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Importance of Intersectionality in Film

Importance of Intersectionality in Film

The term Intersectionality was coined by Dr. Kimberlee Crenshaw in 1989. Dr. Crenshaw was a professor of law at Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles. This term works to express the everyday struggle of the people who are experiencing more than one form of prejudice or injustice. I find this term particularly important in terms of its relation to the way society treats gay black men. I think it is incredibly valuable to step back and understand the gender roles and norms surrounding a masculine African American man. Our media and society have constructed these gender expectations for the younger generations that often don’t include the possibility of a child being genderqueer. Children can be mean, and it is an everyday occurrence that people are harassed and bullied for a whole list of reasons.

Young gay people are faced with a lot of potential challenges to overcome including acceptance from family and friends, comfortability with your own sexuality and of course people who actively work and voice themselves against you and your beliefs. Now when you take these problems and combine them with the problems facing young African Americans we are presented with this entirely different perspective with layers of discrimination and oppression. This layered oppression is known as intersectionality, it basically means that rather than just facing the issues of being a young gay man you also face the oppression and discrimination of being a young African American.

Its already difficult to grow up and to find out everything there is to know about yourself but to also face these issues alongside racial injustice proves a difficult task.  In 2016 world famous director Barry Jenkins made a film titled Moonlight. The movie told the story of a young gay black man throughout his life and how he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality all while trying to avoid gang violence and caring for his mother, who is cripplingly addicted to hard drugs. The film won an Oscar for best picture, and I believe it has an incredibly compelling story that phenomenally works to express the struggle of the young gay African American man.

Movies like Moonlight are incredibly important because it really helps to give the everyday person who may not fully understand a topic like Intersectionality a real inside look into the struggles that other people are facing. When you see a story like this you can’t ignore it and the effect it instills on your mind. The “I never thought about it like that” moment is what Jenkins wants everyone who sees this film to feel. It is our moral obligation as individuals that we are aware of our privileges and the things we may have access to that others don’t. There is a compelling article written by Prince Shakur who is a contributor to the online blog Electric Lit where he published the article “Who loved gay black boys before moonlight?”. The article explains his personal struggle as a gay black man and how he related to the character and how important film portrayals like this are for the betterment of society.  At one point in the article, he states

 “When I saw Moonlight as a gay, black man at the age of 22, I was shaken to realize that this was the first moment in cinema I had seen a black man reassuring a potentially gay, black male that his existence was not only valid, but also worth taking pride in.”

This directly relates to the problems we have in this country facing heteronormativity and the Struggles of growing up and coming to terms with your sexuality. Finally, the younger generations will have these examples of what to do and what not to do out in front of them in a way that really forces them to see the bigger picture.  

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