Gendered racism

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Gendered racism is a form of oppression that occurs due to race and gender. Gendered racism is perpetuated due to the prevalence of perceptions, stereotypes, and images of certain groups. Racism is defined as the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race. Racism functions as a way to distinguish races as inferior or superior to one another. Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex. Gendered racism differs in that it pertains specifically to racial and ethnic understandings of masculinity and femininity, as well as along gendered forms of race and ethnic discrimination.

Fundamentally, age, class, and gender are intersecting categories of experience that affect all aspects of human life: thus, they simultaneously structure the experiences of all people in society. At any moment, race, class, or gender may feel more salient or meaningful in a given’s person’s life, but they are overlapping and cumulative in their effects on people’s experiences.[1] This emphasizes that it is difficult for an individual to differentiate which aspect of their identity is being attacked. It may be impossible for an individual to assess whether discrimination was due to gender or race. Both of these constructs make up the individual’s identity, and they intersect one another. Because people have social identities that intersect, it is important to focus on how those identities shape an individual’s experiences.


The term gendered racism was originally coined by sociologist Philomena Essed, and refers to simultaneous experience of both racism and sexism. According to Essed, racism and sexism “intertwine and combine under certain conditions into one hybrid phenomenon." [2] Gendered racism also encompasses what is known as “double jeopardy.” Double jeopardy in this case can be defined as a disadvantage an individual faces due two aspects of their identity. Gendered racism is seen through society’s stereotypical portrayals of men and women of color. For example, African American men may be seen as criminals and absent fathers; Latino women may be seen as feisty and exotic; Asian women may be viewed as submissive and docile; African American women may be portrayed as Mammy figures, promiscuous, and emasculating.[citation needed] These stereotypes coincide with the images that are pervasive in the media, which informs people’s opinions on people of color.[citation needed] For African American women, gendered racism manifested in multiple ways. They suffered from prejudice, mistreatment, and they were also economically disadvantaged.[citation needed]


As a means of coping, African American women relied heavily on the support of the black community. They also coped by overachieving or being overly successful, and thinking positively.[3] Research done demonstrated that the coping mechanisms employed by African American women were not always beneficial because they heightened distress rather than decrease it. Possible ways to cope with gendered racism include education, in which African American women are provided a space to openly discuss their experiences and develop strategies to better handle situations when they are being discriminated against. Another research experiment was conducted in order to assess how Black women college students cope with gendered racial microaggressions.[specify] Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.[4]

The results from these focus groups showed that there were five coping strategies employed: two resistance coping strategies, one collective coping strategy, and two self-protective coping strategies. The two resistance coping strategies were using one’s voice as power and resisting Eurocentric standards. When Black women use their voice as power they are actively speaking up and addressing the microaggressions in order to assert power in the situation. In order to resist Eurocentric standards Black women are compelled to shy away from the traditional standards of beauty as well as dominant ideologies held by the larger society.

The collective coping strategy was leaning on one’s support networks in which individuals find solace through interactions with friends and family. The women who utilized this coping strategy spoke about the comfort they found in having support from other Black women who had similar experiences to them. The two self-protective coping strategies used were becoming a Black Superwoman and becoming desensitized and escaping. Self-protective coping involves strategies that are used to minimize the stressful effect of gendered microaggressions. Black women who cope by becoming a Black Superwoman take on multiple roles to demonstrate their strength and resilience. Other women cope by becoming desensitized and escaping which involves downplaying the seriousness of the situation and finding a way out.

See also


  1. Anderson & Collins, 2004
  2. Essed, 1991
  3. Thomas, Witherspoon & Speight, 2008.
  4. Wing Sue & Rivera, 2010


  • Anderson, M.L., & Collins, P.H. (2004). Race, class, and gender: An anthology (5th ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson
  • Essed, P. (1991). Understanding everyday racism: An interdisciplinary theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Lewis, J., Mendenhall, R., Harwood, S., & Browne Huntt, M. (2013). Coping with Gendered Racial Microaggressions among Black Women College Students. Journal Of African American Studies, 17(1), 51-73. doi:10.1007/s12111-012-9219-0
  • Thomas, A. J., Witherspoon, K. M., & Speight, S. L. (2008). Gendered racism, psychological distress, and coping styles of African American women. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(4), 307.
  • Wing Sue, D., & Rivera, D. (2010, November 17). Microaggressions: More than Just Race. Retrieved December 6, 2014, from
  • Wingfield, A. H. (2007). The modern mammy and the angry black man: African American professionals' experiences with gendered racism in the workplace. Race, Gender & Class, 196-212.