Intersectionality: A Window Into Our Day of the Girl Assembly

Our feminism class during our IDG assembly.
(Photo Credit: Laura Hahn)

As a fellow classmate of mine so eloquently stated during our International Day of the Girl assembly: “International Day of the Girl is a movement started by various girl’s empowerment organizations that advocate for girls rights all over the world in relation to issues of poverty, low access to healthcare and education, as well as gender-based violence such as rape, sex trafficking, and domestic violence.”

Our assembly intended to inform and inspire our audience so that they could learn about the various efforts to empower girls around the world. For a series of weeks, we have been studying about these issues and their relationship to intersectionality. We have also learned about how the theory of intersectionality also relates to our own identities.

Our class has been discussing readings by Audre Lorde, Michelle GoldbergLisa Weiner-Mahfuz, Cherríe Moraga, bell hooks, Dr. Jessica Ringrose and other powerful feminists. These women gave us the language and information needed to have a small wealth of knowledge.

We also watched various inspiring videos, and one documentary that stood out significantly was Half The Sky, which was based on a book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn about the oppression and strife of girls around the world. These were the sources of information that enlightened our class about how vital a girls’ life is to the world.

Personally, I came to understand things that I couldn’t have imagined in my worst nightmares and I found it important that we bring these realities to light. One of the more shocking pieces of information came from Half the Sky. For example, the way the lack of a girl’s education made such an enormous impact on her life and the lives of others around her. Without an education, a girl falls into the cycle of her mother and her mother before her.

To be stuck in a cycle that is so unbreakable is appalling to me. I could not even begin to imagine not having access to proper education and not being given the chance to present what I have to offer to the world. Girls with tremendous potential end up getting raped or abused or raising a large family at a young age or used for sex.

There were parts of Half the Sky, such as hearing about a 3-year-old getting raped that made me feel as though there was some insidious truth eating at my sanity. It made me want to do something about it and it motivated our class to find the words to spread the word. We found the courage to speak up and that is why I think that the International Day of the Girl is so tremendously important: because we were hoping to pull a new consciousness and understanding out of a hideous reality.

At the core of this assembly was the way every issue affected another. We shared our understanding of intersectionality as a significant component to our assembly on International Day of the Girl. For us to understand the struggles of a girl on another continent we had to understand our own struggles and why we were connected to them.

I am speaking about intersectionality at our IDG assembly.
Photo Credit: Laura Hahn

Defining intersectionality was important to me because, I have always felt a strong personal connection to overlapping oppressions. I’ve been very aware of the way my identity never belonged in a box. Last year I completed a 2-trimester-long honors project exploring race and intersectionality and the way multiple oppressions overlap.

I have come to a deeper understanding in understanding what Audre Lorde meant when she said that she was black, a feminist, and a lesbian. Upon studying the famous Lorde, I began to understand what it really meant to feel the depth of oppression and the way it could inhibit my confidence. She so brilliantly said in her essay “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” the following: “I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities…there is no hierarchy of oppression.”

I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of one part of me more than another, or any part of myself for that matter. I began to own up to the way I could not be shaped by others’ hands to fit into a mold. I chose to give my definition of intersectionality because I knew that I had more than understood it personally by wearing its shoes and breathing its air.

Intersectionality enriched my understanding of myself and I thought that it could bring the audience closer to understanding how education connects to a girl’s race, social standing, sexuality, religion and family.

I felt as though reading some of our stories and narratives was actually a large part of our effort to connect to the rest of the world on International Day of the Girl. I thought classmates like Miral and Olivia did an amazing job and I really appreciated the different perspectives. I liked that fact that the speakers both realized their privilege and understood their disadvantages, whatever they may be. They allowed the audience to “look at women’s lives through these multiple lenses” through intersectionality as Bonnie Thornton Dill writes.

They served as an effective way to connect our personal experience with the experiences of other girls around the world. We didn’t just give the audience facts about girls, where they wouldn’t remember the numbers later. Reading the narratives gave the assembly a certain empathy that may not have otherwise been attained. These narratives caused the audience to really delve into the everyday aspects of oppression. Because these narratives were about intersectionality, they touched base on a lot of different issues that might’ve helped the audience connect to girls on the other side of the world.

I feel as though our assembly really tied together everything we learned and the things we have been discussing in class. What we learned about India and the maltreatment of girls around the world was, at first, just shocking information: news to our ears. In a short period of time, though, we were able to discuss a large range of international issues such as  infanticide, forced marriage, lack of education, sex slavery and trafficking, and much more. These were all striking topics and it almost seemed overwhelming.

