Essay Sample on the Concept of Intersectionality in the Story Becky by Jean Toomer

Published: 2022-06-01
Essay Sample on the Concept of Intersectionality in the Story Becky by Jean Toomer
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Women Discrimination American literature
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1901 words
16 min read

The term intersectionality has been widely utilized. It has now become a common word among individuals, mostly been used in social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, the term has become referred to even in newspapers and articles. The concept has been existence since ages, but it was coined in 1989 by Kimberle Crenshaw, an American professor. Moreover, it can be considered as a feminist sociological theory that attempts to identify the ways the systems interlock and impact those that are marginalized in the society (Carastathis 305). Additionally, minority women are limited in the society compared to their white counterparts. There are additional aspects that affect a person's background and encompass the concept of intersectionalities such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, class, and disability. It has come to the awareness of scholars to identify that the cultural patterns of oppression can be regarded together and are influenced by factors such as ethnicity and sexual category (McCall 1779). The paper aims to explore the term in-depth to disclose the perspective portrayed and explain its relevance in the story Becky by Jean Toomer.

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Furthermore, there have misunderstandings of what the concept means and how it has manifested in the feminist movement. Nevertheless, the concept was acknowledged by Crenshaw, where she used it to reveal how women belonging to a homogenous group are placed and are positioned by structures of power. She applied it in her essay to explain using a feminist context, which expounded a deeper understanding of how women in the society are an encounter and deal with issues such as race and class through their lived experiences. Likewise, she provided analysis of two forms of violence that men subject to women, including domestic violence and rape. Crenshaw further proposed that although the racism and sexism can be combined and be revealed in real people, they do not refer to feminist and anti-racist practices (McCall). Moreover, it showed how they interact with gender. There have been various scholars who have founded on the notion of Crenshaw. One of them is Patricia Collins who built her concept on the theory, arguing there are various forms of oppression. They overlap just like hierarchies to so that the overall imbalance of structural power is imbalanced. She further suggested that the theory was primarily focused on women of color, but it could be used to analyze the interaction which gender or status overlap each other (Carastathis 309). Additionally, the idea prevents the women that have been subjected to oppression from being further sidelined.

The story by Jean Toomer titled Becky, tells a tale of a white woman who has an affair with an African American man. Their relationship later results to them having two sons both the white and black community disregard and exclude her from the society (Neimneh, and Obeidat 59). White people consider her God-forsaken and shameless, while the blacks regard her as poor and crazy. She is referred to as an island, where she occupies the area between the road and the railroad track. Although Becky and her sons are considered an outcast, the people provide her with food and notes through the passage of trains and cars. Her sons grow up and later, they shoot two men and flee the town. The boys do not have a family they can look on and end up feeling lonely and secluded from the community. Moreover, the people do not know whether to consider the boys as white or black. Furthermore, Becky regards herself as dead since she has no place in the black and white society. At the end of the story, she actually dies in a fire that traps her inside the house.

The concept of intersectionality is relevant in the analysis of the story of Becky. It has more to do with the oppression of women, and their place in the society. As defined earlier, the idea can be termed as the perspective that women encounter oppression in varying configurations and various levels of intensity (Carastathis 311). Based on Crenshaw's work on the matter, she discussed the notion regarding black feminism. She further argued that the experience that a black woman underwent cannot be understood due to her race and being a female independently. Moreover, she emphasized that the intersectionality within women is significant compared to the combination of race and sex. The perspective of intersectionality is evident in the book through Becky. However, it is applicable in a different way compared to Crenshaw's opinions since she regards the black women, but Becky is white. She is subjected to oppression due to the affair she had with the black man. Moreover, she is subjected to the treatment since she bears two children that cannot be either considered as white or black (Neimneh, and Obeidat 63). Her experiences in the society are experiences that combine both racism and sexism. Furthermore, is white but has ties to the black community through her sons and she does not know the father of the child. She becomes marginalized in the community whereby white people do not want to be associated with her, while the black individuals regard her as poor and insane.

