Many people communicating for social change are exploring how to tell diverse and inclusive stories that center marginalized communities while building understanding about how inequality persists. Intersectionality is an important tool to help us tell great stories that help us understand systemic issues.
Intersectionality is a prism for illuminating how racism, sexism, and classism (and many other isms) interact and shape experiences with social institutions. When we don’t apply an intersectional lens to communications about systemic issues, we’re likely getting our communications wrong. Here are five guiding principles to telling intersectional stories:
Show, don’t tell: Telling intersectional stories requires that we make visible how isms affect characters’ experiences. It is important to show characters navigating systems of inequality as part of the storyline while also showing that they aren’t solely defined by their experiences with systems of oppression.
Provide historical context: We cannot understand movements or the issues they are working to change without knowing the context in which they emerged. Without historical context, people may insert their own assumptions as to what a fact or piece of data means.
Uplift the voices of marginalized people: When working with communities to share their stories, include them in the strategy process so that they have control over how and when their stories are used. When we don’t do this, we risk tokenizing or re-traumatizing them.
Tell whole stories: Changing a narrative requires that we support communities in telling lots of whole stories that can build a new way of understanding.
Radically reimagine the world: Telling intersectional stories should not only counter how a system defines a person, but also help people radically imagine a future where justice and equality are the status quo.