The Complexity of Identity – The Oracle

It cannot be described by a single word and is constantly changing.

TW: Mentions of racism, sexism and harassment

March is Women’s History Month and draws attention to the achievements of women of diverse identities. In the past, the majority of women featured in museums were white, with some mentions of women of color, such as Harriet Tubman. But as the world progresses, we hear of Phillis Wheatly, whose poetry was heavily questioned by white men, or the story of Malala Yousafzai, an education advocate. Identifying as a woman has its challenges, but being a woman of color is even more silencing your voice.

Before continuing, it is important to mention that I am a white passerby and can never fully understand other people’s experiences. That said, as a biracial queer woman, I have seen my peers excluded because of the color of their skin or their culture. If you are not cisgender and white, you may not be included in queer pride celebrations. If you are queer, your family and friends may alienate you. Living with a marginalized identity that determines how you are treated as a whole is vexing and brings those who experience it closer together.

But personally, in terms of skin color and cultural experience, I was ignored both ways. I live knowing that if an officer arrests me, I’m completely safe because of my Caucasian appearance, while my friends of color have to worry more about getting hurt. I can’t safely walk around in the dark, but I can walk around a department store with just a glance from security. It’s completely disgusting how it works. As for my education, I had in mind that one day I would have to settle down with a cis man and give birth and raise children. This concept belongs to the past. We are more than just “baby making machines”.

Instead of constantly taking advantage of our bodies and trying to control them, they should focus on acknowledging us as the humans that we are. These thought processes that women face are perhaps what drives future generations to fight back, and that gives me hope.

Clothing, drinks, activities, etc. are inherently gendered by societal opinion, but some experiences are not. Invalidating people who have breasts and/or vaginas and their bodily functions is repugnant. As sexualized as these organs are, they are a natural part of our functions and should be respected as such. To be a woman is to grow by learning to stay safe and not to bring up conflict. Having these organs means you will be warned to “hide” and ignore those who utter degrading phrases. And knowing that to fight for rights and respect is to risk being perceived as someone who rebels. There is strength in numbers to do this safely, but even then it takes time and energy to be heard. Resistance will always exist, and that is why this month is significant. Women have made progress, but we still have more to overcome. And as Serena Williams once said, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We are stronger when we encourage each other”. Together we can persist.

Sharon D. Cole