Truthfully, I do not believe that we can accurately, successfully, or productively discuss women in nonviolence or peace-driven movements without looking through an intersectional lens. Intersectionality encourages activists to push themselves, think outside the traditional box, and do the extra work needed to ensure that we do not ask the same unanswerable, one-dimensional questions. Intersectionality allows us to create authentic relationships, build trust and confidence with communities for genuine and meaningful engagement. As women continue to push for more awareness, activism, and policy changes around violence against women and the fight for women’s rights, intersectionality is clearly a concept that can help push change forward and show politicians, perpetrators, and patriarchal systems how many obstacles women are facing underneath the surface of gender.
We often think of intersectionality as a theory we apply to a separate subject, or as a concept that we must understand in order to create change in other areas. However, in the world of peace and nonviolent movements, we must push ourselves to reframe our perspective. The lens in which we look through. If we can see the world through this intersectional lens, the world around us suddenly becomes full of opportunities for help, and for change. Right now, we often look at the world and see hate, worry, chaos. Little opportunity for change and gigantic barriers we must destroy before tackling any obstacles. But applying intersectionality allows us to find the empathy, compassion, and hidden paths of change that are embedded into these barriers.
Our current approach to global justice and peace issues often involves comparing our suffering to others. Seeing justice through an intersectional lens allows us to remove comparison from the equation, and to simply see how these problems affect our identities and different groups. For example, we often discuss how the epidemic of sexual violence affects young women. We leave the suffering of so many others out of the conversation, because it feels as though there is no comparison to this groups’ suffering. However, when we are trying to find solutions to sexual violence, seeing the problem through an intersectional lens can help us to better address it. Thinking of the older women who are afraid of sending their daughters to postsecondary schools can help us understand how traditional attitudes impact our systems. Considering the fear that marginalized groups such as Indigenous people, Black women, and members of the 2SLGTQIA+ community often carry can help us to provide better resources and properly train publicly funded supports, such as law enforcement and social workers. Remembering that many men are carrying internalized guilt for their gender, without knowing how to discuss it or address it, can help us push conversations into the open and provide spaces for honest understanding. Problems like sexual violence don’t have to be about who is suffering the most. When looking through an intersectional lens, we can see the puzzle pieces of global suffering that form a whole problem, and this allows us to understand the intricate connections between each group.
As a student, I am lucky to be in a space where I get to continue learning and evolving, and challenging traditional theories is encouraged each and every day. However, you do not need to be a student to change your lens. We can all be better listeners. We can empathize with each other, and help understanding how our individual suffering affects those around us. Intersectionality is not just about improving the theories we have already created – it’s about learning how to change the world around us, one step at a time.
Carastathis, A. Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons. University of Nebraska Press, 2016.
Hiteva, R. & Hall, S.M. “Conclusions: Encountering and Building on Difference.” in Engaging with Policy, Practice, and Publics: Intersectionality and Impacts (Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2020), 155-164.
Nyangweso, M. A. Intersectionality, Education, and Advocacy against Sexual Violence. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, no. 33 (2017): 180-182.
TED. “The Urgency of Intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw.” YouTube, YouTube, 7 Dec. (retrieved November 12, 2021).