But by working together we were able to streamline all these issues together and take action. Audre Lorde always talked about how we need to speak up and the way we must share our perspectives. But what we did was take girls’ perspectives around the world and create a cause for action and a fight for awareness. Sometimes, when we acquire knowledge, we tend to hold it in or let it eat away at our consciousness; chomping at the back of our minds. We let it rot away and we don’t do anything about it because we figure that one person is not good enough or that it is too hard to speak up and make others aware.

However, International Day of the Girl is all about bringing the girls of the world together in an effort to make the world aware of the position that society puts girls in.  We struggle everyday to have a chance to accomplish our dreams. This assembly was successful because it helped raise awareness for a cause that affects every single person on an earth that spins around men. This is precisely the reason so many organizations such as Girl Effect and 10×10 have banded together to educate and empower girls around the world who never get to know what female empowerment is or that it even exists.

11 thoughts on “Intersectionality: A Window Into Our Day of the Girl Assembly

  1. Your in-depth analysis and description of scenes from Half the Sky were very touching. The language and writing style of your post was captivating and very powerful.

  2. This was beautifully written and highly inspirational! You used to much detail and information. I highly appreciate your effort. You used a lot of examples and stories to show why everyone should stand up and make an effort to change the world for girls who don’t have opportunities to succeed and are stuck in their systems of “their mothers and their mothers”. I think this clearly shows how much these issues matter to you. I also liked how you mentioned our classmates Miral and Livia about the that fact that “both speakers realized their privilege and understood their disadvantages” and connected it to interesectionality. Great job and keep going!

  3. I loved the overall flow of your blog post. I appreciate the way you began with stating the origin of our knowledge of feminism, as students, by mentioning famous feminist writers such as Audrey Lorde; “These women gave us the language and information needed to have a small wealth of knowledge.” I enjoyed your general passion for the intersectionality of you and our classmates. And by the way, your blog post title is amazing. This post was so inspiring and very well-written. I enjoyed reading it. Great job!

  4. Great pictures, and great post! You found a way to both inform readers of the assembly, and share your own feelings. There were parts of Half the Sky, such as hearing about a 3-year-old getting raped that made me feel as though there was some insidious truth eating at my sanity. It made me want to do something about it and it motivated our class to find the words to spread the word.” I felt the exact same way after watching many of the videos, and I hope everyone during the assembly felt the same!

  5. It was great that you mentioned some of the women, like Audre Lorde and Dr. Jessica Ringrose, whose work we have studied in order to have a deeper understanding of feminism. It shows that you are well informed, and that your blog post is based on the experiences of many different women.

    By including your reaction to the information you gained through Half the Sky, such as the feeling that “there was some insidious truth eating at [your] sanity”, you not only built an emotional connection with your reader, but you also shared some of the terrible atrocities that take place, such as the fact that many young girls “end up getting raped or abused or raising a large family…or [being] used for sex”.

    You make an excellent point when you write, “to understand the struggles of a girl on another continent we had to understand our own stubbles and why we were connected to them”. This is the question that intersectionality poses, “how am I connected to this issue?” I loved that you included this sentence, because it speaks about the challenge that our class faced, understanding and defining intersectionality.

    You describe your moment of realization beautifully when you write, “I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of one part of me more than another…I began to own up to the way I could not be shaped by others’ hands to fit into a mold. I chose to give my definition of intersectionality because I knew that I had more than understood it personally by wearing its shoes and breathing its air”. This was such an amazing moment in your post because of two main things. Not only do you come to an understanding of intersectionality, but you make the idea of intersectionality by adding a piece of yourself to your definition of it, based on the ways that you had experienced it “personally by wearing its shoes and breathing its air.”

    I completely agree with your take on the importance of reading excerpts from our own essays on intersectionality during the assembly. It really brought the idea that women are oppressed home. They helped to build a bridge between the audience and women around the world by calling attention to the ways that oppression is a part of our everyday lives in New York as well.

    You had a great ending to your post, and I particularly liked that you write, “this assembly was successful because it helped raise awareness for a cause that affects every single person on an earth that spins around men.” This emphasizes the main point, that this is not just women’s issues, but a global issue for all people. This felt like I was being called to action, because as I thought about your idea that the world seems to “spin around men”, and realized that you are completely correct. The world does seem to revolve around men, for they are often accommodated in ways that women are not. Organizations like Girl Effect and 10×10 are vital because they help to spread awareness of the inequalities that women are forced to accept.

