1 Equity Based Perspectives on Intersectionality
Speakers: CJ Rowe, Simon Fraser University and Shilo St. Cyr, University of BC – Okanagan
Jennifer Jordan: And so now we’re going to move on to our afternoon programming, and here we are. So I would like to introduce CJ and Shiloh, and they are going to talk about equity based perspectives and intersectionality. CJ is from Simon Fraser University, and Shiloh from the University of BC Okanagon, correct? So welcome.
Shiloh: So yesterday, The Inquirer named the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada a genocide. And I was hoping we could all just take a few moments of silence to remember those women and children who have been impacted and are continually being impacted today by colonization and patriarchy. Can we just all just take a moment.
Shiloh: These moments aren’t enough. We take moments of silence, but we need to do more. We need to understand our history and our present moment and the ongoing neglect, ignorance of this violence, that we, as many of us are, settlers on this land. And the labor continues to be among indigenous women, and we need to shoulder up and take on this and be more active in our community. So today, we’re going to talk about intersectionality. And it has become a buzz word, where it’s integrated and thrown out into workshops, and it’s been used alone to [inaudible 00:01:50] on its own. And so I also want you to take another moment to think about how much do you know about it? Do you know the history of intersectionality, and where does it come from, and how you use intersectionality in your own work? So just take a few moments before we dig into this. … Okay. I’m going to pass it off to CJ, who’s going to talk about intersectionality to dive into it more.
CJ: Thanks, Shiloh. As I start, I’d like to thank the working group for suggesting that we shepherd this conversation this afternoon. I’d like to acknowledge that both Shiloh and I are white people, are settlers on this land, and we’re in director roles within post secondary institutions. We’re attempting to center the theory and practices that grew out of critical race theory, and we’re inviting you to be as critical of us and what we’re sharing with you this afternoon as we are attempting to be as we shepherd this conversation and engage in our work day in and day out. What we’re sharing with you over the next 30 minutes is a sliver of the conversations and practices that we need to center and act on in our work, on our campuses, and within our communities.
CJ: So with that in mind, we’d like to dive into intersectionality, and a bit of a history of the construct and theory. Kimberle Crenshaw, who is pictured behind me, is a professor of law at Columbia Law School in the University of California in LA, and has written in the areas of civil rights, black feminist legal theory, race, racism, and the law. In 1989, Dr. Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality, which has become a branch of feminism and an analytic framework that applies critical theory to attempt to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. In her work, Dr. Crenshaw states, “Intersectionality is not primarily about identity. It’s about how structures make certain identities the consequence of and the vehicle for vulnerability.” There are many forms of social stratification, including race, class, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender identity, and gender, to name a few, which are included in intersectional feminism and their social and cultural effects.
CJ: Intersectionality is about the analysis of structures. And Dr. Crenshaw is interested in the deep structural and systemic questions about discrimination and inequality. So intersectionality emerged from the ideas based and debated within critical race theory. Dr. Crenshaw wrote, “The discrimination remains because of the stubborn endurance of the structures of white dominance.” Growing from dr Crenshaw’s work, some have expanded the meaning of intersectionality and intersectional to mean to take into consideration intersection … Sorry, intersecting identities and experiences based on an individual’s social location. Social location based on intersecting identities and experiences impacts someone’s access to support, if they are believed and how they are treated in their communities. Social location will impact their experiences within institution, such as the medical, legal, and educational systems. And I think you’re doing the bridge.
Shiloh: Yeah. I am. So we also wanted to talk about trauma informed practice and rooting it in intersectionality, because we have to look at how trauma impacts individuals, and also how it collectively impacts community who have experiences of oppression. We need to ground this work in what we do. We need to look at the totality of the individual in society. So what is trauma informed practice? We’re shifting away from the clinical model that focused on what’s wrong with you, and moving questions around what happened to you, and what’s right with you. And so it acknowledges the interconnection of the psychological, biological, and neurological effects of traumatic experiences. It sees the impact of trauma as responses and adaptation instead of symptoms. And with that question, what is right with you? It really focuses in on being strengths-based. It looks at giving people control, collaborating and empowering, and making sure survivors have the right to choose what’s right for them, and also understanding that trauma looks different for different folks.
