There are lots of topics and concepts to cover in Gender Studies. One of the earliest, and most important, concepts we covered was “Intersectionality”. “Intersectionality” is a framework used to help understand the many intertwined, complex identities that make up an individual. It also provides insight into how these identities may open individuals up to certain levels of privilege or discrimination. This privilege or discrmination can occur on an individual level and/or at a more institutional, systemic level.
One of the first activities our Gender Studies class did was called “Identity Signs”. Using a Google Jamboard, there were 7 questions that required students to reflect on where they stand and have stood in reference to privilege, discrimination and their multiple intersecting identities. When the questions were asked, some students immediately knew where they were dragging their post-it note! While others took their time and thought for a minute about it. It was really interesting to see where students moved and there are even some questions where many students shared the same feelings. Students were invited to share their “choice” if they wanted to, which some did, but no one was forced to. This kind of activity can be vulnerable and open students up to reflections and feelings that may not come up on a regular basis. All students participated and were incredibly honest, patient and kind towards their peers.
We have used the framework of intersectionality to better help us analyze events in class. Most recently, we have used the framework to discuss the shootings in Atlanta, where 8 people were murdered and 6 of them were Asian women. We also applied the framework to try to understand why there are thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children in Canada. Intersectionality will come up in class again and again and the hope is that this framework will help students analyze events, especially where race and gender are involved, long after the class is done!