Defining Intersectionality: Beyond Single Issues and Identity Politics

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Defining Intersectionality: Beyond Single Issues and Identity Politics

I want to begin by thanking all of the Conversation Leaders for volunteering their time, effort, and knowledge to this very important conversation on Intersectional Human Rights Organizing. Please take a moment to click on individual Conversation Leaders' profiles to learn more about the work they do and support the organizations and causes they represent. A stronger human rights community can be built through the support and encouragement of an engaged network of activists and practitioners.

In particular, I want to thank the Organization for Human Rights and Democracy and Yolande Tomlinson for their effort and dedication to putting together this conversation.

The following questions serve as a framework for this discussion thread on 'Defining Intersectionality': 

What is intersectionality and how do you and/or your community talk about or experience intersectional oppression?

What are major misconceptions and misunderstandings about intersectionality that need to be dispelled and corrected?

Within your field, community, or social group, what are some foundational texts, people, and historical and contemporary models of intersectional practice and theory?

Why is intersectionality important?

A Lens and a Tool

Intersectionality is both a lens for seeing the world of oppression and a tool for eradicating it. Its operation as a tool lies in this understanding of how oppression functions and who it impacts.

As a lens it allows us to correctly see how power and oppression operate by insisting that we must understand how the most marginalized among us experience oppression. By most marginalized, I mean those who face multiple forms of oppression at once (or simultaneously). It does this by making the following acknowledgements:

  • There are multiple oppressive forces acting in society (e.g., racism/white supremacy, sexism/patriarchy, homophobia/heteropatriarchy, ableism, classism/capitalism, colonialism/imperialism, among others);
  • These forces have a history and they shift and change over time, across geographies and among individuals; (e.g., while racism is rooted in a fear of the other (xenophobia), its contemporary practices are also rooted in anti-blackness or anti-African-ness. Though roote in anti-blackness, race in Brazil evolved differently and operates differently than it does in the United States. And still, within the category black, individuals with lighter skin experience racism differently than those with darker skin.)
  • These forces operate individually AND interdependently.  (E.g., sexism and homophobia overlap in their rejection and devaluing of the feminine.)
  • To understand how, where and when they overlap, you must understand how they operate individually and their particular history.
  • To counter or eradicate any of these forms of oppression, we must address these issues simultaneously or at the same time.
  • It’s the lived experiences of individuals and groups who exist at these intersections of oppression that give rise to this understanding of power and oppression.
  • It’s the individuals and groups that exist at these intersections (those who are multiple-burdened under this superstructure of oppression or matrix of domination) who must lead and be at the center of the approaches and solutions to eradicating these oppressive forces. (E.g., The experiences of Black (cisgender) women in the U.S. have often been utilized as the paradigmatic example for highlighting intersectionality, because of how race, class, gender and other oppressive forces operate in their lives. This is still a relevant model because women of color (Black, Brown, Indigenous) still continue to experience multiple forms of oppression at once, and because this model further helps us correctly perceive (or at least it should) the vulnerability to and the direct and proxy violence that define the experiences of transgeder people of color.) 

This 1977 statement by the Black Feminist collective, the Combahee River Collective, offers a succinct and profound articulation of intersectionality, even as it does not use this particular terminology:

Defining Intersectionality

Intersectionality is the relatively recent term used by numerous feminists since the 1980s to name an approach largely developed by women of color to understand, explain, resist, and transform the unequal outcomes of principles and systems of oppression they have experienced. In the U.S. experiences of Afrodescendant peoples, Black women have been the originators of an "intersectional" or "interactive" intellectual, political, and spiritual approach to personal and collective wholeness and empowerment. This approach constitutes a body of practice and thought by which oppressed women (and some men) have sought to oppose injustices and generate transformative social change. In its most rigorous and inclusive expressions, intersectionality (as a pathway, tool, or method for analysis and action) has confronted the effects of multiple forms of discrimination and oppression, including (but not limited to) those based on race, ethnicity, class, color, gender, sexuality, and ability. Intersectionality encourages us to challenge all unequal and structured relations of power within systems of hierarchy, as well as the unequal outcomes that result when multiple principles of domination and privilege operate simultaneously in the lives of groups and individuals "othered" and marginalized in U.S. society. Intersectionality challenges us to acknowledge, examine, and respond to the varying ways that types of discrimination can operate--within the same social spaces and in complex connections-- to shape the complicated experiences of groups and their individual members. An intersectional approach thus opposes every kind of discrimination and domination, and resists the notions that any form is more "fundamental" or "important" than others, or that any single form is reducible to another.