Shiloh: An indigenous person who has experienced intergenerational trauma, who experiences a recent sexual assault, their experience is going to be a lot different than someone else who doesn’t have that intergenerational trauma in their history. And there’s recognizing that there’s no right way to heal. And so when we think of intersectionality, I looked at kind of thinking about how do we heal collectively as a community, and thinking about healing centered engagement. Because if we only look at individuals, we’re only going to help individuals. And healing centered engagement considers the toxic systems in our society that caused trauma.
Shiloh: And so when we think about systems and people as individuals in those systems, so collective harm might call on different approaches. How do we embed power in our approaches to healing and support? Research shows that the more power you have in your community, the more you will heal, and the more you report that your wellbeing is positive. So healing can be found in culture and identity, and it can be a shared experience. And it’s connected to religious, spiritual, and community practice. And healing can also look through social action, protests, and social justice. So kind of rethinking about how we see individual in trauma informed practice to really connecting our approaches to intersectionality and looking towards healing centered engagement.
CJ: So when we were chatting with BC campus and the ministry about this particular session, there seemed to be a lot of interest to look at intersectionality and equity based practices. When we were thinking about working with students around education, around supporting survivors, around reporting investigation adjudication. And when I had the pleasure of connecting with Shiloh on this session, we actually decided we wanted to start by talking about workplace staff and leadership as we move into then speaking about some of the other topics. Research suggests that organizations should routinely survey the demographics and other characteristics of the populations served and recruit a workforce of similar composition. This includes people in leadership and in positions across the institution. It’s more than about hiring practices. It’s about how we support people to stay in the work.
CJ: I think one of the pieces that’s often the top on my mind is the impact of vicarious trauma and those of us who are doing frontline service provision. And addressing vicarious trauma is key in helping to support workplace wellbeing. When service providers work directly with people who have been subjected to sexual violence, they are often exposed to trauma daily. Vicarious trauma is a term used to describe what has become known as the cost of care for others. It is a belief that those working with trauma survivors experience vicarious trauma because of the work that they do.
CJ: I’d also say that after doing this work for a number of years, vicarious trauma also includes the impact of the systems that we work in on us. When we work with colleagues who don’t respect the work that we do or within systems that are rigid and offer no flexibility, this also causes trauma. So the support you get as a worker and the barriers you face in the institution can further create a negative impact on health and wellbeing. Without being addressed, this vicarious trauma can lead to employee burnout and high turnover, which I would say I have witnessed happening across the country in roles similar to those of us who are doing this work.
CJ: Now, for those of you who are working with and supporting workers in this area, we also wanted to provide you with some tips for your back pocket. So here are a few key points to consider in building stronger teams in anti-violence work on campuses. The first is to provide clinical supervision for staff teams that is not connected to performance or management. The second, offer permanent positions as opposed to contract positions. Develop and support a network of frontline workers to break isolation. And here’s a call out for our provincial colleagues. Help us to ensure that we are able to have conversations like this on an ongoing basis. One time is really wonderful. I would get to put faces to names. It’s powerful to allow us and build opportunities for us to continue these conversations, and to co-create. Develop and support … Oh, I’m going back into that.
CJ: Support ongoing professional training. Another is to develop workloads that are balanced with individual and community work. Provide opportunities for leadership and collaboration with colleagues and influence decision making. Ensure time off to promote a workplace that supports self care. And this is time off where you actually leave the work phone in a drawer, your work email turned off. encourage and celebrate ideas, achievements, and milestones. And the last and not final point, is to be open to challenges to your status quo. Be open to new ways of doing the work in your offices and on your campus. It should be ever evolving.
CJ: Another piece I’d like to highlight, and it’s in reflection to the students who gathered in that circle this morning and shared their perspectives with us, is the importance of mentorship in this work. This is a call to action to those of us in this room who are in positions of power and influence, recognizing the nuance and complexities of that. It’s on us to provide opportunities and mentorship for youths so that they can move into our roles. This includes ourselves engaging in ongoing reflection and work to critically engage with our own experiences of power privilege, and unlearn as we continue to learn together.
Shiloh: So I’m going to talk a little bit about, so now that we’re staff members and we have all those supports in place and are working in our institutions. So how do we support people? And I challenge us to move away from ticking boxes, but how do we fall into that? It’s the questions we ask. It’s the resources we give people that limit their healing. And we get into routine ruts. I had a staff member that pulled me aside and was like, “Wow, I’m noticing we’re doing the same thing with each person.” But that’s not what support should look like. And so I challenge you all. We need to move away from the counseling model with scheduled appointments. We need to work outside of those boxes. We need to meet people where they feel most comfortable. I was invited to an Aboriginal Programs and Services Center, and to have a session.
