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Ruth Frankenberg Reseach - Research Paper Example

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Ruth Frankenberg This paper will discuss Ruth Frankenberg’s life, works and contributions to an important subject in American studies. The central thesis of this paper is that Ruth Frankenberg’s work and writings on gender and race is largely motivated by her personal narrative because of her own identity as a white woman…
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Download file to see previous pages We begin to get a glimpse of Frankenberg’s life in her first book and perhaps the book which she is known the most for, “White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness”, which was published in 1993. It is telling that Frankenberg begins with the admission that she had at first considered race far removed from her work as a Marxist Feminist. To quote her, “I saw racism as entirely external to me, a characteristic of extremists or of the British State, but not a part of what made me or what shaped my activism.” (1993: 53). Her race consciousness was triggered by the observation that unlike those she campaigned in the All-Cambridge campaigns who were whites like her, those she worked alongside in the feminist movement in the United States were “lesbian women of color and white working class women” (1993: 54) – bringing forth a heterogeneity that demonstrated the unities and linked experiences of women from all over. Black writers like Patricia Collins (1995) saw the import and contribution of this kind of literature. B. Choosing Career From this early experience, Frankenberg developed a critical perspective towards race and saw whiteness as a category that bestows “structural advantage” and “privilege” (55) and as a “place from which to look at oneself, others and society.” In her work at looking at white women’s childhoods, Frankenberg saw how race was used as an organizing device to bestow or deny privilege; to include or exclude. In a way, therefore, it becomes inextricable with class – particularly when race becomes the determinant of conferring economic benefit. The criticism that "'whites' in the United States historically have been extraordinarily good at not looking inward” (Durso, 2002) appears to be a valid one. C. First Book Ruth Frankenberg then takes off her discourse in her first book, “White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness” where she began with the provocative observation that “any system of differentiation shapes those upon whom it bestows privilege as well as those it oppresses.” (Frankenberg: 1993: 131). This is a critical starting point in beginning to understand the complex ways with which the color of one’s skin – whiteness – impacts on race, gender, and class. It can therefore be seen that Frankenberg is critical of, rather than apologetic for, white racism and her work in fact is a scathing indictment of the structures of dominance that have resulted from skin color differentiations. Looking deeper and unpacking her work more, Frankenberg explores the themes of race, gender and class vis a vis whiteness not as independent from each other, but as overlapping structures of oppression and exploitation that must be addressed and resisted together. She surfaces, to paraphrase May (1999:4) the hegemonic processes that lead to the universalization and normalization of whiteness and the “othering” of non-whiteness. Frankenberg’s critical – as opposed to apologetic – perspective on race and whiteness becomes even more apparent when she reveals how the subjects of her study, the white middle-class women who she had asked to describe their childhoods, had managed to render invisible the black people who they had lived with or encountered within their communities. And when these black people are summoned to memory, it is always in the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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