Overcoming the Single-Issue Focus

Intersectionality is a necessary tool for understanding oppression and transforming society. It enables us to see that more than one form of oppression is often taking place at the same time. Too often in the labor movement, for example, you will find a narrow focus on class oppression as being the central problem we have to address. The fact is that the working class experience is very diverse and cannot be reduced to just one, common experience.

The problem with many non-profits and unions is that they are too focused on just one issue or one form of oppression. Funders allocate their resources in a way that serves to fragment our movement. Combined with using the human rights framework, intersectionality is a tool that helps us overcome the restrictions of working separately from each other. It is a radical means to work in a way that includes the total experience of the people we organize not just one aspect. It guides our organizing in a way that overcomes the isolation of the single-issue focus and leads to the buidling of powerful movements.

useful analytical tool

Many good things have already been said here. And I definitely second paulmc's last paragraph that unions and NGOs are often too single issue focused, too much focused on "their" issue.

The original Combahee River Collective text is written form a Black women's perspective in the USA. And as always as texts are out in the world, not confined anymore to their original context we need to ask questions about export, transport and import. What gets exported, how is the reception and what gets lost or changed in transport/translation? Intersectionality is at least in Europe not mainly connected with race issues. Still the sharpnes sof the tool lies in dissecting the separate and connected threads of oppression that colour our lives. Recognizing that being disprivileged in one thing does not mean you are overall disprivileged and oppressed.

In my field - trans rights - a nwlee known and form time to time horly debated issue is sex work anmong trans people. In many cases trans people have to resort to doing sex work as the only way of finding ways for economic survival. But ist is trans people doing sex work. So the discussions on the acceptablility or allowability of sex work have a different character for them. Both in the sense that the sex work often is not a choice (but what is the choice of a precarious worker at MacDonald's) as in the sense that trans people through thier often completely unprotected status are extra vulnerable. They live on the intersection of misogyny transphobia and patriarchy (or machismo of kyriarchy if you want). And then on the American continent it is also strongly connected with race issues: trans women of color being the ones being attacked and killed quite often (15 this year already in the US alone, with Brazil most probably heading the staatistics as always). Try to anayze and dissect htat without an intersectional approach.

About human rights and intersectionality: this needs a way stronger focus than up to now. I see that in the LGBTI field it is coming, but other fields don't yet seem to be very concsious in their reporting in a way that they explain per group how the applicable issues for a certain treaty body works out for a certain group and how certain groups need to be included in many reports.

Up to now I mostly use inersectionality as an analytical scalpel (the parallel with Occam's razor comes up). In our work at Transgender Europe where I am on the Steering Committee we are fomenting more and more awareness about the phenomenon. Everyone in education should be awre of interecting problems. With bullying there often also is more than just one factor that leads to that behaviour, that leads to being victimized.

Intersectionality in Transport

Vreer, thank you for sharing about the LGBTQ work you're doing in Europe. You ask some critical questions about intersectionality once it's "imported, transported, exported, and translated." I think that is dead on. It speaks to a critical component of this framework and its methodologies, which the issue of context. And as I've pointed out in Post #1, we are talking about historical, geographical and contemporary contexts. It also speaks to another aspect of intersectionality, which is the recognition of power structures, their origins, and operations. Too many people are comfortable dealing with intersectionality as a tool for dissecting our identities (which is great for) but stop short of using it to unearth and confront the structures of power. So, when I think about intersectionality in transport, I think about asking questions about how power moves, who holds its, and against whom is it wielded.

