Following up on this post about how this project deliberately constructs an intersectional field, I wanted to briefly write about the limits of intersectional awareness within this structure. I’ve made my allegiance to intersectionality clear right at the outset in the participant recruitment information and subsequent emails. Our episode conversations and diverse range of texts led to a deeper engagement with intersectional issues. I’ve gained a broader view of intersectional feminism where women, men and nonbinary people are privileged and marginalised in different contexts in different ways. My co-participants and I were able to explore more practical examples of theoretical intersectional ideas.
At the same time, it’s only my two co-hosts/friends and I who are looking at all the different intersectional themes in multiple episodes. The themes I’m exploring are gender, gender identity and gender expression, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, religion, age, physical/mental (dis)ability, and regional/national origin. Even though we’re negotiating with a broader understanding of intersectionality, we still make mistakes. A few of my co-participants initially reached out to me by explicitly outlining their identities (in tune with the intersectional themes). However, I wanted to make sure I offered everyone a chance to suggest the themes they were most interested in – which might differ from the identities they inhabit – because I realise it can be frustrating always having to only talk about the marginalised aspects of your identity rather than any other things you may enjoy. Even then, I ended up making assumptions with a few participants about what topic they’d be interested in exploring based on my own limited understanding of their background. One of my co-hosts inadvertently made a potentially insensitive suggestion for an episode segment. I shared my views about it and they agreed with me immediately since they hadn’t considered the full implications of their idea. The only reason I was able to pick up on it was because I had learned how to grow comfortable with discomfort – about my ignorance of certain identities; about being nervous about accidentally offending someone while wanting to learn; about admitting I might end up being insensitive despite my best intentions.
With most co-participants, we stick to discussing between one and three themes each episode. This is largely due to time constraints. Some of my co-participants have expressed interest in talking about other themes as well but have chosen to narrow it down to things they have most experience with. With some of my co-participants, even though they were excited about exploring their specific theme(s), they weren’t necessarily comfortable discussing others. For example, one co-participant specifically said they weren’t comfortable talking about gender and sexuality owing to their cultural and religious background. A few others expressed discomfort at talking about certain identities where they were very clearly a part of the dominant group. It might be the nature of the project/their own personal/social/cultural/political reservations which made them reluctant to share their perspectives about certain topics. No judgement whatsoever! My point is that even people who are interested in intersectionality and thinking about intersectional issues may have blind-spots and biases. I know I certainly do.