Intersectionality perspective


I was first introduced to the concept of intersectionality in my early high school years. I was busy advocating for Gay-Straight Alliances in the Peel region, to create positive spaces for young people, especially LGBT youth to express themselves and promote acceptance. What I never thought about was how an intersection or several aspects of a person could create overlapping areas of potential discrimination, for instance a person who was LGBT and also a visual minority and also female.

In particular, I would say that this week’s unit made me think specifically about gender. I did not conceptualize that intersectionality was a central tenet of feminism, but particularly after reading Stephanie Shield’s Gender an Intersectionality Perspective it certainly makes sense that it may even be “the most important contribution”. [1]

Studies on gender are often understood in the context of power relations, for a patriarchal society is what has profoundly levied discrimination against the female gender. But numerous other social identities affect the nature of gender. As the previous reflection led us to discover more about the socio-ecological model, so to does an analysis of the roots of gender-based violence consider the social location of individuals, and what constitutes their identities.  Intersectionality is important because “intersections create both oppression and opportunity”, and it represents the privilege of one group and the disadvantage of another. (Shields, 302) It is a model of social stratification through the layers of identity of humanity.

Gender-based violence is a complex problem when viewed through the intersectional, socio-ecological perspective of a global health promotion practitioner. Its roots lie in the embedded privileges of different social identities. In turn, these identities are formed by intersections of aspects of humanity. As Shields notes, “intersectionality is urgent because it [requires us] as researchers to go beyond [an] individual perspective… [and] to understand … things from the worldview of others.” Viewing domestic violence through the facet of “gender alone” was an obstacle to both research and solutions. (Shields, 309) I think that recognizing the multitude of roles that individuals play and also what factors lead into people’s lives are key to understanding the motivations and causes behind both personal and social problems. From a public health perspective, taking a more nuanced approach and a holistic perspective is essential, and understanding intersectionality is central to that transformation.

[1] Shields, S. A. (2008). Gender: An intersectionality perspective. Sex Roles, 59:301-311.

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