Shiloh: And after our session, I asked the student, “So how can I support you and help you?” And she responded by, “Why don’t you just kind of drop in once a week and check in on me?” And then we would have spontaneous support sessions in the place that she felt most safe and comfortable on campus. And I was like, whoa. It is important to listen and be there and do what she needed, because that’s what support can look like. We also have to look at specialized support. So in instances where women, men, or gender diverse, gender queer folks discuss their experiences of sexual violence with counselors or peers, thinking about they might want to share their experience with someone who’s a peer, someone who has shared background, from the same racialized background, same faith. So an example would be a Muslim woman who may prefer a counselor who shares their faith and understands how Islamophobia is part of the context of her experience of her sexual violence, and how healing might look like for her.
Shiloh: And so through this, we also have to think about accessibility. And so when we think of our offices, our protocols, our outreach, our support spaces, is it accessible for all campus community members? Is it accessible for people with vision disabilities, deafness or being hard appearing, intellectual or developmental learning and mental health disabilities? Accessibility can include, but is not limited to providing support workers and ensuring ASL, braille, and audio or visual representation is there. And so we built this framework to understand how we can do support using the six C’s. And so confidentiality is huge, and it was spoke about also within the student’s circle. Maintaining and protecting personal information, only sharing what you’ve been given permission to share, and for what reason. Explaining the limits of confidentiality, control. This is so that survivors have full control of when and where the conversation is being held, what is being shared.
Shiloh: They have control of what is being shared, who’s in the room with them, pacing and timing, that this is all in their control and they can determine what they share. Also having choice. Survivors having choice over what’s being discussed, over what information you’re sharing with them. And it could be related to resources, safety planning, or reporting, and also consent. Ensuring that survivors are consenting to every step of the process, that you’re not giving ideas and through excitement that they’re kind of following along, that you’re checking in every step of the way.
Shiloh: And then being caring. So using an empathetic approach, listening, believing, and empowering. And then kind of pulling it back to healing centered engagement around community. People heal through communities, activism. When people feel that they have power and control, people are going to feel like they can … It’s going to impact all the other C’s. And so people heal as a collective. And so when you’re thinking of the support work you do, think about maybe areas where you might want to improve and constantly reflect, and being self aware of the work that we’re doing when we go back to our campuses.
CJ: I think another C I’m going to add in on the fly, and also it’s a bit of a hats off to colleagues I see over here on the side of the room, is it’s about collaboration. I mean, those of us who are doing work on campuses are doing so on the backs of so many others. We are moving into generations and decades of work that have been done by campus community members, activists, and most importantly by our community based organizations. I mean, I see Ending Violence Association folks sitting over there, and I say thank you for your work.
CJ: It is because of the work that they’re doing that we’re able to do what we’re doing. And I think collaboration is key, especially when we look at, what does care look for diverse communities of campus community members? And maybe it’s creating MoUs with community based organizations, ensuring that we’re able to support students, faculty, and staff in accessing the support services where they’re most comfortable accessing them. And it may not be on our campuses. It could be in their home communities, or it could be in adjacent communities. So collaboration, I think, is key. Seven C’s.
CJ: So conscious of time, we’re going to move into prevention education. Because prevention education is a key component when looking to support the prevention of sexual violence and misconduct on post secondary campuses. Our approach to education is informed by the following principles. And I may lose count, so please bear with me. First, to provide culturally grounded gendered analysis when developing and implementing educational opportunities. This approach is one that is mindful of the myriad of experiences that may impact campus community members.
CJ: The second is developing education and training opportunities that are positive, fun, engaging, build curiosity and commitment to change, and are sex positive. The third, trauma informed prevention promotes empowerment and guides an approach that assumes that all campus community members have experienced sexual violence regardless of whether they have or not. It provides us with the opportunity to normalize the conversation and move from silence to changing misconceptions, that sexual violence is normal or acceptable.
