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Inspired BlogWhat is Intersectionality? A Venture OUT x More Than Collab

Happy Pride Month from all of us at RV! In recognition of Pride 2021, Venture OUT – our employee resource group (ERG) for the LGBTQ+ community – is collaborating with RV’s three other ERGs to help us all learn more about what it means to be an ally to our peers – regardless of how we identify. Up first – More Than!

More Than strives to create a safe place where people of all abilities can come together with the shared mission of improving RV culture, employee satisfaction, and representation for those who identify as having a disability, impairment, chronic condition, or other unique physical or mental need that may require accommodations. Below, the group will walk us through the meaning of intersectionality and why it’s important for us to understand how overlapping identities affect our experiences.

As we celebrate Pride this month, we at More Than wanted to be allies to the Venture Out community – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because oftentimes people have intersecting identities. In order to really understand the importance of supporting communities that you may not be a part of or are not familiar with, you must first understand the concept of intersectionality.

What is intersectionality?

Merriam Webster defines intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

In other words, it describes the way intersecting identities can encounter the world. A person’s experiences as well as the discrimination they experience will differ depending on their various identities. For example, the lived experience of a white member of the LGBTQ+ community will be different from the experience of a nonwhite member of the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to note that this concept does not exist to create a hierarchy of social standing based on identity, but rather to highlight the differing experiences that individuals have based on the many overlapping facets of their identities.

Visual representation of how varying identities can overlap. Source: Misty McPhetridge, BSSW

Where did “intersectionality” come from?

The term “intersectionality” began to form in the feminist movements of the 1970s. According to “The Intersectionality Wars,” “Black feminist scholar-activists, a number of whom were LGBTQ, developed theoretical frameworks to serve as a model for other women of color, to broaden feminism’s definition and scope.” The term intersectionality was coined in Kimberle Crenshaw’s 1989 article, “Demarginalizing Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Policies”. The article was written to help explain the oppression experienced by African American women. 

The term intersectionality was coined to better explain the intersections of identity related to a series of court cases that addressed the issues of race and sex discrimination. In each of the cases investigated, the rulings only addressed race and sex discrimination individually but not together: “For example, one of the plaintiffs is an African American woman, and Crenshaw argues that the law forgets that African American women are both racially Black and female, and can be discriminated against on the basis of both of these traits.” In Crenshaw’s 1991 article “Mapping the Margins,” the impact of discrimination and marginalization are “shaped to respond to one [identity] or the other.” Crenshaw wrote about this concept largely from a legal point of view, helping dispel the notion that an individual was only impacted by a single identity when considering discrimination law. Today, the term intersectionality is used in many circles outside of its original purpose.

This excerpt from TIME Magazine helps further illustrate the point:

“… think of an LGBT African-American woman and a heterosexual white woman who are both working class. They “do not experience the same levels of discrimination, even when they are working within the same structures that may locate them as poor.” To further break that down, the discriminations against these women differ because one can experience both homophobia and racism at the same time. While the other may experience gender or class discrimination, “her whiteness will always protect and insulate her from racism.”

Intersectionality: How this impacts us

Now, let’s use our understanding of intersectionality to illustrate why it’s important that RVers within More Than show their support for RVers in Venture OUT during Pride month. Let’s take a look at this case study from the American Journal of Public Health as one example of the relationship between identities. 

“Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults showed higher prevalence of disability than did their heterosexual counterparts. About 25% of heterosexual women, 36% of lesbians, and 36% of bisexual women were disabled. When we conducted age-adjusted logistic regression, we found that both lesbians and bisexual women were more likely than were heterosexual women to be disabled. About 22% of heterosexual men, 26% of gay men, and 40% of bisexual men were disabled. The likelihoods of being disabled for gay men and bisexual men were significantly higher than that for heterosexual men even after we controlled for age. Among LGB adults, 36% of women and 30% of men were disabled.”

It’s important to note that this case study (published in 2012) is a bit dated and may have existed in a vacuum – however, this is not the only set of statistics that exists. To say there is an intersection of identities would be an understatement. This can happen for a number of reasons, perhaps there’s an implicit bias in the way LGBTQ+ individuals are treated in healthcare; maybe it’s the socio-political environment of the region an individual lives in; maybe it’s the portrayal of LGBTQ+ communities in media – the list of causes could go on for a while. The takeaway is that there is a cause and effect, and the effect is that the intersectionality of one’s various identities has an impact on their overall well-being.

Let’s take a look at a screenshot from an infographic presented by MAP (Movement Advancement Project), Center for American Progress, National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Nation LGBTQ Task Force:

We can see in this image, as well as the rest of the infographic cited above, the impact which intersecting identities can have. And as that TIME article noted,“Failing to acknowledge this complexity, scholars of intersectionality argue, is failing to acknowledge reality.” 

As we celebrate Pride, take a moment to think about your intersecting identities and how you can better support the communities around you as an ally or as an impacted individual. This quote in an article by writer Nora Wheelan sums it up nicely: “As long as trans disabled people like me exist, disability issues are trans issues, and trans issues are disability issues.” This quote can be attributed to any groups of intersecting identities. In summary, we need to understand where our own identities intersect to be allies to other communities and advocate for ourselves.

Additional Resources:

We’re proud to celebrate our LGBTQ+ employees and communities during PRIDE and beyond. If you haven’t seen our 2020 Pride “Love Letters,” give them a read here.

Learn more about our DE&I journey by viewing our Annual Progress Report here.

About the Author:
Daniel Doyle

Daniel Doyle has worked with Red Ventures since 2019 as an engineer across various teams and products. He enjoys cooking, talking with his cats and doing just about anything outdoors. Before Red Ventures, he had a background in performance and spent a few years in the restaurant business before deciding software was where he wanted to be.

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