The concept is more portrayed on the foundation of Becky's gender. She is a woman and the more reason she is subjected to oppression. Women in the society are considered inferior and the more reason she experiences the form of subjection. Her gender makes the people in the society differently. The concept is intersection more due to her class in the community. From the evidence in the book, it can be revealed that Becky is poor and she lives in a scanty condition where she struggles. After bearing the first child, she completely turned away from the community by both the black and white people. It reaches a point where a man in charge of the railroad, has to allow her secretly to reside on the strip of land between the railroad and the highway (Neimneh, and Obeidat 59). He does so confidentially so that the other individuals may not be aware and raise concerns on the matter. Furthermore, it shows how the people did not want to be associated with people especially, marginalized women. Additionally, while she stays in the area she was allocated to stay at, she does not have access to basic needs such as food and clothing. It reveals that she thrived in poverty and could not cater for herself or the children. Nevertheless, people that traveled using the road or railway threw away food and notes without the knowledge that Becky existed there (Neimneh, and Obeidat 59). Also, they did not know that they were aiding her. It further reveals just like the others in the society that knew of Becky's condition and refused to help her in any way, if the travelers knew of her they would no longer throw food at that specific point. Moreover, the intersection of class and gender leading to oppression of Becky is portrayed where the black termed her as poor (Neimneh, and Obeidat 59). It shows that due to her being poor despite having children from a black man, they could not associate or interact with her and considered her an outcast.

Furthermore, intersectionality has been further explored, and the interplay between gender and race has been widely identified. However, there are at times when identities and oppressions are added to be addressed by the topic. The subjection from the race is also evident in through Becky's sons. They have a black father that they do not know and their mother does not want to reveal who he is. Their mother is white but has been considered and an outcast after bearing them. Because they are children to Becky, they are also treated with the same objection that their mother receives. The issue of intersectionality arises between race and age. The boys are young and lived between the railroad and the highway with their mother. However, Becky is not seen. Instead, it is only the boys that appear to be running around playing. The people do not want to associate themselves with the boys due to their parent. As the boys grow, they turn out to be strong men, and the people fear them. The people begin being suspicious and are astonished whether there is any room left for poor Becky (Neimneh, and Obeidat 61). Moreover, they wonder if the boys killed their mother and buried her. Also, it leads them to have the conclusion that Becky exists as a ghost. It because the house they resided in continually emitted smoke from the chimney, and it depicted a creepy sensation when the people see it. Likewise, the people in the social question whether the boys are white or black due to their color. It makes them hop from job to job since the people do not want to be near them due to fear.

Intersectionality is also evident through race and religion of Becky. The narrator describes her as a Catholic who regarded her faith. However, she experienced physical weakness due to the judgment and criticism imposed by the people in the society. The individuals, especially the whites regarded her as God-forsaken and shameless (Neimneh, and Obeidat 59). It shows that the white was against her having an affair with a black man and bearing children. Due to her having the two sons, they considered her a sinner and had no place in God's presence. It further shows the kind of oppression she underwent caused by religion and her race due to her associations. Becky is seen to be struggling to fit with the others on the aspect of religion, but she still is neglected and termed as an outcast.

In conclusion, intersectionality is a framework that has been set to identify the dynamic between the identities and how they are connected with the systems of oppression. The social stratifications including, race, gender and age are complexly interwoven thus expounding more on the issue of intersectionality. There was an American professor, Crenshaw that coined the concept making it more adaptable. She discussed in her essay her ideas on the topic, basing it more on the experiences that women encounter for being black and their gender. Moreover, the concept is the organizing principle in the story of Becky by Jean Toomer. The tale is about a white woman who has an affair with a black man leading to her bearing two children. She does not reveal the father to the sons. Additionally, in the society, she is discriminated against both the black and white people due to different reasons. The black people consider her crazy and poor while the white refers to her as God-forsaken and shameless. It reaches to an extent where they term her as dead, and it's only her ghost that exists.

Works Cited

Carastathis, Anna. "The concept of intersectionality in feminist theory." Philosophy Compass 9.5 (2014): 304-314. Retrieved from

McCall, Leslie. "The complexity of intersectionality." Signs: Journal of women in culture and society 30.3 (2005): 1771-1800. Retrieved from

Neimneh, Shadi, and Marwan Obeidat. "Jean Toomer's Cane: The Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde." Journal of Foreign Languages 3.1 (2015): 58-66. Retrieved from's_Cane_The_Harlem_Renaissance_Modernism_and_the_Avant-Garde/links/55e83ae008ae65b638997533.pdf

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Essay Sample on the Concept of Intersectionality in the Story Becky by Jean Toomer. (2022, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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