I'm surprised race is not an issue that comes up in your work or Europe given the long history and body of work that Black British feminists, post-colonial feminists, and anti-colonial feminists have birthed and that comes out of the history and current practices of European colonialization and imperialism. In making the point that race has dropped out of the equation within the scope of the work that do you, you also point out a misconception/misunderstanding around contemporary usage of intersectioanlity, which is that it's simply about looking at something together (in this case, sexuality, labor/economics, but not also race) and not others. Instead, I encourage and challenge people who use intersectionality this way to ask questions about power and thus about the major social, economic, and political conditions that work to disempower the people and the communities with whom they work. We have to acknowledge that there are some major factors (race, gender/identity, sexuality, nationality, indigeneity, ability, class/economics, religion) that impact all of our lives and thus how we work. We should also be asking questions such as "Who are most impacted by these issues and why they are not represented in our organization/network/group (if they are not present)?"

The absence of race in your work, for example, does not mean race is not a factor. Let's also recognize that whiteness constitutes a raced identity, albeit a normalized, neutralized, invisible one. But one that needs to be named and identified if we are to address racial oppression in all its forms. The mainstream LGBTQ movement in the US has a decidedly white, male, middle-class face. But LGBTQ people of color have been working alongside their white counterparts throughout the entire time AND have been doing so in intersectioanl ways inclusive of race, trans ID, Indigeneity, citizenship status and more  without the recognition or the welcome from the mainstream movement. As we see from this recent issue of the Pride celebration at the white house, LGBQTI issues in the US go beyond marriage equality. Yet when those issues around immigration/race, criminalization/detention, and trans identity were raised, the mostly white crowd did not stand with this advocate:

Hi Yolande,

Hi Yolande,


Thanks for your reaction. Race is indeed definitely a factor. In many European countries the "movement" (quoted because I actually mean NGOs which present as movement but often aren't) has a history of being white. As Second Wave feminism in Western Europe (and North America) was white and had to go through rightfully harsh critique from women of colour. This is the stage the LGBTQ movement is in at the moment. In my experience the queers (as in self labeled radical disidents from the LGBT spectrum) are most prone to pick up the issue. The oficialistas often have some trouble in integrating the critique and in accepting intersectionality as a tool. I suspect the division runs parallel with socio-economic status. Of a country (northwestern Europe as rich and more pacified countries with regard to class struggle, Southern and Eastern with strong class struggle, sharp socio-economic contradictions and an even stronger reserve pool of potential labour) and also because of white middle class ablebodied etc privilege in the LG(BT) movement. 

Race also - surely in the trans movement - comes up in the equation of under privileged, heavily discriminated trans sex workers. Many of them are TPOC - be it coming as temporary workers or indigenous minorities. So both the race and the reisdence status often come up, surely from France down and in the center and east of the continent. The fact that I told less about it then I could also has to do with the local situation where I am active. The (white) trans organisations are under-staffed and the upcoming alternatives have no clear political background/perspective. In general in Europe then there is an upcoming race awareness. Partially become the TPOC like the cis people of colour before during second (and thord) wave feminism make themselves heard. it is 'of course' the under privileged within the 'scene' that make themselves heard. With all repect for the work the mostly white organisations do, we do not generally 'get it' well enough.

Another thing is that I wrote that intersectionality is less about colour in Europe. That is exactly a transport/import issue. On the one hand race issues should stay part and parcel of an interesctonal movement. On the other hand also a positive attempt is being made to integrate race and talk more about other issues that we have to deal with. Race works different in Europe than in the US.

Practically I see that in the Eureopan trans-movement there is a realative strong attention for race/ethinicity issues in realtion with gender identity and class/economic issues.  Clear answers of how to work with this really need to be wrought in the struggles. In Amsterdam at least (and also elswerhe but more second hand form my side) I see a strong conneciton between queers and trans people with undocumented migrants and with colonialism/imperialism issues.  That may be a reason why w find relatively many poor, non-white, dis_abled, etc. poepel there. Another time I wil try to delve into the formulation of ways how to work from here.

Question for Clarity

Hi vreer, can you say more about a point you made,"Recognizing that being disprivileged in one thing does not mean you are overall disprivileged and oppressed".

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Relative privilege

Privilege and being disprivileged. it means that you may be transgender and therefore in many points disprivileged, but if you are Caitlyn Jenner or also Janet Mock or Laverne Cox, you still have several priviegles as education., media attention, money. Or like me, trans, white, reasonably well educated, ubt still don't earn much of a lviing with all the righteous work I do because society doesn't value it.