CJ: The fourth is survivor centered, creating a supportive learning environment. One that assumes there are survivors in the room. Such education seeks to raise awareness around a survivor centered approach and prioritizes the rights, needs, and wishes of survivors. The fifth is acknowledging that sexual violence is a mechanism of power, and is a product of colonialism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, as well as other systems of oppression. The sixth is to make safe and brave spaces for discussions, questions, and thoughtful engagement for people to reflect upon and speak to their experiences in their ways of healing.
CJ: The seventh, and I love research, if any of you want to geek out on education research later. Research on sexual violence prevention education demonstrates that the most effective approach to education for students is through to peer to peer approaches. It’s important to value and support peer to peer interactions and informal discussions on sexual violence. It’s equally important, if not more so, to fund these initiatives. As I’ve heard from student activists and student survivors across the country, they’re asking to be paid for their work. Heard that so loud and clear over the last six months.
CJ: The next is to ensure that prevention education materials are equally accessible to community members with disabilities. Online training modules and videos should be captioned, and learners provided with transcripts. In-person sessions can be made accessible by including a section in the promotional material that indicates where community members can request accommodations. And it’s doing that in a way that’s not making that ask a bureaucratic nightmare. There’s ways to do it that are simple, streamlined, and consistent.
CJ: Another key element to accessibility is to work alongside of campus community members with disabilities in co-creating education modules and initiatives, ensure that their voices are centered and at the table. And because we’re talking about intersectionality, the final one for now on this list is to consider intersecting identities and individual and group lived experiences. They must be centered in the development and delivery of education and training initiatives. This will allow for education training to speak to the experiences of those most impacted by sexual violence. Explore the impacts of interlocking oppressions, as well as educate and encourage others to step up and become active bystanders. This also allows us opportunities to celebrate the resiliency in our diverse communities.
CJ: Do we have time? I did want to share a promising practice. Because Shiloh said, “We should give people tangible things to walk out of the room with,” which I agree. I don’t know why you don’t want to just talk about theory. So a promising practice in education includes developing core messaging which can be built off of in meaningful and relevant ways for diverse communities. Can’t believe I’m using this as an example, but an example of this is both UBC and SFU’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. So for those of you who aren’t familiar with SAAM, SAAM is a month long interactive series of events that has been developed in a way that allows the entire campus community to engage in conversations around anti-violence in a myriad of ways. So there’s core messaging that is broadcasted through social media, on posters, in blog posts and stickers and buttons.
CJ: And I think pens, I don’t know, chocolates. The idea is that there’s a baseline understanding that’s distributed campus wide. And for those of us with multiple campuses, on multiple campuses. And then there’s partnerships built with diverse campus communities to develop programming that will speak to those audiences in ways that makes sense for them. And I think there’s strength in that. There’s strength in looking at a group who says, “You know what? We want to do a poetry night.” We want to have a panel discussion that centers on this piece of our lived realities, or these pieces of things that we really want to know more about. It’s about inviting people into conversations and co-creating spaces and educational learning practices that make sense for us in ways that we can build upon them for years to come.
CJ: I‘ll leave it at that. So I think we did really well at staying to our 30 minutes. One of the other pieces that I wanted to highlight is that Myrna, who will be joining us I think tomorrow morning to talk a bit about investigations and reporting and adjudication. So we decided not to touch on the considerations of equity based approaches and intersectionality, because I have a sense that Myrna will be be bringing a lens to that tomorrow. And if not, I’m happy to follow up with an email. So Shiloh. I’m not going to actually put that on Shiloh. So now we’re opening up for a Q and A, I understand, and I wonder if maybe I should go out with the mic and be-
Shiloh: We both could, maybe.
CJ: … a mic person. Would anyone like to ask some questions?
Anna Elaine:[inaudible 00:27:20].
CJ: Thank you.
Anna Elaine: No problem. Does anybody want to ask a question? I can bring the microphone to you.
Shiloh: Or reflection or comments.
Anna Elaine: Anything.
Speaker 6: Is there an online resource you can recommend, or some centralized thing that if you want to refer this to your school, you can just say, “Hey, look this up, or look at this?”
CJ: In terms of the presentation as a whole or any specific pieces?
Speaker 6: Maybe intersectionality, for example.
CJ: Ooh, intersectionality for an example. We also open up answering to our friends and colleagues in the room. I mean, what I could commit to doing is to find some resources and share with a BCcampus who’s organized, and then we could share with you maybe in two weeks some followup resources. It’s always okay to admit we don’t have the answers.
