I’ve penned a few pieces before about feminism and what it means to me but I was encouraged to think more about this element when attempting to explain intersectionality and the need for it within this movement and many others. Whenever we think about a marginalised group we tend to wrongly associate homogeny with this entire collection of people. Somehow affirming the idea that everyone’s level of suffering and oppression is not only felt in the same way, but that the method to dispel this subjugation is one size fits all in its nature.
Well, I’m here today to tell you that this just is not the case. We in the development sphere will often refer to multiple burdens or compounding oppressions. Basically meaning that belonging to more than one subjugated group will equate to a compounded level of discrimination. The best way I can explain this is to point to the circumstance of a white able bodied woman in her fight for equality. Yes she is marginalised based on her gender however her experience of discrimination is not the same as say a woman of colour who has also happens to have a disability. For this particular woman her experience of discrimination is threefold: based on her gender, her ethnicity and her disability.
Drawing from the parallel experience of the Black Lives Matter movement and the criticism it has drawn from those who do not ‘belong’ to this category of people it’s easy to see how one can justify a sense of tunnel vision. It is blatantly obvious that the lens we draw on in which to view subjugation is often skewed to whatever identity it is that we as individuals choose to ascribe to. We are often blind to the elements that contribute to an entrenched and systematic oppression if we are not being personally subjected to that element. The example of Kate Upton berating Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the American National Anthem last year is the ultimate example of this. She criticised his ‘horrific’ behaviour and proclaimed that ‘everyone is blessed’ to be an American citizen. Thus demonstrating an inherent inability to see that the America in which she can exercise her citizenship rights in is the exact opposite to the one Kaepernick and many African Americans live in every day. Their experience of this so called ‘American identity’ is instead based on a backdrop of fear, racial profiling and police brutality. A concept that Upton will never understand as she will never have to experience this simply based on the virtue of her skin colour.
What I am attempting to showcase here is that as human beings we naturally tend to assimilate into groups, whether that be of a nation, of an ideology or of a movement. However, the very nature of our humanness means that diversity is inherent. How one person experiences being a member of a group, whether that be of feminists, of Americans or anything else will be fundamentally different than that of another. Thus meaning that we cannot push out the intersectional elements that form the core of outlying voices; these are imperative to understanding the human condition. More so, they are the key to finding a way towards a society that is truly inclusive, free and that promotes access, opportunities and justice in an equal and indiscriminate way.