Intersectionality – helping us to become better advocates for our clients

This year WorkUP Queensland is focusing on intersectionality. Intersectionality considers how power relations arise and interact from social location including, but not limited to, race, class, gender and ability.

An understanding of the theory and how it works in practice is important to the gender-based violence sector because it may increase capability to work with at-risk populations. American lawyer and academic Kimberlé Crenshaw is largely credited with coining the term:

Women working in the field of domestic violence have sometimes reproduced the subordination and marginalisation of women of colour by adopting policies, priorities, or strategies of empowerment that either elide or wholly disregard the particular intersectional needs of women of colour. While gender, race, and class intersect to create the context in which women of colour experience violence, certain choices made by “allies” can reproduce intersectional subordination within the very resistance strategies designed to respond to the problem.
– Kimberlé Crenshaw

Intersectionality can help us to become better advocates for our clients by looking at the ways intersecting forms of discrimination shape people’s experiences of violence. It allows us to explore complexity by understanding how multiple types of oppression can act at the same time.

While it is possible to approach one type of discrimination at a time, for example, sexism, intersectionality is about exploring all the potential barriers to equality.

To be more effective in the gendered violence space, we can study intersectionality to enhance our understanding of the way violence shows up differently across class and cultural contexts. This means the experiences of victims, perpetrators and communities are shaped by their structural and social locations. Intersectionality views characteristics like race, class and gender as an intersecting process that sits within a historical context.

An intersectional lens can be applied in a ‘both and’ way, whereby we acknowledge systems of ‘power over’ and the corresponding opportunities for empowerment that spring from it. This can be seen in the various forms of activism that exist and at times, overlap across the sector.

If you are keen to take a deeper look at intersectionality, join us for a SPARK webinar on 12 February with Dr Virginia Mapedzahama and Helen Sowey from ANROWS. This webinar will explore the connection between intersectionality and inclusive practice, looking at how to apply some tenets of intersectionality, including:

  • self-reflexivity
  • listening – and creating spaces for listening – to people experiencing multiple oppressions
  • collaborating with people experiencing multiple oppressions.

Following the SPARK webinar, WorkUP Queensland will offer a series of workshops on intersectionality as it applies to specific populations. You will have the opportunity to choose the ones that interest you.

Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for upcoming information about this series.