Does that work for you?

On Misunderstandings and Misconceptions

  During the two decades during which I have been trying to learn and embody an intersectional approach, both politically and personally, there are two misunderstandings or misconceptions that have become very problematic. One is the notion that intersectionality has emerged primarily from within university spaces. The other is that males "don't really have an interest, or "any business" trying to espouse intersectionality. It's a bit late in this first day of our conversation, so I will try very hard to be brief.When we begin to trace the evolution of intersectional analyses and political interventions amongst Black people(s) in the United States, we begin to discover that overwhelmingly, these analyses and interventions have emerged from social movement and organizational spaces in which women (and yes, a relatively small-and-gradually-growing number of men) have been trying to address problems of oppression and political transformations. I make this assertion confidently, considering the herstories that are continually being discovered about intersectional interventions of radical Black feminist women who were active in the Political Left from the 1920s up through the 1940s. These women (studied quite carefully by such activist-scholars as Barbara Smith, Erik McDuffie, Angela Davis, Kevin Gaines, Cheryl Higashida, Carol Boyce Davies, Kim Springer, and Robin D.G. Kelley) helped to lay the groundwork for the critical contributions made by activists and theorists during the late 1960s and 1970s--in such organizations as the Third World Women's Alliance and The Combahee River Collective, to name only a couple.We certainly cannot deny the enormity of contributions by such feminists as bell hooks, Kimberle Williams, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, and Bonnie Thornton Dill, whose bold and incisive works during the late 1980s and 1990s helped immensely in rearticulating and elaborating the conceptions of simultaneity, interlocking systems of oppression, and intersectionality.The academy has certainly helped to "mainstream" Black feminist intersectional analyses and initiatives;  but it's absolutely critical that we keep in mind the fact that initially (and quite often today), it was women in mass political and social struggles who articulated the complexities of their experiences and advanced understandings that have challenged and encouraged all of us to oppose all forms and systems of oppression.     As an African American male reared in a working-class household  (during the 1950s and 1960s) in which my father frequently battered my mother; I learned some very hard lessons from the time I was old enough to remember and compare the bruises I had received from my father's blows with those my mother had on her arms and neck. Witnessing such recurring violence, I learned to hate the violence AND I learned (quite unconsciously) to mimic it--as a sure "indicator" of my own evolving "manhood." Years later, after an initial marriage that imploded after seven years, I was forced by a bullet fired by my first wife at me--in self-defense--to rethink what it meant to be a man and to critically examine why I had come to embrace the notion that my masculinity required me to dominate and control other human beings. With some considerable work on myself (which continues), aided immensely by the loving assistance of incredible women in my life (along with some no less incredible men who are still my comrades); I can say honestly that my life has changed. Like a modern runaway slave, I am still running for my life from the oppressions that I was intended to embody--even if that meant destroying others and myself in the process of becoming "a real man." With that said, I can only conclude by saying that, as bell hooks has said, "Feminism [and certainly intersectionality] is for everybody!" 

Intersecionality outside of academia

Nobody is free until everybody is free –Fannie Lou Hammer

Thank you MThandabantu for your input and reminder that "it was women in mass political and social struggles who articulated the complexities of their experiences and advanced understandings that have challenged and encouraged all of us to oppose all forms and systems of oppression." 

It is important to remember the women in what I call the heat of the battle. One that comes to mind is Fannie Lou Hammer who had to drop out of school. She wouldn't have called herself a feminist but I think she espoused the ideas embodied in the intersectionality framework. While throughout her Civil Rights activism she often defended the need for black women and men to be united instead of divded inorder to fight oppression in response to the prodimately white women's movement, her famous quote, 'nobody is free until everybody is free" demonstrates her understanding that freedom, true freedom, is tied to the freedom of others. For me it also highlights intersectionality as a tool and not only a lens. Embracing intersectionality is actively committing to struggle against all systems of oppression, not only those that impact me directly. 

Thandabantu, can you share more about the herstories? It is interesting because I think one of the reasons this framework/understanding/analysis is seen as academic is becuase we can name the names of scholars and, I personally can name only a few historical activist women who were on the frontlines in their communities. So the herstories have to become more widespread to shift this misunderstanding.

