Ever wondered how our social identities shape our experiences? In our latest AskSGO, we break down what social identities are and explore how they intersect to impact our lives and how we are viewed in the world. Join us on November 16 where we’ll expand on understanding the complex web of identity and intersectionality.
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Rachel Sadler: So, we talk about social identities in our them in particular when talking about intersectionality.
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Rachel Sadler: But, we often get questions about, well, what does this even mean?
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Rachel Sadler: What are social identities? And how do they relate to intersectionality?
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Rachel Sadler: Well, social identity and intersectionality are two concepts that are pretty inextricably linked.
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Rachel Sadler: You can’t truly understand intersectionality without first recognizing what social identities are.
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Rachel Sadler: So, essentially, social identity is how you see yourself and others based on the groups that you belong to.
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Rachel Sadler: We’re talking gender, race, religion, nationality, ability, class, and so many more.
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Rachel Sadler: What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that these groups have been socially constructed.
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Rachel Sadler: That means they’ve been developed and defined by societies over time.
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Rachel Sadler: So, some of them we’re born into, like, our ethnicity, our nationality, or class, and some of them were assigned like gender and race.
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Rachel Sadler: Some of our social identities will remain the same over the course of our lives, but often many of them change.
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Rachel Sadler: For example, we can move between social economic classes, we can have changes in our ability status, or we can adopt different religious beliefs or identify as a gender different from the sex that we are assigned at birth.
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Rachel Sadler: And while it may seem like all of our social identities are obvious, many of them aren’t necessarily visible to others.
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Rachel Sadler: For example, you can’t necessarily see someone’s social economic status.
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Rachel Sadler: Even though we have certain ideas about what it means to look like you belong to one class or another, we can only really make a guess or inference about what class or socioeconomic status someone belongs to.
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Rachel Sadler: When we consider things like ability, some folks have visible disabilities, while others may have invisible disabilities like autoimmune conditions, pain disorders, different types of cancer, and so forth.
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Rachel Sadler: So, because we have multiple social identities, we all have a different lived experience.
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Rachel Sadler: Two folks may look like they have similar identities, may actually have vastly different lived experiences because of the identities that we can’t see.
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Rachel Sadler: So, we are not just the sum of our experiences as one identity, but rather the combination of all of our identities simultaneously.
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Rachel Sadler: We exist at the intersections of those identities.
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Rachel Sadler: So, if I’m using myself as an example, I am a biracial black American woman, but sometimes people I’m assume I’m other races.
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Rachel Sadler: I am currently middle class, but I have moved through classes a few times in my life.
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Rachel Sadler: I am cisgender and straight, but I tend to have stereotypically masculine hobbies and personality traits.
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Rachel Sadler: I am not visibly disabled. Yet, I have underlying invisible disabilities that other folks can’t see that impact the way I navigate the world.
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Rachel Sadler: So, I’m not just one of these identities. I’m all of them, all at once.
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Rachel Sadler: And my lived experience is therefore influenced by all of them, all of the time.
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Rachel Sadler: Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality in the late 1980s as a way to explain the interconnected nature of social identities and how they contribute to each person’s individual experiences with discrimination and oppression.
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Rachel Sadler: A White woman, for example, will not experience racism, but she may experience sexism or ableism depending on her disability status.
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Rachel Sadler: A Black woman, conversely, experiences both racism and sexism, which can be layered by other forms of discrimination based on other identities that she may hold.
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Rachel Sadler: Her experience of racism will be different from someone who may be, say, Muslim or Asian.
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Rachel Sadler: So, her experience of sexism, or specifically what we call misogynoir, will also be different from the experience of sexism of a White woman or a Latinx woman because of the intersections of their race and gender.
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Rachel Sadler: So, social identity and intersectionality are two concepts that are best understood together.
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Rachel Sadler: Intersectionality helps us realize that our experiences and challenges aren’t just based on one identity.
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Rachel Sadler: They’re the result of a complex web of the multiple identities that we carry.
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Rachel Sadler: This understanding is super important because this helps us see the unique struggles and privileges people have based on the multiple identities that we hold.
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Rachel Sadler: So, there are many different identities people hold, and we often narrow them down to what we call the Big Eight.
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Rachel Sadler: So we’re looking at ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
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Rachel Sadler: So, let’s define them very quickly. Ability refers to the diversity in our physical, mental, cognitive, developmental, and or emotional abilities.
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Rachel Sadler: This again, can include visible disabilities, as well as invisible disabilities.
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Rachel Sadler: Age your age is one of your identities that will change throughout the course of your life, whether we like it or not.
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Rachel Sadler: And in each stage of your life, you’ll undoubtedly experience a range of discrimination and or privileges based on your age.
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Rachel Sadler: Ethnicity refers to a person’s cultural background, which includes language, ancestry, or cultural beliefs.
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Rachel Sadler: Note that ethnicity is different from race. Someone’s ethnicity can be Zambian, but their race is Black.
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Rachel Sadler: So race refers to the category society places folks in based on physical characteristics, mainly skin color.
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Rachel Sadler: Religion looks at a system of faith or worship or belief in a higher power.
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Rachel Sadler: Then, your social economic status is typically based on your income or wealth status.
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Rachel Sadler: It’s often used interchangeably with social class, but social class also includes other factors like education, income, occupation, and so forth.
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Rachel Sadler: Sexual orientation is your emotional, sexual, and or romantic attractions.
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Rachel Sadler: So, whether you identify as gay, straight, bi, pansexual, or any other orientation.
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Rachel Sadler: And then, gender refers to a person’s identification as a man, woman, transgender, or nonbinary.
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Rachel Sadler: This can differ from the sex you were assigned at birth, whether that’s male or female.
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Rachel Sadler: Gender includes cisgender folks, folks whose gender identity matches the sex assigned at birth, transgender – folks who identify differently than their assigned birth sex, genderqueer or nonbinary – someone who may see themselves as either both or neither male or female, or may not identify with the gender binary at all.
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Rachel Sadler: And there are many more.
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Rachel Sadler: So, if you want to learn more about intersectionality and how we consider intersecting identities in the workplace, join me on Thursday, November 16, from noon to one, where I’ll expand on these concepts in depth.