Panel discusses intersectional feminism at first Dialogues Around Differences

Colin Raunig

A woman moves her hands while speaking.
Cori Wong, an assistant professor in the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Resarch, answers questions during the “Dialogues Around Difference” panel discussion on intersectional feminism. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The first Dialogues Around Difference panel was held on Monday Sept. 11 to discuss intersectional feminism.

The monthly series, hosted by the Diversity Committee within the School of Social Work, focuses of topics of social justice and inclusion and featured a four-person panel of staff members of Colorado State University who have experience with intersectional feminism.

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Cori Wong, the director of the Women & Gender Collaborative and an assistant professor in the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, helped lead the four-person panel.

Wong pointed out the difference between feminism and intersectional feminism as well as the difference between inclusivity and intersectionality. Wong used the recent efforts to understand the culture and climate of women faculty on campus, which may leave out of the conversation target efforts for faculty who are women of color.

“Women, yes, have an experience,” Wong said. “But, women of color have a different kind of experience. So, when we say, ‘We want to support women faculty,’ inclusivity is going to be like, ‘who can come?’ Intersectionality is going to (say), ‘who are we paying attention to?’”

Wong further expanded on her example by saying that if attention is not paid to the differences of women of color, then there lies a risk of erasing or ignoring certain facets of a population by not being fully authentic in efforts to serve everyone, and it is not intersectional. Wong said that it is much more likely for the problems of an entire group to be recognized if efforts begin with marginalized group, such as women of color.

“You don’t have to do everything for everyone, but if you start with those who are on the margins of marginalized groups, you are far more likely to be working against those systems that are systems of oppression and exclusion,” Wong said.

Wong went on to say that while she understands that some people feel overwhelmed at the notion of intersectionality, those who felt that way were missing the point.

“In order to be intersectional, it’s not ‘do everything for everyone’ and all those little nodes of uniqueness, but rather, in your practice, are we paying attention to the most vulnerable people and providing services for them,” Wong said

Another panel member, Charlotte Salinas, spoke of her experience facing cultural and familial norms as a Latina. Salinas works in the Office of Orientation and Transition programs. Salinas said she had very clear messages growing up that the expectations for her life were to get married at a young age, have children and serve her husband. Salinas said this was in contrast to the expectations of white women she grew up with. Salinas said challenging these expectations can be difficult.

“How do I have those conversations with my family and challenge that, and also how do I then challenge my community on that and really make sure that young Latinas know there is more (to life) than just what we are being told?” Salinas asked.

Also in attendance on the panel were Angelica Murray, the program coordinator for the Women and Advocacy Center, and Jovan Rivera, a founder of the Student Feminist Fight Club.

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The next Dialogues Around Difference event will be held Monday, Oct. 2, in Lory Student Center 312, to discuss support systems for immigrants and refugees in northern Colorado. The third and final event of the semester will be held Monday, Nov. 11, in the Bohemian Auditorium, to discuss the ethics of the supply chain in the global economy.

Collegian news reporter Colin Raunig can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @colinraunig.