Intersectionality: Care About It
Intersectionality affects more than one group of people in multiple ways. People in these groups share intersecting experiences with those in other groups, which is where the term “intersectionality” comes from. It constantly affects how people are treated every day. (Graphic by Cierra Pringle)
Earlier this semester, DVC students had discussions about intersectionality in their grade-level Connections classes. Conversations regarding students’ identities arose in those discussions.
Many people have markers or terms they use to identify themselves and others like them. These identity markers create categories of people that share similar characteristics and experiences. The way individuals present themselves will affect how they are perceived and treated. Those who fall into multiple categories will be treated differently from those who fall into just one or two categories, which is where the conversation on intersectionality began.
What is intersectionality?
Intersectionality is “the interconnection nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise” (Oxford Dictionary).
The term intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw as a way to describe how individual traits and attributes overlap or “intersect.” It takes into account the prejudices people face with overlapping and intersecting identities and the complexity of it all.
“There might be some parts of our identity that define us more than others, but we are multi-faceted, complex humans that have lots of parts of who we are that define who we are, and we have different experiences related to those identities that probably affect how we move forward in the world,” Algebra teacher Kristina Becht said. “Unfortunately, some parts of our identities make us further away from the mainstream and then cause us to have to overcome more barriers because of those parts of our identities.”
Intersectionality asserts that people face disadvantages from numerous sources of oppression and that identity markers don’t stand alone. Not everyone who faces discrimination only faces one kind. People face discrimination based on categories such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, physical appearance, class, and many more.
Why does it matter?
Understanding intersectionality is not only important, it allows different perspectives to be seen and heard. That’s especially important in different movements across the world.
For instance, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement can’t only focus on the issues black people face just for being black. The movement must also focus on the sexism, ableism, queerphobia, etc. that black people face since they are also part of many black people’s experiences.
Ignoring intersectionality potentially creates even more inequalities and inequities. Recognizing the intersection of different forms of oppression and injustice will help movements and organizations to reach their goals of social justice and equity.
What needs to be done? (YW Boston Blog)
Avoiding narrowing down someone’s identity to just one marker or characteristic is especially important since one thing isn’t all a person is. People’s identities are complex and broad which is important to acknowledge in the face of oppression and discrimination. This helps to recognize the several experiences and challenges others face due to their identities and prevents assumptions from being made about them and what they go through.
“Boundaries are really being pushed about what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” Becht said. “And I think people are seeing that just because somebody does one thing doesn’t mean that’s all they are.”
Another thing one could do is to seek as many perspectives as possible. When putting oneself into another’s shoes, it’s easier to acknowledge what they go through and how that relates to their markers and characteristics. This could also open the door to more change starting to happen in different social justice movements and local communities by beginning to examine the space(s) different people inhabit.
It’s especially crucial to continue to be educated about the various issues people are facing on a daily basis and what is being done to put an end to what is causing those issues to occur as well as the topics surrounding them. Listening to those who face issues expands the perspectives one is exposed to and allows them to have a better understanding of their identity and others’ identities.
Gender Goes Deeper Than Looks
Gender is more than a perception of someone’s physical appearance. Gender expression comes in several forms which is important to note to prevent assuming, stereotyping, and misgendering. (Graphic by Cierra Pringle)
Many youth today are more open to exploring a big defining factor of their identities: gender. As the understanding of gender continues to evolve and shift, so does the gender identity of many people across the world.
Gender has many dimensions and is now measured across a spectrum, but it hasn’t always been that way. Traditionally, humans associated gender with a person’s assigned sex at birth, which is why people used the words “gender” and “sex” interchangeably. In some cases, a person’s gender can be related to their assigned sex, but it’s also connected to their identity, body, interests, and personal awareness (Gender Spectrum).
Chadwick School senior Newt is non-binary and has had struggles with self-identity and how people perceive them in the way they want to express themselves. They’ve experienced lots of dysphoria when it comes to their gender since not everyone is completely understanding.
“I feel like people probably, and they do, just see me as a guy or whatever,” Newt said. “I feel like if I were to, you know, express my own gender in a different way, like outside of that box, I feel like there could be some lash back.”
People do tend to associate appearance with gender and other identity markers. Assuming someone’s gender based on how they look may end up doing more harm than good.
Exploring the idea of gender isn’t just about personal awareness, but the awareness and understanding of others. The people individuals are close to play a big role in making sure people who don’t identify with the gender associated with their assigned sex are seen and feel comfortable with their gender expression. Newt experienced someone who outed them after coming out as non-binary.