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Discovering Herstories and Why They Matter


 Thank you Sacajawea, for your specific question. Let me attempt to respond by noting just a few struggles, some of the change agents who led and participated in them, and one or two theoretical insights to which these Black women contributed. Let me also say at the outset that there are several very interesting resources that help to discover the feminist herstories that will help us better understand intersectionality. I will refer to some in my written response, and I will note a few others at the end of the response. The following quote, taken from Linda Burnham's essay, "The Wellspring of Black Feminist Theory," is a useful place to begin this portion of our conversation:       "The idea that race, class and gender are interrelated dynamics of power and oppression        has gained sufficient currency in the academic world to go by the shorthand        “intersectionality,” or “intersection theory.” But the origins of contemporary black feminist        theory are not sufficiently known or acknowledged, and, given the invaluable work of        university-based theorists, too many assume that the core concepts of black feminism        were born in the academy." It is well worth noting that Linda Burnham's mother, Dorothy Burnham, was an activist (as was her husband, Louis) during the 1940s, opposing segregation and fighting employment discrimination (aspects of Jim and Jane Crow) the U.S. South through the Young Communist League YCL). This may seem like an unnecessary aside (I'm trying to get back to Sacajawea's question); yet thus mentioning of The work done by Linda Burnham's mother and father draws our attention to some of the intergenerational linkages that contributed to the burgeoning of Black feminist work in the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. There is a wonderful book published relatively recently by Erik S. McDuffie, Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism. This book has opened me up to an illuminating examination of how Black women active in the 1920s and 1930s--within the Workers' Party and the Communist Party U.S.A.--built militant and empowering community struggles (mainly in Harlem, New York) while advancing potent themes and theoretical discussions that would later inform, and be elaborated upon, in organizations like the Third World Women's Alliance (in which feminists like Linda Burnham and Fran Beale were active) and later The Combahee River Collective. The herstories of Black women--and these were women who were, in numerous instances, children of Blacks who had emigrated from various places in the African Diaspora--who contributed to rethinking and re-energizing Marxism in the United States are powerful narratives that both encourage and challenge us to push back against the facile and wholesale rejection of Marxism that all too often surfaces when we are thinking about the reforms and transformations necessary today. Even more to the heart of our concerns with intersectionality, when we begin to examine the herstories such as those compiled in Sojourning for Freedom, we begin to learn about Black feminist women like Grace P. Campbell, Williana Burroughs, Hermina Dumont Huiswoud, Maude White Katz, Claudia Jones, Sallye B. Davis (mother of Angela Davis), Esther Cooper, and Audley (Queen Mother) Moore. Please know that I am not "dropping names." Rather, I am trying to make the point that these women (who have become prime movers of radical political struggles beyond their beginnings in the Old Left in New York) actually helped to lay the groundwork for the practice and theoretical work that we are now discussing as "Intersectionality." Women like Claudia Jones made such a radical impact in U.S. political life that the U.S. authorities jailed her in Alderson Women's Prison, and later deported her to London--where she continued her feminist, anti-imperialist activism until she died. Claudia Jones is particularly important as an example of an activist who was also a theorist who contributed to our present-day understandings of "simultaneity" and "intersections" through her earlier analyses of "triple jeopardy." Queen Mother Moore left the CPUSA (due largely to her experiences of racism in that organization); yet she contributed quite significantly to educating a subsequent generation of radical Black women--some who later helped to lead organizations like the Black Workers for Justice, in North Carolina. McDuffie's examinations, like those of Cheryl Higashida (Black Internationalist Feminism: Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995) help us to uncover valuable herstories that have been marginalized and obscured by the confluent forces of anti-communism, racism, patriarchy, and imperialism. Such stories of real lives lived in persistent opposition to systemic injustices are greatly needed now, for reasons that I'm sure most of us can readily understand. Equally important, such stories help to inform us regarding the radical and swelling current of anti-oppression practice and theory that is known today as "Intersectionality." Please see also (1) Kimberly Springer's Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 (Duke University Press, 2005); (2) Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, (Eds.) Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, with Barbara Smith (SUNY Press, 2014); and (3) "The Wellspring of Black Feminist Theory, 2001" Linda Burnham, Women of Color Resource Center; Oakland! CA.You may also want to look at Linda Burnham's Interview with Loretta Ross (March 18, 2005); Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College.

