Decolonize ALL The Things

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D.A.T.T. Freedom School Week 4 Summary – Cishetpatriarchy, Gender, & Sexuality

August 4, 2015

Liberation Circle & Reading Summaries from D.A.T.T. Freedom School

Summer 2015 – Week 4

Cishetpatriarchy, Gender, & Sexuality

The Storify for this topic’s Liberation Circle tweet chat can be found HERE.

What is GENDER?

Gender is the range of mental and behavioral characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between and across, masculinity and femininity.  In Western societies, the accepted cultural perspective on gender views women and men as naturally and unequivocally defined categories of being with distinctive psychological & behavioral propensities that can be predicted from their reproductive function.  (The idea that women do feminine things, men do masculine things & it is just ‘natural’) (Doing Gender, West & Zimmerman, 1987:126)


Sex is a determination made through the application of socially agreed upon biological criteria for classifying persons as females or males.  The criteria for classification can be genitalia at birth or chromosomal typing before birth, and they do not necessarily agree with one another (Doing Gender, West & Zimmerman, 1987:127).  & its important to recognize that binary ‘sex’ is not supported by biology, if genes & genitalia are the criteria for binary biological sex, then even Eurowestern colonial binary biological sex is false and not supported by biological evidence.


Placement in a sex category is achieved through application of the sex criteria, but in everyday life, categorization is established and sustained by the socially required identificatory displays that proclaim one’s membership in one or the other category.  Sex & sex category can vary independently; that is, it is possible to claim membership in a sex category even when the sex criteria are lacking (Doing Gender, West & Zimmerman, 1987).


Sexuality is a person’s sexual orientation.  Many sexual orientations exist including but not limited to asexual, pansexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, and heterosexual.  (Its important to remember that sexuality is not the same as gender or romantic orientation)  Some describe sexuality as what you do or don’t do with your genitalia.

– From Patriarchy & Gender by Shay Ture (@They_berian)

Summary of “Doing Gender” by West & Zimmerman (1987)

In Candace West and Don Zimmerman’s piece entitled Doing Gender, the social, psychological, and cultural constructs of “gender” and “sex” are distilled.  This article transcends the basic understanding that cispatriarchy as a concept somehow cultivated exclusively for/by white feminists. It’s important to think of cispatriarchy as a nexus of erasure, and predicated on the fact that oppressive systems intersect, men of color still benefit from patriarchy just as white women benefit from white supremacy. It delves deeper into the confining roots of gender as biology and sex as category. But rather, the social phenomena and performance of those consigned to pre-determined roles of gender.

Zimmerman and West argue that society structures categories according to those who observe our biological and cultural determinants of “gender”. In other words, auditioning for the quasi [cis]-role of “male” or “female” becomes a determination based on biological meanings and parallel norms superimposed upon this binary code. On p. 125, the authors summarily explain that social imperatives of gender, such as “achievement” and subordination” are often imposed upon women by men. However, the reflexive nature of external pressures surpasses the confines of oppression by men alone. The patriarchal ideology permeates like gravity and as a result, structural arrangements of gender in our society must not be confused with biological characterization. Zimmerman and West explain that the very notion of gender as an “accomplishment” verifies its place as an interaction with social conditions underpinned by institutional forces. These social arrangements create legitimate divisions of gender/sex through biological determination—neither of which emerge in vacuums. The meanings of gender are assigned and thus, another layer of social caste is borne (pp. 127-128). As a side note, it’s important to remember that within education, in which I teach, the language of intersectionality is often appropriated to mean putting together already existing theoretical frameworks, or including the experiences of those “left out” of liberal white capitalistic projections, in a way that evades theoretical consideration of gender altogether. Thus, grappling with intersectionality is often mistakenly reduced to a call to include the experiences of white self-ascribed feminists. Sidestepping the challenge to gender inherent in the theoretical and political projection of intersectionality, this framework of inclusion fails to confront patriarchy.

Goffman’s (1976) study on “gender display” (pp. 126-127) demonstrates that performance to legitimate illusory biological demarcations exists when people were asked to play certain roles as male or female. To add another tier of nuance, the meaning assigned by the observer was more determinant than the autonomy of the gendered individual. Garfinkel, Kessler, McKenna (1978) argue that cispatriarchal categories of “gender attribution” result from a process rather than a static collection of biologically-determined traits. One example might be the connection between male-ness and attire—such as a suit and tie. This case, however, does not constitute that the individual must have a penis.  Another revealing study of sex categorization by Agnes (1979) who examined transitioning persons found that observation manifests as “gendering”. This study of facial hair associated “male” with meanings arbitrarily assigned to biological phenotypes. This ritual, Agnes, coined was the “normative apprenticeship” or the process by which meanings are assigned (pp.135-136).

