One concept that I have learned at Brandeis that has made an incredible impact on my approach to anti-violence and anti-oppression work–and shapes the work that I am doing as a part of my internship at Jane Doe Inc. (JDI)–is Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how the multiple identities that an individual holds can impact their lived experiences. In her article Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color, Crenshaw describes intersectionality as the experience of being situated between multiple forms of discrimination or domination through holding more than one marginalized identity. Specifically, Crenshaw discusses “the various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color.” In this example, Crenshaw describes how violence against women of color is shaped not just by race or gender, but rather by the combination of the two. This intersection makes the violence that women of color experience different and unique from violence against white women or Black men.
Crenshaw’s framework not only shows us why those with intersecting identities are experiencing violence at disproportionate rates, but it also shows us that anti-violence work needs to be approached with an intersectional framework in order to better address the needs of those that are experiencing the most violence. Crenshaw makes it clear that to mitigate violence, we need intersectional intervention strategies that address not only the needs of white women, but specifically the needs of those that are experiencing violence because of the intersections of their identities.
During my time at Brandeis, I have been deeply involved in various social justice and social equity projects, both through my involvement in student groups and through my positions at the Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center. As I have gained more experience with anti-violence and anti-oppression work, I have come to realize how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and sustain themselves within our society, and cause interpersonal, structural, and institutional violence. My work in anti-violence movements has taught me that all oppressions are linked, and that in order to challenge the violence that is occurring, we must approach it from an intersectional perspective.
In viewing sexual and domestic violence within this intersectional framework and as a tool of oppression that perpetuates the inequality in our community, I see my involvement in mitigating sexual and domestic violence as also disrupting other forms of oppression, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism.
One of the reasons that I am so interested in JDI’s work specifically is that they approach disrupting institutionalized violence from this intersectional perspective. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues isolated to sexual and domestic violence, but rather encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, and education and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because they understand that in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from an organization that approaches anti-violence work from this perspective.