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Harmonizing Class Differences by Intersecting Gender, Sexuality and Race

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Executive summary

The contemporary society has been divided along different lines to form different classes. The major tools of division include, gender, race, sexuality and class itself. Each group on one side of the divide is usually prejudiced against the other. It is however possible to harmonize these differences through intersecting these aspects. The foregoing analysis focuses on how race, gender, sexuality and class cause division in the society and how they can be harmonized. Dorothy Allison’s narrative, White Trash will form the basis of the analysis. Her other works like Bustard of California will also be referred to, to give a bigger picture.


Intersectionality is a term that is used more often in feminist theory. It roots from analytical approach aimed at addressing the correlation between several social aspects viz. gender, race, sexuality and class, among others. The intersection between class, race, gender and sexuality can best be understood by analyzing Dorothy Allison’s work especially her work; White Trash. Dorothy is a renowned novelist, poet and a short story writer. Besides White Trash, she has written other novels like; Bastard out of California and Cavedweller which have all been recognized for awards. She is also a winner of Robert Pen’s Fiction Award for the year 2007. Among her various works, White Trash will form the basis of the foregoing analysis. This novel deals with issues that affect the modern society.

In White Trash, Dorothy seems to be shameful about the society from which she was brought up. This is mainly because that society is characterized by poverty. In fact, at one point in time, she admits that she feels like denying her own society. The myth behind White Trash gives us an opportunity to examine the manner in which we live in the modern society. According to Dorothy, we often dismiss each other on the basis of race, gender, sexuality and class. These are factors that continue to support inequality in the society. Intersectionality actually resists divisions on basis of race, gender, class or even sexuality and seeks to harmonize differences among the members of the society.


In traditional society, women mainly play the role of house wives and were actually not allowed to do a public employment (Masson 83). In Allison’s Bustard of California, the masculine gender exhibited chauvinism over the feminine gender. This is illustrated by Parson, Anney’s first husband who remained objected to her working. Parson would spend his time participating in car races. He used the income that he obtained to provide for his family. He could also prove his manhood by getting Anney pregnant. Allison says that Anney had been forced to go to work by economic hardships. She finds it rather absurd since she is used to being taken care of by her husband. This implies that in the ordinary course of events, women could not be a working class gender. The role of men in a traditional setting was to provide for the family. The current engagement of women in public employment has been met with opposition from different communities in almost equal measure. The impression here is that gender was a dividing factor for the working and the non-working class. This myth has been demystified by Dorothy Allison’s work that is categorical to mention that in her family, women support their men, a role that was expected to be assumed by men themselves. This is contrary to the current world’s situation where women are oppressed and disempowered. This shows how class and gender are intersecting to harmonize class differences.



Allison also reflects on an intersection between class and sexuality. She notes that white working-class women living in the midst of wicked sexuality are privileged with maternal strength. They are able to endure sexual immorality. She also describes how working class women face difficulties of being accepted, respectable and heterosexual in the society. She says that working-class women living with their white trash heterosexuality are marginalized. She tries to draw a distinction between women who are in control and also enjoy their sexuality and those who don’t. She purports that working-class women are usually unable to enjoy their sexuality which makes them experience sexual shame.

Dorothy Allison further illustrates the intersection between class and sexuality by describing her history. She shows how sexuality transformed the lives of some members of their family from being poor to being economically well-up. Allison says that when she was living in South Carolina with her family, they were absolutely poor and there existed no opportunity of moving out of poverty. This meant that they had been locked in a white trash identity; poverty. The women in her family could hardly move out of poverty. However, they later realized that their sexuality had an economic value and had to use it as a platform to overcome poverty. This implies that they would no longer live in the poverty class. Though these women refused to work in the capacity of maids, they could work as waitresses as well as on the counter. In a nutshell, they used their sexuality to gain self esteem and respect among the members of the society. This shows how a person can actually use his/her sexuality to move to another class higher in the societal hierarchy.

Personal Opinion

Comparison between the role played by race, gender, class and sexuality in Allison’s work

In her narrative, Allison has used gender to play the main role. For instance, men and women are found to assume distinct duties. Men had been viewed as more physically strong than women. A man was therefore expected to raise income and take care of his family. Women on the other hand were supposed to stay at home and assume the role of house wives; cooking and washing. However, Allison demystified this trend by making Boatright women unique; they had jobs and supported their husbands and families. Aunts Raylene and Alma for instance lived by themselves and were self sufficient. Another way that gender plays an imperative role in Dorothy Allison’s work is the relationship between Anne and Glen in California Bustard. Anne completely submits herself to Glen since she loves him. However, Glen takes advantage of her and abuses her.

It is also important to note that the differences caused by the four aspects viz. race, gender and class requires different degree of efforts to harmonize (Bettie, 23). It is easier to harmonize differences caused by race, gender and sexuality than it is to harmonize differences caused by class. Harmonizing differences between the rich and the poor in terms of economic class is almost impossible.

In the narrative, race plays a minor role. The intersection between race and class is demonstrated where Bone meets black people. Instead of scorning and judging them, he actually makes friends out of them. The four aspects are however important and represents what is actually happening in the contemporary society. It is ethically wrong and morally incorrect to despise others; regard them as white trash due to gender, class, sexuality or even racial differences.


In conclusion, gender, race, sexuality and class are factors that can be used to cause division among the members of the society. Differences emerging from the first three factors; gender, race and sexuality are what can actually result to different classes in the society (Jones, 26). One class can refer to the other as Trash due to such differences. For instance, Allison’s family could be termed as white trash by the affluent families solely because of poverty. In fact, her mother hated being referred to as trash. This means that the poor were not acceptable in the world of the rich. In her narration, Allison also shows how sexual orientation can be used as a dividing factor among members of the society. Her support for lesbianism resulted to her being treated with contempt. This made some people to call her a trash. Dorothy Allison however notes that such differences can be reconciled. She for instance notes how gender and class intersect to make males and females more or less the same.

In Bastards of California, Allison notes that there were defined roles for men and women in the society. This resulted in two classes where men were the working class and women the non-working class. The difference is however reconciled by economic hardships where Anney is forced to go working, contrary to her husband’s expectation. Sexuality can also be used to harmonize differences between classes. Allison proves this by saying that women in her family used their sexuality to overcome poverty and become a working class. It is therefore imperative that we try to reconcile major differences in the society as much as possible to promote unity and amend differences.

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