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Intersectionality of Privilege, Oppression, and Tactics of Abuse
Written by Alejandra Aguilar, Program Specialist at the Partnership


Gender pronouns: She, Her, Hers

In our last article, we took a superficial look at a different perspective on what it means to be marginalized. As we shared, Tony Porter and the Call to Men team provided a framework that looks at how these constructs keep marginalized people contained. In this article, we invite you to take a deeper dive with us as we look at how marginalization for most is intersectional. Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of Intersectionality to feminist theory stating, “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem there, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.”

As we continue to strengthen prevention efforts across California, it’s important that we deepen our shared understanding of the intersectionality between privilege and oppression, recognizing that in many cases a person who is causing harm uses their own privilege to add an additional layer of oppression through their tactics of abuse. – In my experience, when working with young boys who had engaged in sexual or intimate partner abuse, most of them did not understand how they were using their privilege to hurt others. It’s usually just something that happens inadvertently. For example, if one partner is a US born citizen, with knowledge of the immigration system, and a full understanding of the English language, they can use that privilege to hurt their foreign-born, non-English speaking partner. In one case, a boy had shared with me that he knew “these girls needed some love,” so he provided that, knowing that later on they would do whatever he asked them to do. – These are just two examples. There are many more and it’s important that we continue engaging in conversations around these, in an effort to frame our prevention efforts through an intersectional lens, in order to lift up the voices of those who are marginalized.

So where do we start? – Well, for me, it’s been extremely important to start why myself. All of our relationships, including those we create through our work, bring in an intersection of who we are and how we function in these systems. If you are interested, I invite you to take some time to assess your own privilege and the areas at which you may find yourself at an intersection of oppression using the Oppression and Privilege Self-Assessment Tool. In the next article, we will look at how we can use this knowledge of ourselves and the communities we serve to further enhance our prevention efforts.

Below you will find a graphic representation of the various ways in which individuals who hold privilege over another may use tactics of abuse to further oppress an individual, or group of individuals. This image is based on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work around Intersectionality and Violence Against Women of Color.