Parenthetically, West and Zimmerman remind us that sex and sex categorization vary independently (p. 127) as categorization is a colonial outgrowth achieved through a role or what they describe as “proxy activities”. Thus, gender becomes the normative concept of attitude and activities emerged from socialized sex categories. On p. 127, West and Zimmerman unearth the internal contradiction that social differences of “gender” and cisgendering. This positivist reduction “reduces gender to a fixed set of psychological manifestations” and agreements (Thorne, 1980). Somewhat overlapping with my field of educational technocracy, however, gender—akin to colonial “achievement” in schools—has partially continued through “historically inequitable social relationships” (Thorne, 1980, p. 11); thereby, incentivizing the divisions (however arbitrary) subjected by cispatriarchy. The exception to sex categorization, like that of a “female doctor”, does not disprove the rule and the very prefix of “female” highlights the asymmetry of this power dynamic.

Ultimately, our synthesis finds that gender is a social process that is produced both interpersonally as well as through “everyday activities” (p. 127) between a person and institution. Definitions variegate, according to time and location, much like Ian Lopez’s historical evidence of White contextualization and its contradictions during the surge of naturalization petitions from the 1920’s-1940’s.  To that end, it’s paramount to remember that “sex” is a social consensus arranged through power relationship rather than biological determination. As a result, we circle back to ideology as a vector of relational power. Toni Morrison makes a clarion call against this malfeasant standardization as White identity is “inextricably linked to innocence” (Beloved, p.21-22) through an edifice of Whiteness—commonly interchanged with citizenship. In other words, revolutionary change must be systemically and culturally broached to uproot the inconsistencies of meaning. In terms of gender, expressions commonly assigned to cispatriarchal roles overstate the fundamental dimensions of our social stations (Goffman, 1976). Much like education, the “performance” of Eurocolonial roles observed through a lens of White academic merit, amplifies teaching of “achievement”, gender “idealization” is also reproduced. Gender, much like academic achievement, is a powerful “ideological allocation of status, difference, and power” (p. 147). Colonial phenomena adapt to time and reproduce according to location of social/cultural status, accordingly.

– This summary was written by Arash Daneshzadeh (@A_Daneshzadeh)

Summary of “Heteropatriarchy & the 3 Pillars of White Supremacy” by Andrea Smith

Dr. Andrea Smith’s article entitled Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing, pervades an important subtext of including women of color into gender studies, but also uproots the paradox that leaves the core concepts of the patriarchy and White Supremacy intact. In other words, White Supremacy and Patriarchy are not exclusively perpetuated by men, namely white men. Summarily, educators must take intersectionality as a call to fundamentally transform (or abandon) frameworks that cannot grapple with racial difference in gender-based frameworks. As Elsa Barkley Brown notes, the point is not just that women of color and white women have different experiences but rather that racism is a structure of power in which “white women live the lives they do in large part because women of color live the ones they do” (E. Brown 1992, p. 298). On p. 67, Dr. Smith writes, that the prevalent zeitgeist “assumes communities of color are impacted by White Supremacy in the same way”. However, this sum-zero thesis fails to consider the deleterious impact that White Supremacy has on White people who fancy themselves as simply race-neutral—in addition, to the miscalculated notion that White Supremacy can only be perpetrated by White people of European descent. Thus, strategies to critically resist White Supremacy cannot mirror one another. While racism is historically anchored and ingrained in dominant culture—it is not static and by definition operates fluidly according to time, location, and intergroup phenomenon. In sum, White Supremacy adapts across milieus, which compels its dismantling to emerge from a nexus of sources…from education to public health, as all these macro-forces come yoked to ideological and political underpinnings. Andrea Smith illustrates the perpetuation of White hegemony through a prism determined in size and contour according to the populations it oppresses. One example is what she underscores as the military industrial complex—which Dr. Smith notes oppresses globally by ironically, in large cases, arming personnel of color [ergo: from historically dehumanized/colonized communities]. Dr. Smith suggests that “People of Color Organizing” must respond to three prongs of White Supremacist oppression (p. 67-68): 1. Slavery and Capitalism 2. Genocide and Capitalism 3. Orientalism and War

