Learn 4 Change
Greetings beautiful humans!
If you’re new to the blog, hello! I’m so glad you decided to join our BRAVE family. If you’ve been excitedly awaiting the next installment of my series, welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the suspense. Today’s episode of Unpacking Words, a Learn 4 Change series about the power of words, is brought to you by me, Sarah, AKA BRAVE’s AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Today’s word to unpack, intersectionality (read more here), refers to the interconnected nature of our unique identities and how that combination may unfairly lead to disadvantages in everyday existence.
But, Sarah, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN????
Patience, dear human.
I hope to answer all of your questions in due time.
This word was coined by Black legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 essay to describe how Black women are oppressed based on their race, class, and gender simultaneously. “Oppression” (some examples) is similar to disadvantage, and its converse, “privilege,” (also another source) is similar to advantage. I want to note that these are also so much more than just that. For this blog post, I will keep it short and simple, but I urge you to do some research on your own outside of the linked sources. From a sociological lens, oppression is the mistreatment of certain humans who are believed to be of lower status than the majority of society. Privilege is the granting of certain humans an innate upper hand because they are believed to be of higher status than most of society. For example, women are considered oppressed and men are considered privileged in how much money they make. There is nothing that inherently makes the work women do worth less than the same work done by men. It is just how it works right now due to centuries of tradition and inequality (see the gender pay gap).
Focuses within modern intersectionality include sex, race, gender identity, gender expression, ability/disability, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and religion. Sometimes this term is used with feminism, as intersectional feminism (check out sources here, here, and here), because it takes into account the gray space of how, for example, my identity as a person of color effects my opportunities differently because I exist in a female body, while also being economically privileged. “Intersectional” is such an important and powerful word to unpack because it inherently calls for inclusivity. It does this by implying we must take into account how every identity “intersects” in order to understand the big picture. I don’t believe we can create a solution for change until we see all sides of the problem.
I believe that we are not just the sum of our privileged and oppressed identities. Rather, intersectional feminism conveys that we are the product of how society grants us advantages and disadvantages based on who we are.
Too much? Let’s break it down further. I am LGBTQIA+, a person of color, and a female. Separately, these groups of humans are minorities in society and they all have various struggles. Together, it’s a bit different. Here’s where intersectionality comes in. The 3 disadvantaged parts of me all interact in a way the produces a unique existence for yours truly. I am no more or less oppressed than someone who also belongs to three minority communities. I am just oppressed in a different way. For those of you that have more analytical minds like me, it’s not just (LGBTQIA+) + (person of color) + (female) = 3 disadvantaged points (where are my gamers at?). It’s (LGBTQIA+) ✕ (person of color) ✕ (female) = something totally different and hella unique compared to the rest of humanity (yay, math!).
I believe intersectionality asks us to, as cliché as it is, to see the humans around us as more than the sum of their parts. In a social climate where it seems we are constantly turning against each other because we believe our cause deserves more visibility, it implores us to stand together against hate. This reminds me of the movement for marriage equality in 2015. Trans people were a major force in achieving this, but their voices were excluded afterwards because activists wanted to stay as mainstream as possible after the victory. This left me asking “aren’t we all just LGBTQIA+ humans fighting for equality?” I find power in intersectionality because it reminds us that all oppression is connected and empathy is the most important vehicle for change.
WHO’S READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD?
Want to be more inclusive and promote love for all humans? Here’s what you can do, my friends:
Inspiration: Watch this performance to feel the depths of intersectionality. It’ll change you (please note there is explicit language used).
Awareness: Check out this TED talk by the mother of intersectionality, Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Connection: Have a conversation with another human about your unique existences. It’s amazing what you can discover when you ask “what is your experience with identity?”
Perspective: I believe an important part of being inclusive is to explore as many points of view as possible. This one is especially interesting and left me pondering my own perceptions. Most of the sources in this post have been from a more positive point of view for the sake of explanation and introduction. What other perspectives can you find?
Accountability: Here, Ashley talks through being ignorant and being accountable in 3 simple steps! She believes she can be better. She believes we can be better. It’s a process. We’re human, after all. What do you think?
You can do it. I’m with you and I believe in you.