The concept of the matrix of domination is one that requires an understanding of the things that form the matrix. The domination to which Patricia Hill Collins is referring to is the local, national, and global system of supremacy that oppresses those who do not fit into the hegemonic view of how society should operate. This includes people of color, LGBTQI+ folk, women, the disabled and neuro-divergent, the poor and working class, etc. While this system primarily benefits straight, able-bodied, white men, Collins reminds us that even those of us who are oppressed for certain things still hold privilege over someone else. For example, a disabled, queer, white woman is still more privileged than a disabled, queer woman of color. She suggests that in order to unravel the matrix of domination that maintains this hierarchy of privilege, each of us must examine the ways in which we are privileged and oppressed in equal measure. We must also examine our epistemology; the ways in which we have been taught to see the world that are biased or not inclusive.
What Collins is interested in is a move away from the feminist movement of past decades, sometimes referred to as white feminism or hegemonic feminism. This is because it is a brand of feminism that attempts to work within the current overarching system of oppression. It is also called this because it primarily works to benefit white women. Issues prominent to white feminism include things like breaking the glass ceiling (which is far, far more difficult for women of color, transwomen, the disabled etc.), and tend to ignore the intersections of oppression that lead to far more devastating issues, such as mass incarceration or the epidemic of violence against trans folk. What Collins advocates is a new brand of activism, one that brings together oppressed people from a variety of different backgrounds in coalitions of solidarity against an unjust system.
What has enabled feminist philosophy to embrace the idea of a matrix of domination is the rise of identity politics in response to oppression. For instance, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has arisen in response to the police state that systematically works to kill and incarcerate (primarily) black men. We can also see a quieter but similar response in the recent push for gender neutral bathrooms on college campuses, in protest of the state’s lack of acceptance for those who do not fall under the male/female dichotomy. As more and more oppressed groups resist the Eurocentric, binary mode of thought that shapes our political system, other groups have begun to speak out and together about their shared experiences of injustice. The internet has also enabled easier means for oppressed groups to reach out to one another, and share experiences that help build solidarity.
As oppressed populations begin to rise up, those that would eradicate or subordinate us raise their voices in equal measure. With the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, we have seen an enormous amount of hatred and bigotry reveal itself. Trump has turned himself into a figurehead for the racist, the sexist, and the ignorant to turn to as an excuse for their attitudes and beliefs. Taking this into account, it is now more important than it ever has been for us to follow Collins’ patterns of thought. As individualized, specific, exclusive groups, oppressed people cannot achieve justice. When we combine our strengths, we take into account the larger picture of racism, sexism and the like. As a united front, oppressed peoples can use the privileges they may possess in such a way as to lift up those who lack. With Collins’ brand of feminism—what she dubs Afrocentric feminism—we can create a coalition powerful enough to combat those that would deny our existence, and a voice that may be loud enough to be heard by those in power.
- Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/252.html
- Sociology 319 – Contemporary Social Theories. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/319m2406.htm