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Patricia Hill Collins – Matrix of Domination


Patricia Hill Collins’ concept of Matrix of Domination is a model that provides the “framework to understand how categories of race, gender, and class are formed and then transferred into systems of inequality and oppression,  By better understanding how these systems of inequality are interlocked and connected.” (Black Feminst Thought). It is very interesting to see how in oppression and privilege and also how to avoid additive analysis in systems of oppression because that could lead to competition which would only increase the problem.


Collins’ talks about Intersectionality: A feminist concept that’s articulated. We have to look at the ways social identities intersect with each other. No one is just one thing at a time. There’s no way to make sense out of my experience as a women if you’re not going to acknowledge the fact that I am as black as well.

Collins was influenced by Dorothy Smith’s concept of standpoint epistemology, which Smith defines as “that what one knows is affected by the standpoint or position one has in society means how we know what we know, how we decide what is valid knowledge” ( Appelrouth, 574).


Dorothy Smith – Standpoint Epistomology/The Everyday World as Problematic


Smith’s concept of standpoint epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, and is the over-arching theory of knowledge, so we can understand why we believe, and what we do. For example, black women intellectuals confront conflict between two epistemologies that represent white male and black feminist interest. These are two completing epistemology frameworks, two frameworks that have two different explanations for how we know what we know, and why we are authorizing for what we know.


Smith’s focus was primarily the notion of norms and behavior. She says, “the norm provides for the surface properties of my behavior, what I can be seen to be doing”. (Appelrouth 571). The example she gives in the book she describes is called problematic of the everyday world. Her example given is, “I myself walk on the sidewalk; I do not walk on the neighbors lawn” (Appelrouth, 570). But she is explaining how her dog walks and shits on the lawn of her neighbors. She tries to regulate her dog’s behavior, this is called the observed behavior. She argues that people should pay more attention to the surroundings and everyday experiences around themselves and others.


Judith Butler – Performativity and Heterosexual Matrix


Butler developed the notion of performativity and noted that, “the view that gender is performative shows that what we take to be an internal essence of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts, posited through the gendered stylization of the body.” (Appelrouth, 599). People act differently from others. Butler explains that people walk, talk and speak, and give the impression of being a man or a woman. You can’t be a certain sexuality, but you can perform an identity. I think it’s about how a woman’s identity of herself as a female is formed by her repeated pattern. It’s the idea of a woman performing behavior that they perceive as the norm in society or the behavior that is not the norm. Butler says that this process starts right when the doctor says, “it’s a girl”, and from then on individuals learn this process of performance of gender.


Heterosexual Matrix is described as the identification of men and womans heterosexual. Butler shows that the essential unity between biological sex, gender identification, and heterosexuality is not dictated by nature” (Appelrouth, 602). Heterosexual matrix is this notion that if a man is dating a girl, that is normal. However, if he dates a man it would not be considered masculine. “Dude, You’re a Fag” article written by Pascoe states that men tend to hold a strong desire not be labeled as gay, so some men push to have those strong, dominant, and masculine qualities. According to this article, most men tend to feel that the activities that do not tie into their gender identity may possibly question the masculine lifestyle they want to live in society. This article demonstrates a fine example in sports as there were sports such as weightlifting, football, basketball, that produced the characteristic of dominance and masculinity, where if boys or men were to participate in theatre and dance, they would be labeled more feminine or, as the article state “a fag.” Also, the consideration of caring too much for one’s own clothing and appearance, and showing more emotion is a means of questioning men’s masculinity.



Application of theory

“Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself as anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

game1While watching BET hit show “The Game”, I realized an important issue amongst the African American community: black men who only date light or white women.



I feel that we do live in a world that is bounded by gender and sexuality, and our actions of how to socially construct these concepts are linked to this notion as well. It’s our job as individuals to understand society’s demands for how we live our lives based on our own gender, but we should not limit ourselves completely in the same sense. How we live our lives based upon our gender is a very personal matter that we all have to come to grips with handling regardless of the high demands involved. Its what is best for the current society we live in today and the future society to come.


Two research questions:


  1. How does binary thinking perpetuate hegemonic ideologies?
  2. How might one think about race and sexuality in order not to support binary ideologies?


Appelrouth, Scott and Laura Desfor Edles. 2012. Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory.2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


From Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990), pp. 221–238

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