These “three pillars of White Supremacy” are ensconced by slavery and genocide, which Smith distinguishes by whether people of color—themselves—are culpable agents, and active participants. The pillar of slavery, Dr. Smith asserts is “anchored by capitalism” (p. 67- 68) which abstracts anti-blackness through a lens of merit-based commodification, as long as other people of color buy into its racist pathos. For example, the historical fallacy of post-racial education, in which people of color are matriculating into institutions predominantly occupied by white students, fails to consider contextual barriers and retention supports that sustain and center PoC in higher education (e.g., culturally relevant pedagogy, public health access, tuition assistance, first-generation programs like McNair/TRiO-SSS). Dr. Smith delivers a keen example of post-modern slavery by citing Native and indigenous communities throughout the Americas on page 68—illuminating the “temporal sense of death”. She notes that death takes on an ethereal and tenuous meaning among Native populations who were historically repressed from promulgating traditions, languages, and cultural literacy practices. As Ian Haley Lopez suggested in White Lies (1997), educational oppression is often an entrapment because it politically commissions people of color to suppress their human impulse to recognize cultural roots and historical identity frames. A concept popularly described by Dr. Cornel West, in his seminal work in Race Matters (1994), as “nihilism”. Dr. Smith makes a plea to redefine “liberation” beyond integrative constructs; that is, for Native populations to exist without relying upon the co-existence of a White Supremacist apparatus that entitles indigenous communities to land and property, so long as they are not “openly” Native in custom, and culture. The intergenerational price of this identity-sloughing burden, she testifies, is too self-debilitating and widely pernicious to accept. Andrea Smith furthers her argument by proposing a cause for this self-imposed erasure. She states, “what keeps us trapped [in White Supremacist slavery] is the seduction of participating in other pillars” (e.g., capitalism, patriarchy)—thereby weaning away from powerful albeit “shared sense of victimhood” with other people of color.

Dr. Andrea Smith’s searing argument for collectivism and what Huey P. Newton coined as “intercommunialism” in To Die For the People (2009) is also vehemently for cross-cultural organization. Smith cedes that resistance-centered organizing that does not envelop all parts of the military/prison industrial complexes (prison, judicial affairs, global military forces, central intelligence, domestic policing), creates a micro-alliance with colonialism, thus legitimizing it indefinitely. To that end, shared victimization becomes complicit with imperialism when it begins to adopt elements of the military/prison industrial complexes. On page 70, Dr. Smith highlights the Dred Scott case that politically sanctioned Black existence as 3/5ths of White human beings, as well as, entitlements to Native land during migration as evidence of genocide serving as the twin engine of slavery operating under an “alibi of democracy”. This democracy, of course, was a sham, as even the GI Bill did not equitably serve soldiers of color from Korea and Vietnam who wished to pursue to higher education—despite the surge of veteran White males (ages 25-40) who matriculated into colleges and universities, during those periods.

In Orientalism, Dr. Smith uproots the false notion brought up by Edward Said (1978), that exotic or “othered” peoples do not share victimization. While our oppression, particularly as people of color, is not interchangeable, it is unifying around White Supremacist Patriarchy. The illusion of oppression happening in other countries, perpetrated by “exotic” tyrants, creates a false aegis for American imperialism. Predicated with the understanding that even people of color can participate, thereby legitimate political-edifices of slavery, genocide, capitalism—these pillars do not wane in gravitas or destruction simply because of the culture and complexion of its participants. This idea of “multiculturalism” (p. 70) represents a powerful referendum because it implicates all members of society in the soft and hard genocide of White Supremacist Heteropatriarchy. White Supremacy does not singularly operate under Black-White figureheads, a dangerous binary, that obfuscates the myriad of agents that promote it. In my field of education, task forces that champion a vision of ending the “school to prison pipeline” often take on reform-based metrics such as “reactionary restorative justice” which still commodify and enterprise anti-blackness. The term restoration and need becomes synonymous with black students, as result—even under the jurisdiction of Black superintendents, teachers, parents/guardians, community members, and principals. White Supremacy can be advanced—fundamentally– by people of color. As Dr. Andrea Smith synthesis and warrants suggests, “Whiteness operates differently in its logic of genocide than it does from its logic of slavery” (p. 71). This tethers our allegiance to American jingoism, which remains a large undercurrent of globalized eradication of people of color—from Somalia to Iraq. “Mutual respect and community relationships”, Smith believes, will provide the bulwark to this binary thinking that only White people advance the needle of oppression. In education, the squelched value among Black students requires a re-imagination of not only “need” but also, shared governance.