Speaker 7: Thanks so much for your presentation. I have a quick question for you just regarding best practices. I know today we’re going to have an opportunity to witness and see some of the good work that’s being done at other institutions across the province. But my question in relation to intersectionality and reaching the audience in prevention, is oftentimes I find that the impact isn’t necessarily felt for the people, or the message isn’t heard by the people who actually need to hear it. The people who attend the prevention and education sessions generally are people who are there that have the lived experience, not the ones who are perhaps the perpetrators of violence. And so my question is, how can we better get the message out to the people who do need to hear it?
Shiloh: Yeah. I think looking at who of us, too, are leading those sessions too, because if they see my face on a poster, it might not speak to their community or their, yeah. So I think it’s also bringing in peers and students to lead those discussions that they really identify with. And so trying to find student leaders on campus. And I think we’re going to talk a little, like healthy masculinities coordinator, Alex, I think is in the room somewhere. Maybe not. No. But yeah, involving people who do the work that represent different communities, I think is a really big thing.
CJ: How many of you remember the Sony Walkman? Generations. So I love theory, if you haven’t gathered from this talk, and there is a great book on the cultural practices of knowledge acquisition when it comes to the Sony Walkman. And I would think about it in terms of maybe the seat belt. That’s also going to be a generational thing. Gosh, I’m old. I love it. But when we think about wearing seat belts, for the longest time, people just didn’t wear seat belts. It was not a thing. I remember riding in the back of my dad’s truck down the highway. Who needed a seat belt? We were hanging out inside of the truck. And an education campaign that was multi-model that came from a myriad of different perspectives changed a culture. So we’re talking about doing something really big here. It’s not doing any one thing.
CJ: It’s about doing a whole myriad of things and making the conversation around anti-violence a part of our everyday conversations. How do we normalize it? And that is going to be everything from, yes, posters on the back of washroom stalls. But that’s not the only thing. It’s about educating student leaders. It’s about having the education within modules that all incoming students engage with. It’s about changing the minds of those of us on campus who are the culture keepers. It’s staff, it’s faculty. We’re the ones who are keeping culture consistent on our campus, and we need to change. It’s not the students who are coming for four to five years. So we need to actually shift the way we think about this and come at it with a much more strategic, comprehensive approach. And it takes a lot of resources to do that. And I would love to see how we can do that together.
Speaker 8: Thank you so much for the presentation, and thank you for highlighting the co-creation aspect. I think that’s something students really appreciate, is being able to actively engage in those conversations and be invited, and not just having to kind of press on our own. But something I’m really curious about is, how do you transition over from kind of a holistic, really thorough view of best practices, but also enforcing minimum standards? Whether that’s through policies, whether that’s through services and supports that are offered. Is that a helpful conversation to have? What does it look like to enforce those things? And how do we decide what those things are?
CJ: I love this conversation, because it’s a hard one. Going back to my researcher hat, there is research on mandatory training. It’s mostly U.S. based, and it’s pretty new. And the findings right now are mixed in terms of the strengths and benefits and downfalls of mandatory training. And in conversations with unions in the Canadian context, the review is mixed. Also, hats off to the union representatives in the room. Thank you for the work that you do. I think we’re still learning. There are no best practices within that area. There is promising practices and things we think we know. I think Quebec right now as a province is where a lot of us are looking to, because they are mandating training for all incoming students, I think this fall.
CJ: So we still have a lot to learn. I think the other place where we can look to is, I know SFU I think is the only campus in Canada who has an NCAA accredited athletics team. So our teams are mandated to do training, and there are minimum requirements for that. And I haven’t seen much research yet, but I do think we’re still learning. So I can’t give you a direct answer other than saying, I think we have more research to do, and we have some more considerations to consider. And I do think that in another five years, we’re going to be at a better place to make really informed decisions. And that’s really focusing on the education piece.
Shiloh: I think just to follow up a little bit around, I think, CJ, around education [inaudible 00:34:49], but also the support that universities are providing survivors. And the standards around that is also for us to be open to feedback and scrutinize from our community to do better, and really having opportunities for giving us feedback on how we’re doing and how are supporting survivors, I think will also improve the care we give as well.
Anna Elaine: Are there any further questions or comments? All right. Thank you so very, very much for the perspectives that you’ve brought today. It’s very appreciated.