“Outed is basically is when people that hide their identity, for their own safety generally, in the community, and they kinda put their trust in someone and tell them about their identity and that person like tells the general public without their consent,” Newt explained. “That can be really scary. That was really scary for me...I was mainly very angry and confused.”
Newt knows that people who come out as trans don’t necessarily expect the people they trust to spread information about them to people they want to keep it hidden from. This shows that one’s environment plays a big role in social gender acceptance.
North High senior Elias, a transgender, gay man, was able to explore his identity more with just a simple change of environment. His move from Atlanta to Los Angeles has allowed him to embark on a new journey to self-discovery.
“Moving, in general, helped me like look at myself in a different way because I was able to entertain the idea that I could be something different without the fear of being judged by people who were my friends,” Elias said.
Entire communities can have an impact on one’s ability to feel comfortable enough to express their gender without fear of judgment. However, families, friends, and loved ones are usually the first people individuals feel comfortable sharing their identities with.
“I’ve seen from a lot of people they’ve had trouble coming out in general because of what their parents or family might think,” Elias noted.
People are constantly shifting their ideas and morals about self-identity. It has been clear that people have been becoming more educated on what gender is as a whole. Education on this matter has allowed more room for many to find different ways to identify and express their gender.
“Educate yourself about people’s identity,” Newt said. “You probably have a friend who’s genderqueer, gender nonconforming. Another one is to listen to trans experiences in terms of hearing their voices and also uplifting them...Visibility is important.”
We Are More Than Our Race
It’s no shock people are treated differently based on the color of their skin, or what many call race. Hierarchies have been formed on the basis of race which caused society to fall into a system of oppression, discrimination, and racism. (Graphic by Cierra Pringle)
Race plays a big role in how different people are treated. Race is a huge determining factor in the kinds of experiences people will face throughout their lives.
The concept of race is defined as the idea that humans are divided into groups based on behavioral and physical characteristics. This idea has long been evolving. There are many notions of what race is today, with some people using the term to group people of a certain descent while others may use it to apply to linguistic groups. Even though race has many conceptions, all of those conceptions are used in a similar way.
Someone’s race is probably one of the first things noticed upon seeing them. It has been common knowledge that race has some sort of correlation to behavior which creates stereotypes that ultimately affect how people treat others of another race. LAUSD senior Anonymous, who wants her identity hidden for personal reasons, has many experiences of being stereotyped due to her race.
“Being a black girl, it changed how so many people perceived me,” Anonymous said. “This hurt me in a lot of ways because for black girls, society puts two stereotypes on us. If we express how we feel, or speak in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), we are the angry Black woman and are seen as ‘ghetto’ or a ‘hot Cheeto girl.’ Or, if you are shy, don’t fit the loud stereotype, or speak a certain way, we are seen as the whitewashed Black girl.”
It has been clear that racial stereotypes do more harm than good to those who are targeted by them. Stereotypes lead to misconceptions about people of certain racial groups. Assumptions are made without research and personal experience.
“[There are] many misconceptions in almost every race,” Anonymous explained. “In my high school, I had some Asian friends and I witnessed the misconceptions they face as well, which mainly had to do with the typical smart Asian stereotype...The standards on Asian students is dehumanizing because everyone expects these kids to always be at the top of their class and go to the top universities.”
There is a lot of pressure that comes with racial stereotypes, Even though in some cases stereotypes hold true, they can be a danger to those who feel obligated to fall into them. Feeling the need to fall into the description of a stereotype can do damage to one’s mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being.
Having to experience this at a young age is especially detrimental. Stereotypes lead to a lack of accurate representation of the complexity of different races. This causes people to believe that everyone in a racial group is the same or should be the same.
“Growing up as a young Black girl in [this] society, I witnessed a lot of colorism and texturism (the idea that looser hair textures are more desirable),” Anonymous expressed. “I never saw brown skin or dark skin girls in the media. I also never saw Black women with type 4b or 4c hair. I always saw the same girls...It always made me feel ugly and that because I was a brown skin Black girl with 4c hair, I would never fit the western beauty standards, therefore I would never be seen as attractive or beautiful.”
Anonymous has been embarking on a journey to find self-love for her race and features. Seeing a lack of proper representation go women and girls that look like her has caused lots of self-loathing. This is what a lot of other people of color experience as well.
There are many changes to be made for everyone of all races to feel included and wanted. It’s important to listen to the experiences of people of color and those who are mistreated due to their race. Once people can change their perceptions of race and the stereotypes associated with it, people can live more freely and comfortably.
“As a society, we need to stop associating stereotypes with different people of different races,” Anonymous said. “The moment the world gets rid of the anti-blackness and starts treating Black people and other people of color as human beings, then society could start making progress.”