UConn students promote Intersectionality awareness

Police Beat is a part of Violence Awareness Week held by the Women's Center.  (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Police Beat is a part of Violence Awareness Week held by the Women's Center.  (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Intersectionality, according to the Oxford Dictionary, can be defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Communications students tackled the topic yesterday.

Students in the Comm 3100 Persuasion and Comm 3450 Gender and Communication courses hosted a joint Intersectionality discussion at the Women's Center Monday night to raise awareness of intersectionality.

Associate Professor in Residence in the women’s, gender and sexuality studies department, Barbara Gurr, was the guest speaker.

The discussion was hosted in order to allow students a place in which they could hear different experiences meant to provide awareness and be inclusive in their day-to-day lives.

Fourth-semester communications and women's gender and sexuality double major Alexandra Mastracks began by asking Gurr to talk about her experience with intersectionality and what it means to her personally.

In order to provide analogies for students, Gurr passed around cookies, explaining how each cookie has the same ingredients, but different ingredients stood out more than others depending on the cookie.

“As with us we have different identities and experiences some known to others and others we may not know,” Gurr said.

Gurr related her experiences working with Native Americans in relation to intersectionality. Native Americans in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with their supporters, encountered a challenge protesting against a pipeline that would go from North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois.

“Here I stood and saw a call to action where members of the tribe happened to be dancing and singing prayer songs, but had policemen with large guns pointed at us. This was a moment of clarity and understanding intersectionality because I was aware of white privilege and different privileges,” Gurr said.

Fourth-semester communications and English double major, Bailey Shae, facilitated the discussion by asking the students, “How can we get younger generations to get into intersectionality?”

Students provided responses such as “just simply teaching them,” through things like television, adding curriculum in schools and even starting early with families and continuous exposure.

Shae said how once her younger sister went to pre-school, her preferences changed to “pink, purple and bows.” Her sister was being influenced by the environment she was in.

“In my own experience geographical location is socializing my kids,” Gurr said while addressing how informally parents raise their children.

Abigail Owusu, a fourth-semester pre-pharmacy major said, “This opened my eyes to the differences students have on campus and on how it’s okay to be different and not always fit in.”

Mastracks urged that students should not call people out when they say things that may not align where with their perspective, but to instead ask them why they think that?

As one of the organizers of the event, she said they wanted to “branch out to others beyond our group” to inform and make students aware of intersectionality.

“We know we are not going to change everyone's mind but want to educate through a campaign promoting awareness and education in intersectionality,” Mastracks said.

 


Sharon Sorto is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at sharon.sorto@uconn.edu.