  6. I think your blog post wasn’t just extremely educational but also touching. You successfully managed to both put in front of the reader the raw facts and present it to them together with your own, strong but yet very delicate and personal point of view. An example of this was particularly inspirational to me; you wrote “I began to own up to the way I could not be shaped by others’ hands to fit into a mold. I chose to give my definition of intersectionality because I knew that I had more than understood it personally by wearing its shoes and breathing its air”. Another example of this is when you write, “I feel as though our assembly really tied together everything we learned and the things we have been discussing in class… However, International Day of the Girl is all about bringing the girls of the world together in an effort to make the world aware of the position that society puts girls in.” You personalize the fact that you are a girl, and even though I am too, I felt that by reading that section and this one as well, “We struggle everyday to have a chance to accomplish our dreams. This assembly was successful because it helped raise awareness for a cause that affects every single person on an earth that spins around men.” I could truly feel the “struggle” that all girls, you, and I go through even though, on an everyday basis, they might differ.

  7. You did a really nice job of structuring this blog post and making it both informative and personal. I like how you started with a quotation, then talked about International Day of the Girl and our assembly and started talking more personally about the different topics we covered in class like intersectionality. I agree with you when you say that everyone’s personal essays relate to the International Day of the Girl I think that having so many unique stories from girls of different backgrounds helped show the audience how universal and all-encompassing the International Day of The Girl really is. I also thought it was cool how you were consistently quoting Audre Lorde throughout the post.

  8. I definitely agree that personal stories probably resonated better with the audiences than just listing general information. Because members from our class read their intersectionality essays, I think that the audience could better connect the ideas we were teaching them. Instead of the ideas such as intersectionality seeming as distant theories, they were able to think about how they connected to themselves because their classmates/peers on stage were able to do so.

  9. I felt like I could really relate to your reactions to both intersectionality and the “Half the Sky” video. In terms of intersectionality I felt like you also had that mind boggling moment of your life being put into perspective due to one concept. Especially when you said, “Personally, I came to understand things that I couldn’t have imagined in my worst nightmares and I found it important that we bring these realities to light.” I found that your blog was informative but yet still very personal; it was a great balance. I thought you were passionate through your writing as well, it was forceful but yet still very eloquent.

    I also feel like when you wrote “To be stuck in a cycle that is so unbreakable is appalling to me. I could not even begin to imagine not having access to proper education and not being given the chance to present what I have to offer to the world. Girls with tremendous potential end up getting raped or abused or raising a large family at a young age or used for sex,” spoke to the underlying fact that we as people who haven’t experienced these kinds of tragedies can’t truly understand the pain and devastation these women feel. This is why it is so important to combine forces with all women and fight to end all oppressions as a collaborative group.

  10. A powerful post. I really love so many of the lines in this piece. One of them is: “we were hoping to pull a new consciousness and understanding out of a hideous reality.” I think you have put your finger on what is so important about feminist thought and action: it’s definitely about acting on a new consciousness collaboratively with others to make change. You also understand the power of personal storytelling as a vehicle for being a change agent. I was particularly impressed and proud of your explanation of intersectionality during the assembly. It clearly came from a very personal place inside of you to explain it the way you did and your use of Audre Lorde to highlight its meaning was also terrific. The visual you created for understanding the idea of intersectionality allowed your peers to see how these intersecting categories of oppression overlap and inform each other in a very accessible way. I’m excited to see where this course takes you and am also excited to read your future posts!

  11. It is refreshing to hear this generation speak of the ongoing fight for honor of women. I am a child of the 60s – a time of great revolution on many levels, and I remember hearing about women burning their bras as a sign of independence, of emancipation. But even before then women fought for the right to vote during the age of suffrage in the early 1900s. It seems as each generation emerges the fight for the evolution of women takes up another banner and continues. Now we have expanded, through technology, to hear the cries of women on the other side of the world, which has now become next door. If each one of us can remember that we are the Original Power on this Earth. We are the oldest know human that science has discovered. Somewhere in the vast continuum of human history, women were systematically disempowered. But I believe as this awareness of our oppression continues, this imbalance will be righted and the world will once again recognize Woman, the original Goddess of the Universe.

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