The Problem With Grouping Women

Women should not be categorized into one unit, and they must be free to be an individual.

The negative stigma surrounding the grouping of women together, particularly third world women, was a concept that never truly crossed my mind. I had always accepted this unity, not really taking into thought that these women are very diverse and unique from one another, and as woman myself I feel extremely naïve and very guilty. Through my eyes, this was a good thing to categorize: women grouped as one was to solidify our power against outside forces. Now, however, I see things differently.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, a feminist theorist, wrote in her essay “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses” that grouping women into categories could have a negative effect for women. She says that this fundamentally puts women at an immediate disadvantage and this said-disadvantage stems from how women lose their true self and identity. We do not take into fact that women, especially the third world women, are, very much, different, and to categorize us into one unit is wrong and despicable; to think we have similar experiences is a very childish position to have.

After reading her work, Mohanty’s words have shed a new outlook on me. True, I will openly say I do not agree with all of her ideologies, yet this one notion has made me willingly agree with her.

Our different cultures, religions, or social classes make us very disjointed, proving the point that we should not delve into the idea we are all the same. We may share similar organs and body parts, but so much can separate us into subgroups.

One particular subgroup I identify with are Filipina women, and a huge belief from being Filipina is that they are, mostly, nurses. According to the news website New America Media, there are many Filipino nurses, men and women, because it was an easier way to immigrate to the U.S., not to mention the great benefits that come with it. People just assume we are dark-skinned women who wish to become nurses. We can even use this idea to go back to Kimberle Crenshaw’s, another feminist theorist, essay “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” to understand that the difference of people could derive from the idea of intersectionality. Although I am Filipina, I do not fall under the generalized idea of a Filipina.

I am a writer and artist, a rarity in my category, and I am also very fair skinned. Adelle Tamblyn, a writer for the Japansociology, says Filipinos, who tend to be lighter-skinned, are thought of as being more beautiful which is why many of the actors and actresses shown in the media in the Philippines are lighter. When I tell people I am a Filipina they often do not believe me, always assuming I am another ethnicity or a mix, therefore I am an example of why we should not group women together. My mother happens to be very dark, and she would belittle herself from past experiences and commend the color of my skin which I believe is sickening. This can also shed light onto how Mohanty’s and Crenshaw’s ideas are very similar: identity is crucial for people, especially women.

Opening my eyes to new ideas helped shape my new perspective. This ideal Mohanty speaks about is so relevant to the problems we see nowadays. I would hope people understand that grouping women to generalize is unacceptable. I just hope other people are willing see things the way I do.