Intersectionality In Alice Walker's The Color Purple

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Although it is common knowledge that women as a collective gender group are subject to sexism, it is arguable that the women in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple exemplify the intersectionality that exists within sexism in American society. It is the contention of this essay that women in American society experience sexism in a variety of ways, due to social hierarchies established through class, as well as racial and gender based differences. For the purpose of this essay we will explore how a distinct group of women experience sexism differently due to their class, race, and gender by using the example of intersectionality in the sexism experienced by African American women in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. One of the main factors that create…show more content…
In one of Celie’s letters to God she describes Harpo and Sofia’s early relationship, and how it changed once their baby was born and they married. In this description we come to understand that Harpo feels weak compared to his strong willed wife, who refuses to follow her husband’s orders. Eventually Harpo goes to his father for advice on “what to do to make Sofia mind.” (Walker 35). This translates to Harpo asking his father how to control his wife. Although Harpo loves Sofia and until this point had not treated Sofia with the same degradation as Mr.- treated Celie, he feels emasculated by her independent state of mind. Sofia’s strong will and lack of fear was unusual behavior for a woman in the context of the early 20th century American south. Finally Harpo’s father replies to his question with, “Wives is like children. You have to let’em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating.” (Walker 35) This quote shows us how a person’s gender drastically altered their daily life through the level of respect they were granted in society. In the context of the era where Alice Walker chose to set The Color Purple, early 20th century southern U.S.A, African American women were burdened with the sexism present in society, but this sexism was coupled with the consequences of their class. The societal norms present throughout U.S.A during this period placed men above women in the hierarchy of society, but through this quote we can understand that men not only dominated over women societally but also physically. Pa’s advice to Harpo about how to control his wife can be used to demonstrate the length at which sexism in this society was prevalent but also the depths of these beliefs.

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