Intersectionality: We Are Many
White sheet of paper, I sit down and look at it. I begin to think about how so much of life is constructed and sometimes, shaped out by my identity. Parts of my identity, I had the privilege to construct, to choose and parts were lent to me.
I draw a bunch of circles around a tiny dot. My paper now looks like a messy sunflower. The little dot in the middle is me. Scribble down my name, I realize that there exist individuals who may not identify by their name. For an individual who does not feel comfortable in their own body, their names may come as a hurdle to be who they are. Identifying with my name is where my privilege begins, I realize.
I draw more circles. I write down the gender I identify with, how I express my gender, my orientation. I acknowledge that these identities shape how people perceive me. I am greeted by people who assume I am a woman, will marry a man, comfortable with my name, and go by the pronouns she/her. However, this circle I find shelter in might be oppressive too. I acknowledge my identities fit with the narrative that society assumes. How do I ensure I consistently make my circle bigger, more inclusive? To begin with, I acknowledge that there are other circles.
My religious beliefs, my caste, ancestral heritage, I wince as I look at my circle. I see privilege surfaces in every circle I draw. Age, I realize that the economy perceives me as a part of a productive workforce. I look at the number in my circle and think, “What would it be like 40 years from now?”. Will the world outpace me, I question. I remind myself that every individual has a lifetime of experiences I can learn from, at 16 or 85.
In the context of physical ability, I learn how my circle is tiny, yet again. I am able to read my newsfeed and I may not need image descriptions for a screen reader. I can access roads and dressing rooms in stores because I walk through these pathways. I allow myself rest because I am not plagued by chronic pain or fatigue. I think of so many instances where the world around me is built around a certain identity and in the process, excludes so many others.
I look at all my circles on paper, so many circles, with so many overlaps. I imagine a friend drawing out her identity, I see so many circles that look nothing like my own. Intersectionality, as Kimberly Crenshaw would term it.
Intersectionality, we are many. As long as my overlaps hold space for yours, it is allowed. I need to be able to learn of the circles because all of our identities are parts of intersections between the bigger, more visible stories.
In the words of Alicia Garzia:
“Intersectionality asks us to examine the places where we are marginalized but it also demands that we examine how and why those of us who are marginalized can in turn exercise marginalization over others. It demands that we do better by one another so that we can be more powerful together.”
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