Intersectionality: More Than Our Disabilities
What is intersectionality? Merriam-Webster.com defines it as: “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect”. Although this term has been around since the 1980s, it is still unfamiliar or unclear to many people. That does not make this emerging truth any less important. Society oftentimes views marginalized populations through narrow lenses, placing people with common traits into proverbial boxes of seemingly similar folk, neglecting to acknowledge the other aspects of each person’s distinct identity. Members of the disability community are not immune to being thought of as a solitary, homogenous group.
What about advocacy efforts and peer support? People who share related ideals or experiences who band together in one unified voice can be powerful. Coordinated collaborations can be effective to influence policies, as well as provide a greater sense of belonging or purpose – two undeniable benefits. For example, individuals with disabilities oftentimes report feeling isolated or misunderstood, and thus may find associating with others who have disabilities, or joining them to fight for rights, incredibly rewarding. Indeed, we must utilize opportunities to spread awareness, raise expectations, and empower; but, we are more than our disabilities alone. True independence, equality, and inclusion cannot be obtained if we only address one aspect of discrimination. If we want to change the narrative in an all-encompassing manner, then it is necessary to consider the various combined factors – wealth, income, education level, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – that create and perpetuate systemic inequalities. Social stratification* is determined by every label society places on groups. Therefore, vital recognition of each group with which you identify is the key to countering prejudicial treatment, breaking down barriers, and living the life you choose.