Intersectionality and Sexual Assault

Intersectionality and Sexual Assault

Sometimes it’s tough for our minds to care very deeply about a lot of things at the same time. Especially with regards to politics and social outrage, we get overwhelmed by what the media is currently focusing on. This makes TOTAL SENSE and is not something to feel guilty about, but it’s worth remembering the causes that felt important to you several months ago.

The reason I bring this up is that a lot of us are traumatized and overwhelmed by the current media focus on sexual assault. But because we here are all intersectional feminists, it’s really important that we continue to put energy into groups with overlapping axes of oppression.

Now, I’m going to define that down a little bit. Intersectional feminism is the acknowledgement that we can’t look at people’s rights and oppression based on each of their individual identities, but rather that all of their identities overlap to make a complex person. Wikipedia says “Intersectionality is the idea that social identities, related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination, and multiple group identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.” So this means that I am a woman, and Jewish, and queer, but I am also a queer, Jewish woman, and that my identity as a woman is different than the identity of a straight woman, or a Christian woman. I don’t get treated as a woman in a vacuum, I get treated as a Jewish, queer woman. I am queer, yes, but I am not treated the same as all queer people, because I am also a woman and a Jewish person. I am treated as a Jewish woman who is queer.

Now this kind of seems like word salad, right? Here’s what it means more practically:

A black trans woman may be a black woman, but she is not treated by society as a “black woman” who also *happens* to be trans. The way she is treated by society is informed by all of those overlapping identities. They cannot be teased out from each other. Society sees her as black AND as a woman AND as trans. As a black trans woman.

A lot (not all) of the people currently experiencing trauma on my Facebook right now are white, cis woman. Not all of you – I’m not here to invalidate anyone’s identity – but a lot. You are overwhelmed by the barrage of information and sensationalism and media about sexual assault, and it’s causing a lot of PTSD, and other mental health problems. That is valid, and I want to encourage you to take care of yourself.

But if you ARE a white cis woman (or even a white cis man), I’d like you to take a moment to remember how society treats sexual assault and trauma in woman of color, and trans women, and disabled women, and queer women. Sexual assault is deemed “corrective” or a “gift”. Police are less likely to acknowledge their sexual assault as valid, or to devote resources towards justice. Court systems rule against them. Family is more likely to blame them. So please, just keep that in mind when you’re interacting with your friends and loved ones.

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