Wow! MThandabantu, thank you

Wow! MThandabantu, thank you for sharing your emergence of a feminist/intersectional consciousness and praxis. Your post beautifully articulates why intersectionality is important and why men (cis, trans, and everybody) should be both personally and politically invested in this work and approach to collective liberation. (cis-gender meaning those people whose gender identity align with their biological sex or genitalia). In sharing as well, you've pointed out how we must be willing to be vulnerable in our learning and teaching process. As well, coming to embody intersectionality in our lives and work is a difficult process and an on-going process. It's a process that requires on-going self-interrogation and acceptance of loving critique from others (and sometimes the not-so-loving ones that still teach us about ourselves and where we need to go).

I want to echo the thanks

I want to echo the thanks that Yolandet states in her comment to MThandabantu! Once I had gotten to the end of reading it, my first thought was appreciative your honesty and sharing a personal journey, but in a rush to make a comment late last night I failed to mention it. So, thank you for sharing a deeply personal story.

I definitely don’t think this is an area that men should stay out of/do not belong. There could be a deep personal interest if men recognize the limits that these systems place on them as well. In fact the destruction as Thandabantu’s points out. This was a point that stuck with me in my political education about systems of oppression and the growth of my understanding about patriarchy and heterosexism.

What are ways in which men enter the conversation and spaces that can allow the shifts that need to take place so that we don’t replicate power dynamics and can work together in our organizing and movements?

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Thank you for this question,

Thank you for this question, Saki!

What are ways in which men enter the conversation and spaces that can allow the shifts that need to take place so that we don’t replicate power dynamics and can work together in our organizing and movements?

One way men can enter the conversation is through reflection upon their own socialization as men and their relationship to power. For example, I learned about patriarchy first hand from my father. His authoritarian, abusive presence in my life compelled me and my brother to vow to "break the chain" of male behavior that went back who knows how many generations. The culture we both grew up in fits the description of family dynamics that bell hooks uses in "Bone Black." In her words, it was fascist! That word captures the feeling of absolute control by an oppressive force that my brother and I experienced on a daily basis.

The second encounter with patriarchy for me was the catholic church (which doesn't deserve the respect of being capitalized). It was/is an institutional extension of the patriarchal head of a household. No matter how radical the ideas of the current pope may be, nothing can change the inherent misogynist, patriarchal core nature of the church. Young boys suffered, too, from this culture with the unchecked violations by priests that have been happening for hundreds of years. For me and so many others, this was both a personal violation and an institutional one.

My up close and personal experience with patriarchy led me to explore what feminists, particularly feminists of color, had to say. What does the alternative to oppressive uses of power look like? How are we going to avoid replicating those dynamics? One model we can look to is the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) here in the U.S. South in the 1960s.

Barbara Ransby’s awesome contribution to our understanding of movement building in her book about Ella Baker describes how young men who had been socialized in “sexist, even macho ways…began to rethink and reject conventional notions of gender in the process of considering the meanings of race and class and redefining their own identities.” SNCC member Ivanhoe Davidson describes his own transformation when he was in the midst of an organizational culture “with women who are smarter and more talented…and you come to realize that manhood isn’t the ability to knock someone down but finding your own humanity.”

We have to discuss the issue of power and how we are going to handle it differently. The feminist writer Margaret Randall who lived and raised a family in both Cuba and Nicaragua summed up her experience with some of the mistakes she saw being made by saying we have to “think about power in new and different ways.” She says we have to “design a power equilibrium that is more immune to verticality, super-concentration, and corruption; more inclusive of all the different social groups, more transparent, and with better safeguards against abuse.”