 – This summary was written by Arash Daneshzadeh (@A_Daneshzadeh)

Summary of “The Invention of Women: Making An African Sense of Gender Discourses” by Oyeronke Oyewumi – Chapter 1 “Visualizing the Body: Western Theories & African Subjects”, Chapter 4 “Colonizing Bodies & Minds: Gender & Colonialism” & Summary “Doing, Undoing, or Redoing Gender” by Connell, & Summary of “Black Sexual Politics” by Patricia Hill-Collins – Chapter 6 “Very Necessary: Redefining Black Gender Ideology”

What is patriarchy?

Patriarchy (rule by fathers) is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.  Patriarchy can manifest itself socially, politically, and economically.

What is cisheteropatriarchy?

A system of power based on the supremacy & dominance of cisheterosexual men through the exploitation & oppression of women and the LGBTQIA*.  Also referred to as sexism.  This includes oppressive constructs such as homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, etc..

What do dominant gender norms, sex categories, & sex criteria under patriarchy result in?

A heteronormative society where any sexual or gender expression that is outside of the binaries of masculine & feminine are subjugated resulting in heterosexual normative privilege for those who follow the systemic and social scripts of patriarchy & biological determination (the idea that biology naturally drives sex, gender, & sexuality).

Understanding African Gender Ideologies

The concept of “gender” only being a binary is European.  Oyewumi (The Invention of Women by Oyeronke Oyewumi, 1997) demonstrated that the “woman question” is inherently Western, one that did not exist in pre-colonial African societies.   African societies did not have conceptions of what we conceive of as ‘gender’ prior to colonial contact.  For example, in old Yoruba society, gender was NOT constructed via a binary and social organization was determined by relative age.

Hegemonic Masculinity


Hegemonic masculinity is the gender practice that guarantees the dominant social position of men, and the subordinate social position of women.  Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity explains how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as “feminine” in a given society. As a sociologic concept, the hegemonic nature of “hegemonic masculinity” derives from the theory of cultural hegemony, by Antonio Gramsci, which analyzes the power relations among the social classes of a society; hence, in the term “hegemonic masculinity”, the adjective hegemonic refers to the cultural dynamics by means of which a social group claims, and sustains, a leading and dominant position in a social hierarchy; nonetheless, hegemonic masculinity embodies a form of social organization that has been sociologically challenged and changed.

Hegemonic masculinity construction relies on what the female/woman is or is not.  Hegemonic masculinity in a patriarchal system is a very active status.  Men have to prove that they are not women while women align with hegemonic femininity via passive forms of waiting on physical maturation & hoping that their bodies receive social approval.  One of the benchmarks of hegemonic femininity is that women must not be like men & Black women automatically break that rule.  For a long time the Black community’s problems have been blamed on one dynamic: Black men are too weak, & Black women are too strong. (Black Sexual Politics by Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins pp.185-199)

Hegemonic Femininity

Unlike Hegemonic BSPexcerptp.193masculinity, Hegemonic femininity is passive, requiring that women not act to earn femininity.  Women wait and depend on their physical maturation and hoping their body fits the Euro-American beauty ideal so that they can meet social approval.  One of the cores to both hegemonic masculinity and hegemonic femininity is biological determinism/naturalism: the idea that there are innate natural characteristics that we have that determine our gender (feminine & masculine) characteristics (Black Sexual Politics by Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins pp.185-199).BSPexcerptp.194
Zimmerman & West’s (1987) work reveals that gender is a social, political, and economic construct.  Gender is a performance.  As a hegemony, patriarchy dictates the rules and boundaries by which those performances are defined.
The reality is what we see as natural about gender is actually a performance.  We have all been socialized into performing these cishetnormative ideals of what men and women are supposed to do and these ideas serve the purposes of continuing the hegemony cishetpatriarchy.  What is also crucial here that Dr. Hill-Collins points out is the intersections of gender, sexuality, class, and race.  These drastically alter the meaning and ways in which gender is performed.  Masculinity means something different for an underclass Black man versus an upper middle class Black man.

