Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. The concept first came from legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and is largely used in critical theories, especially Feminist theory, when discussing systematic oppression. When possible, credit Kimberlé Crenshaw for coining the term "intersectionality" and bringing the concept to wider attention.
In order to achieve anti-oppression aims, here are some things for geek groups to consider:
- Aiming for diversity in general as well as gender-balance and women-friendliness in particular.
- Just because you are female, or disabled, or a person of colour, or have a certain body type (overweight, underweight, average) does not mean that your experiences of sexism, ableism or racism or sizeism are an exact match for experiences of other kinds of oppression (or even exactly like sexism, ableism or racism for someone else, of course).
- If someone suggests that you're doing something racist, ableist, etc., you will tend to react defensively. That's OK and natural! Take a deep breath, step away from the keyboard if you need to, think about the perspective of others in that situation , then apologise and figure out how not to do it again. If you continue to think the person misunderstood you or was wrong about your actions, don't get into an argument with them about it.
- "Nothing about us without us": don't dictate to women, blind people, gay people or anyone else what they 'should' want from your geek community, software or roleplaying game, ask them and listen to the answers. Or better yet, trust them to lead the development of the product or the direction of the community and join initiatives they have already started...
- One person or group may have multiple forms of oppression directed against them at the same time. This can complicate matters considerably.
- Two people or groups with different forms of oppression directed against them may both have legitimate needs which come in conflict with each other. Picking a way to reconcile these needs is hard and tends to fall disproportionately hard on people who are already struggling.
Discussions of intersectionality in geek culture
- Nyota Uhura is not a white girl (on race and gender in Star Trek Reboot)
- Out Loud: Attracting Minority Women in Computer Science (radio show transcript focusing on women from racial minorities in US computer science education)
- Intersectionality on The Angry Black Woman
- An account of Patricia Hill Collins' comments on the use of the term "intersectionality" by white feminists.