Where my intersectional ladies at?
In a previous job working for a crown corporation of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, I had the opportunity to work on a pretty cool project that was intended to bring equity and accessibility to the forefront of our projects, policy setting and decision making.
It was a really simple tool that asked project managers to first think of all of the diverse groups of people that a project, policy or decision could affect. Really think about who the community was and who you were impacting – women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, homeless people, Francophones and more.
Once you had a grasp of who you were impacting, you would have to work through what all of the unintended negative impacts of your project were on each group, and also what the unintended positive impacts of your project were on each group. For example, maybe your program wasn’t accessible to seniors traveling from retirement homes, or wasn’t being offered with access to French language services. Alternatively, maybe the circular floor plan of your new cancer treatment ward led to improved recovery times because patients could be social supports to each other while getting treatment.
The assessment tool was a great first step in helping people to think about marginalized groups in new ways and to plan their programs and policies accordingly.
When I would host training sessions for offices working through this assessment tool for the first time, one of the most important things I would always stress was that all of these groups were intersectional and you always had to account for that. You might need to think about the unique impact your program would have on LGBQT seniors. You might need to prepare for the unique cultural needs of homeless Aboriginal people.
Communities are diverse, complex things – and we rarely fit into tidy little segmented buckets.
The same is true for the work that our Women and Politics group is doing. We need to make sure that as we are out in the community, engaging women with politics, and encouraging women to run for elected positions, that we don’t get so narrowly focused that we forget just how intersectional we are.
We don’t just need more women in city hall. We need disabled women, women of colour, women living in poverty and more.
So, I ask – where my intersectional ladies at? Have you thought about running for council?
This article started a great debate on Twitter over the use of “disabled women” instead of “women with disabilities” in the last paragraph of this post.
The debate centred on the use of person-first language which supports the naming of a person first, and their condition or trait second. This linguistic structure aims to avoid dehumanizing the individual.
Critics of person-first language argue that its use implies a person can be separated from their disability or that it implies the disability is something bad by diminishing its relation to the individual.
We welcome the debate, and are glad this has created additional learning opportunities for our readers and our group at Women and Politics. We have decided to leave the text un-altered, but would invite you to learn more about person-first language, and to continue to share your perspective on this debate.