When you think of inequality, what are your first thoughts? I imagine that for a lot of people inequality may be racial inequality, or gender or class. That’s normal, and for those who are “progressive” thinkers, a lot of the spaces you are in will involve some aspect of discussing or seeing these forms of inequality. Although it is great to notice these inequalities, we can still do better. Inequality has a less well-known best friend, a friend called intersectionality.
Intersectionality is where 2 or more areas overlap and within equality movements this often doesn’t get discussed. That doesn’t mean that it has never been spoken about, it just means that it needs speaking about more. As an activist, I take part in lots of campaigns and do my best to be the change I want to see. However, even in these spaces I can still find myself and my voice ignored. I am part of 6 marginalised groups: I am lower class, I was born female and identify as femme non-binary, I am disabled due to mental health, my religion is non-standard, my sexuality is non-standard and I am a young person. Individually, all of these things have their own movements and I have had the privilege of joining in on many conversations around these topics. Although they are important to discuss, the lack of intersectionality means that aspects of my life that are influenced by multiple areas together often get left out of discussions.
When I was shut out of a good quality of education due to my disabilities and my class combined, I found it hard to reach out to people. I find that the education system is inherently ableist and classist, so going into that sort of space with my attributes proved a struggle. The help that was available just wasn’t enough as it hadn’t been designed with intersectionality in mind. When I apply for work, my age and my gender both work against me due to the potential that I may have a child in future and that means maternity leave and days off. Even if I mention that I am childfree and never intend on having children, I am still perceived as too young and risky and that anything could happen. If I was in my late 30 or my 40s saying that, it would be accepted. If I was a man saying I didn’t want children it would be accepted. But because I have a uterus and I’m 21, my word still isn’t enough. Even though the Equality Act means that education should be accessible and work places can’t discriminate it still happens, it just goes left unsaid and is normally replaced with some vague excuses. These examples aren’t even the worst cases I’ve experienced, some instances of inequality have been so traumatic that I can’t bring myself to share them publicly. However, every example I could give all have the same solution. By ensuring our equality is also accessible and intersectional, we ensure that all voices can be heard and all problems can have a solution.
By Tai Reeves
This article represents the personal views of Tai Reeves not those of the The Equality Trust.