Freeing Ourselves from Violence

Thank you as well for sharing, Paul. There is an incredible level of vulnerability, honesty and humility required to share and confront our experiences of violence. So I deeply appreciate you sharing these experiences we can all learn and grow from them. Many boys and young men (cis and trans) experience physicial, sexual, psychological and emotional violence and, instead, as a practice of their own masculinity turn it against each other, womyn, children and nature.  I wonder if there were other external factors (replicable ones) that people with similar experiences can begin to identity to help them make the shift from becoming an abuser to embodying a feminist consciousness? Was there ever a moment you felt you could have gone the other way? How were you introduced to the work of feminists of color? Were there examples around you that validated the lives and work of people of color, for example?

I ask because I came to my feminist consciousness certainly through my own experiences with violence from a very young age, but also through the many women in my life whom I loved (aunts, grandmother, grandaunts, mother). Falling in love with their brilliance, strenghten and perceived invincibility as a kid and then being exposed to their inner lives and relationship dynamics, I remember internal dialogues with myself about which pieces of each person I wanted to model and which types of people I wanted to avoid because I didn't want certain types of experiences. For example, my aunt Merliene was smart, dynamic, physicially strong, caring and she wore her hair in a huge afro that when the light shone through it resembled a halo above her head. I was a tiny kid she appeared to me as a towering figure; I was mesmerized by her. Yet, I hated the fact that she was in a violent romantic relationship that she was never able to extricate herself from. Her partner eventually took her life. But I remember wanting to study hard in school because I wanted to be like her, yet saying I didn't want a partner who was controling and physically violent. So for me, access to her inner life (overhearing conversations with my grandmther, aunts) and her outter life allowed me to understand how we can be strong in one aspect of our lives and vulnerable in others. Coupled with growing up in a home and community where I saw women doing all types of work and exhibiting all types of womanhood allowed to me to understand that I can craft my womanhood on my own terms. So for me as a mother, I expose my daughters to a variety of people and expressions of thier identities, create spaces for them to question and reflect even from this young age, and allow them access to a full range of my experiences and emotions (as much as a 4 y/o can understand at this age.), in hopes that I'm creating the conditions for the development of a critical consciousness.

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Resources for Men invested in stopping violence

This series of videos is part of a resource "playlist" compiled by the  organization Men Stopping Violence to help men understand and apply intersectionality within their efforts to stop violence.


moving beyond solidarity

I also see intersectionality as important because I think it supports moving beyond solidarity to understanding the need to build alliances and cross movement work that strengthens each of our issues/movements but also gives us the collective strength required to dismantle the institutions that maintain systems of oppresion and the systems itself.

Thinking Intersections, Acting In Coalitions...

Thank you, Sacajawea, for your comments regarding the importance of understanding intersectionality as guiding us toward coalitional efforts. If we recognize the diverse lived experiences (1) between different oppressed groups and also (2) within any given group; we will be obliged to see (I think) that every organizing opportunity is a coalitional challenge as well. By this I mean that we will be obliged to pay more attention to all the identities that people bring into the room when they seek to participate politically with others. We will have some lived experiences that are similar and/or very nearly identical; yet we will also have some that are pretty different. As a Black heterosexual male reared in the Black working class of Columbus, Ohio during the 1940s through the 1960s, I will need to continually pay attention to the differences in my own experiences and those of the Black transgendered, working-class women with whom I am trying to organize today around "Black Lives Matter."


Environmental/Climate Justice

I'm in New Orleans for the 10th year commemoration of hurricane Katrina and Rita. I'm at the Gulf South Climate Justice Convergence. I'm reminded of how a fight for our lives and Mother Earth is an opportunity to strengthen the limited climate/enviro/Eco justice movement by applying an intersectional human rights frame and practice. It isn't only important to strengthen the movement with this approach, but it is vital for our sustainability.

Check out the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University.

The plenary includes the relationship between climate disasters, racism, economic exploitation and inequality, education, workers, working class and poor blacks, southeast Asians, indigenous peoples, power.

I'm going to leave this brief because we've all said why the theme of this dialogue is imperative. Just wanted to bring in where I am and an issue I work on into the mix. 

We are all impacted by the capitalist unsustainable practices that are killing our eco system. But the movement has replicated all the isms. 


It has to be based on intersectional human rights to begin including the complexity of our Eco-system, the various ways power dictate who has access to quality food, water, air. The ways different communities are impacted and what the similarities are we can align our work and movements around.