Or, who do, but do not fit gender roles assigned to them
What does it mean to be female?
What does it mean to be male?
(In American society).

Dichotomization and Disability

This part elaborates on statistics and how they can be misleading in reference to people with disabilities.
Again, the dichotomy of disability/non-disability leaves out room for the in-between. 

Constructing “Others” as Profoundly Different

More differences occur within a group than between 2 groups” (page 32)
                            Ex.: men & women have less differences than one would think. It is how we 
                                  are socialized that makes us feel so different.

Sanctioning Those Who Associate With the “Other”

People tend to stray away from the “other”

  • do not want to be labeled as “feminine”
  • the fag discourse, why is this still prevalent if we claim to be an equal society?


Stigma ~ to be “bad.” In the context of this class, stigma means to be “othered” and to be treated as inferior if part of a particular master status.
Objectification ~ treating people as objects

Many people who are a part of stigmatized master statuses are objectified on a daily basis.

Examples of Stigmatized Master Statuses: Women, Poor People and Disabled People

Women ~ objectified and devalued
            ~ seen not as individuals, but as whole group
Poor People ~ “the poor” interchangeable
Disabled People ~ the “non-disabled” feel automatic superiority

What about those who occupy all 3 master statuses?
Sometimes stigmatized master statuses intersect.

Stereotypes About People in Stigmatized Master Statuses

Women ~ overemotional, unintelligent
Women of Colour ~ promiscuous

Why do we allow these stereotypes to persist?




After finishing reading the framework essay, a lot of things come to my mind. First, understanding sometimes complex concepts can be difficult, especially when we have been taught a specific way (or let’s be honest, not taught at all). Second, that not everything is black and white. In the social sciences, there is so much gray area to cover.

I hope these notes help you all to understand the basic concepts of intersectionality and that it encourages you to think critically about the world around you.



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