Excerpt from Hill-Collins Black Sexual Politics, p184

In this chapter, Hill-Collins opens up with a critique from the 1970 essay “On the Issue of Roles” by Toni Cade Bambara:

“It seems to me you find your Self in destroying illusions, smashing myths, laundering the head of whitewash, being responsible to some truth, to the struggle. That entails at the very least cracking through the veneer of this sick society’s definition of ‘masculine’ & ‘feminine.’ … I am beginning to see that the usual notions of sexual differentiation in roles is an obstacle to political consciousness, that the way those terms are generally defined and acted upon in this part of the world is a hindrance to full development.”

 What Toni Cade Bambara was highlighting is: cishetpatriarchy notions of gender harms Black people.  This society’s notions of what qualifies as masculine & feminine within a biological reductionist (everything is reduced to being only biological) binary was only created for domination & hinders struggles against white supremacy.


A development of liberating gender ideologies requires decolonization and more specifically it requires depatriarchalization.

Depatriarchalization & decolonization requires that we:

  • Detach our understandings of gender from sex & sex category
  • Understand that gender is not genitals
  • Understand that gender has NOTHING to do with biology
  • Gender is not sexuality
  • Gender is NOT a binary
  • Gender is more than just a spectrum with masculinity & femininity at opposite ends; gender is a cosmos of identities/being
  • Stop relying on the exploitation & comparisons of our sense of self & gender against that of another person in order to reinforce who we are
  • Stop hierarchally ordering genders & denoting gendered behavior to nature
  • Stop forcing your conceptions of gender onto other people who aren’t the same as you
  • Stop devaluing femininity and comparing it to masculinity

Why are Connell & West & Zimmerman’s analyses problematic?

Connell reviews & challenges the notion of “doing gender” that we see in West & Zimmerman (1987) in presenting the critiques of many feminists who question the research done on a transwoman, Agnes, by Garfinkel in 1967.  Connell states that Zimmerman & West’s theory of doing gender was built off of Garfinkel’s work.  Instead they present the notion of “undoing gender” that was presented by Barbara Risman (2009, 82):

Connell - Doing, Undoing, or Redoing Gender Excerpt

The problem with the notion of doing & redoing gender that West & Zimmerman defend against undoing gender is:

  • West & Zimmerman fail to decouple gender from patriarchy & in doing so ignore the reality that: GENDER EXISTED PRIOR TO CISHETPATRIARCHY
  • They ignore pre-colonial gender systems of people of color (e.g. Two-Spirited peoples in the Indigenous Americas as well as Oyewumi’s presentation of a completely different gender system in Nigeria prior to colonization)
  • Gender is a binary under CISHETPATRIARCHY but not everywhere else
  • They ignore that the conflation of sex, gender, & sex category is a consequence of biological reductionism within cishetpatriarchy NOT an automatic characteristic of gender itself
  • In summary, they tend to ignore some of the important influences of power & the rationales of patriarchy as a hegemonic system
  • Gender can not simply be “redone” or “undone” via QT peoples. WHY? Because gender is only a binary under cishetpatriarchy & LGBTQ* peoples existed prior to colonization. So even West & Zimmerman’s critique of Connell was limited under the colonial confines of cishetpatriarchy.

The problem with Connell’s analysis is:

  • An investigation of gender performativity in the workplace ignores the dangers of alternative performances under capitalism, in other words: GENDER PERFORMANCE IN THE WORK PLACE IS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY ADAPTING TO SOCIAL NORMS IN AN ATTEMPT TO ENSURE SAFETY & MAINTAIN EMPLOYMENT
  • The above critique points out the lack of an analysis of the intersecting power structures at play
  • In many ways what Connell sees his sample of 19 Trans people doing in the workplace is “gender under cishetpatriarchy”
  • QT peoples are not UNDOING or REDOING gender, if anything they are decolonizing gender when they do not perform gender under the biological determinist rules of cishetpatriarchy.  Gender must be placed within historically, politically, & socially accurate contexts
  • Connell’s analysis of “doing transgender” was limited to how Trans people respond to discrimination & not really about their conceptions of their gender & gender overall


– This summary was written by Shay Ture (@They_berian)



  1. Pingback: D.A.T.T. Freedom School Week 5 Summary – Black Feminism | Decolonize ALL The Things

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