Within our work to bring an academic analysis to student perspectives on identity, privilege, and oppression, intersectional theory can offer us a frame for complexity and deeper understanding. To that end, this social media campaign aims to provide a platform for educators, students, and anyone who would like to express their own personal intersections, including privilege, or to share their understanding of intersectional analysis.
As intersectionality scholars and educators know, people tend to drift rather quickly and repeatedly into one core area or another of identity (such as race, gender, social class). Often they think about these identities as categorical and mutually exclusive. Through #myintersections, we hope to raise awareness of individual intersectionality. However, our goals stretch far beyond that to raise awareness of intersecting societal, institutional, structural, and cultural forces that maintain and perpetuate inequality and oppression. In addition, we hope to gather posts that highlight ally identity and ally behavior by members of advantaged/privileged groups working for social justice.
The colorful wheels to the right represent my attempt to bring intersectionality into an image form. Far from perfect, this image allows us to consider more salient aspects of identity, privileged and marginalized identity, as well as how oppressive systems operate with an interactive effect on one another like gears of a clock. This image and possible ways to use it for student learning are available in the introductory chapter to Intersectional Pedagogy (Case, 2017).
We Need You!
Please take a picture of yourself with a poster that captures some aspect of your experiences with intersecting identities or intersectional theory. Not all identities can fit on one poster, so we invite you to submit several posts. We want to see you and your poster clearly, so remember to write large letters with a color that contrasts with your poster color (black and white works well). You may also prefer to write a poster that explains or describes some aspect of intersectional theory that you find compelling or want to share to help raise awareness. Perhaps your poster could include information about your own intersections, a phrase, quote from a scholar, something said to you in the past, your response to something said to you in the past, a main tenet of intersectional theory, or anything that raises awareness of intersectionality. A few examples are provided here to get you going.
Share with Others!!
Be sure to tag #myintersections (and @drkimcase for twitter users) when you post. We welcome posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or even videos on vine if you prefer. Beyond that, please share this campaign far and wide and challenge others to participate in the movement. We want to maximize the effort to raise awareness of intersectionality. Feel free to make this a student group, club, or leadership team project!!
Let Us Know- If your student group, class, school, entire campus, or any other group decides to participate, please tweet @drkimcase or email email@example.com. Be sure to include your name, zip code, and name of the participation school or organization. We want to keep track of broad participation as much as possible to see where the campaign reaches.
Brief Overview of Intersectionality
Naming this approach as intersectional theory is typically credited to Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), but the scholarly theorizing and advocacy by Black women and others began long before the term arrived in 1989. Main tenets of intersectional theory include:
• Bringing attention to identity as co-constitutive, in separable, and interdependent. One cannot analyze gender without ability, race without gender identity, sexual orientation without social class, etc.
• Analyses of multiple categories of identity and oppression cannot be accomplished via an “add and stir” approach. Therefore, one must think in terms of chemical reactions or multiplication as a starting place for avoiding ineffective additive models of the past.
• Making visible the interconnections among factors that maintain systems of oppression.
• Bring attention to power and privilege within interlocking systems of oppression.
#myintersections in the classroom
In hopes of spreading #myintersections across K-12, college, and university campuses around the world, we call of faculty and teachers to allow students the opportunity to participate in the campaign as part of their coursework, assignments, class projects, extra credit, etc. Ideally, students and educators could incorporate readings, videos, and class discussion of intersectionality along with participation in the #myintersections campaign. We provided educators with some resources below in the form of terms, readings, and activities focusing on intersectional theory. In addition, #myintersections encourages social issues educators to model the application of intersectional theory for students. With this in mind, we invite educators at all levels to create and upload #myintersections posts as active participants in the campaign.
Let Us Know- If your class, school, entire campus, or small group decides to participate, please tweet @drkimcase or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, zip code, and name of the participating school or organization. We want to keep track of broad participation as much as possible to see where the campaign reaches.
Typical Teaching Challenges
Students and the broader population tend to conceptualize categories as distinct. This simplistic understanding of how categories relate to one another is a strong and imbedded cognitive structure within the fabric of our broader society. Therefore, pedagogical practices to promote intersectional analyses require purposeful planning and advanced effort. Faculty and students alike need resources and repeated practice to resist and unlearn our unconscious tendencies to think about these issues in simplistic, additive, and disconnected ways (as opposed to complex and interdependent). In summary, typical challenges to learning about intersectional theory include:
- Focus on individual “uniqueness”– The tendency to think about intersectionality in terms of individual uniqueness as a result of the long list of identities the individual possesses. This is an over-simplified application of intersectional theory because it lacks several key components such as power analysis and structural oppression.
- Analysis at the individual level– Even if students move beyond the “uniqueness” problem and assert more complex analysis of how intersections affect lived experiences, students still tend to gravitate to discussing and analyzing stories, experiences, and concepts at the individual person level without advancing the analysis to social, cultural, societal, and institutional-level interwoven outcomes.
- Focus on my own personal oppression– Students, and in fact most people in general, tend to drift back to their own marginalized identities during challenging conversations about intersectionality. We tend to forget privileged identities in favor of bringing up the ways we have been wronged or oppressed. Intersectional theory requires students to analyze both privileged and oppressed identities and how they interact.
- Lack of power analysis– Students often express appreciation for various identities and diversity while lacking any analysis of power relationships among groups that maintain and perpetuate group inequalities and systemic oppression.
- Sticking to race and gender– Within social sciences, much of the intersectional scholarship focused on intersections of race and gender. Likewise, psychology as a discipline had a long history of focusing on gender and race in the context of “diversity” issues and discussions. Educators must push themselves and their students to apply intersectional theory to race and gender, and especially typically neglected areas such as ability, nationality, religion, gender identity, social class, and more.
Sample Intersectionality Teaching Resources
Download this pdf for more teaching resources by Dr. Case including readings with discussion questions, online readings and videos, grab bag activity, and pedagogical readings.
As the organizers of this social media campaign, we wanted to include information about ourselves for transparency purposes. We acknowledge that we each have our own complex interacting social identities as part of several privileged groups and some marginalized groups. Those intersecting social locations lead to divergent experiences due to institutional and societal level oppression (and privilege). Our hope is that we can serve as allies from the social locations of our privileged identities. We do not attempt to speak for anyone else’s lived experiences and thus invite everyone to participate and give voice to their own perspectives on intersectionality. Below, we included our social locations within the matrix of domination (Collins, 1990), or what Ferber and Hererra (2013) refer to as the matrix of privilege and oppression.
Kim Case’s Social Location- As an able-bodied white, cisgender (not transgender), heterosexual, non-immigrant U.S. citizen, I locate myself within many areas of unearned privilege. At the same time, my working-class background growing up in East Tennessee contrasts and often directly conflicts with my current middle-class location as a professor in the academy. As a first-generation student and now professor, the social class shift that occurred financially did not also occur in terms of my own identity, psychology, or cultural values. In addition, walking through this world as a woman means I face daily microaggressions designed to convince me that I’m inferior, dismissible, and weak.
Trisha Warner’s Social Location- I am a wife and mother who recently returned to school to complete the education I began many years ago. My goal is to finish my psychology degree and attend graduate school in order to pursue a career in social justice. While I grew up in a working-class home and am now part of a multi-racial family, I recognize my current status of privilege and am passionate about my responsibility to serve the needs of the community. Therefore, I strive to serve as an ally to those in society who have been marginalized and oppressed.