Intersectionality 101: Understanding Your Privilege And Oppression

Intersectionality 101: Understanding Your Privilege And Oppression

Explaining the misunderstood concept of intersectionality

For many people, the word "privilege" can be triggering for them, and even this sentence is probably triggering people as they read. But what is privilege? That's where the issue lies because many people not only don't realize their privilege, but sometimes, people don't realize their oppression either. This is where intersectionality comes into play.

Intersectionality is the intersecting systems of privilege and oppression. Privilege is when someone doesn't have to face an institutionalized form of oppression, and oppression is when they do have to face it. Just because one person has one form of privilege doesn't mean they only have privilege. So what are these intersecting systems?

People can be oppressed and privileged in many different ways. Most commonly, you hear about gender, sexual orientation, race. This is where the tension comes into play because these are the most common systems you hear about. A straight, white cisgender male has straight privilege, white privilege, cis privilege and male privilege. However, often from my own experience, I will see these straight, white cisgender men get offended at being called privilege. That's a little ironic, because if being called privilege is insulting to you, then you probably are privileged considering there's a whole vocabulary out there just to degrade marginalized people.

Nonetheless, a straight, white cisgender man is not just privileged. There are other systems out there. Maybe he comes from a lower socio-economic status. He's oppressed for that. Maybe he isn't of Christian faith. He's oppressed for that. Maybe he suffers from a physical disability, has a mental health problem. He's oppressed for that too. If he's not conventionally attractive, he can even be oppressed for that. So, to straight, white cisgender men -- don't get offended; you are privileged in those areas. You are probably oppressed in another way, but be glad that you aren't oppressed in more ways.

Race, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical and mental ability, religion, language, age, physical attractiveness, occupation, education are just some of the categories of intersectionality.

Privileged people -- don't apologize. Nobody is blaming you. It would be hypocritical to judge someone who is privileged because the majority of the time someone can't help but have their privilege. That's not what this is. This is about understanding your privilege, and realizing that there are certain institutionalized forms of oppression that you don't face, but one important thing is to remember that all oppression is connected.

So, don't feel guilty for having privilege. If you're blind to your privilege then that's where the problem starts. Just because you have some forms of privilege doesn't mean you've never worked hard for things in life and nobody is blaming you. It's not about you as individuals, it's about the systematic institutions of oppression.

People deserve to have the same chances and opportunities in life if they want them. It's as simple as that. So understanding your privilege and oppression is just one simple way to help.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel the Feminist

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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!

This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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I Am A Biracial Woman And I Am Terrified Of Love To The Point Of Silence

I wonder if any love I ever feel will be reciprocated.

I have always, always been independent. I like to do things my way, on my own time, without the help of others. And although I have created this harsh exterior I have always, without a doubt believed in true love. But love, to any extent, as a person of color, terrifies me to the point of solitude. Even more than that, being a biracial woman seeking love continues to be a battle.

I cannot put into words how frustrated I constantly feel because I so deeply want love. I deserve love.

For a lot of people, the mere idea of falling in love is terrifying; the idea of needing somebody like that is hard to grasp. But for me, my fear stems from the idea that no love I feel will ever be reciprocated. I doubt that I will ever be enough because I am some mixed breed.

For nearly every aspect of my life, I have complete confidence in myself. I never questioned if I deserved to get into Butler. I never doubt whether I can handle a challenge, or if I'm worthy of a position because I know how hard I work for everything in my life. I know that I pour my entire heart into whatever I care about -- and when it comes down to it that is always enough.

Yet, I cannot say the same for love. So, this is me finally admitting it -- I never pursue love because I am not certain if I am worthy of love. And I am not confident that I will ever be enough. I find myself wondering if I give my all to somebody whether that will be enough, or if I will fall short of success because I am biracial.

Honestly, I’ve never been one to have a physical type. I guess, if anything, I like dark hair, but even that is up in the air. I am drawn to people because of their morals, their values. But even if I find the most accepting man in the world, that doesn’t mean his family will be the same. The thought of a future boyfriend introducing me to his family makes my stomach tie itself into knots.

I am terrified of being rejected from a family because I am “too black” or of being accepted because I am “white enough”. I am horrified that I will be forced to prove my worth, as a human, because of the color of my skin. I simply don’t think I can handle being shunned because I am not “black enough” or because I “deny my culture”.

More than anything, I am mad at myself. I cannot talk to any man without assuming he has a hidden agenda.

Am I pretty, or am I pretty for a black girl?

Is he asking to take me on a date because he sees something in me, or does he see me as easy?

Am I just another sexual object?

Is he fetishizing my identity?

Is he trying me out, so he can check dating a brown girl off his list?

Am I good enough for a fling, but never to bring home to Momma?

Will he ever see me as truly beautiful compared to American standards?

My race dances in limbo. There is no place where my worlds can overlap. And so, I am forced to choose, while simultaneously I am rejected from both. And if there is no place for me, how could there possible be a place for me to be loved?

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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