I ran across a poster the other day that left me totally befuddled. “We All Can Do It!” proclaimed the headline atop an illustration of three rather fierce looking young women, fists raised, each representing a different ethnic background. Not too sure what the meaning of “it” was in this sentence, I read on to learn “Feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.” Strong words certainly – but what on earth do they mean?
As a woman, I thought there must be a message for me here, but it totally escaped me as I had absolutely no idea that “intersectionality” was even a word. And I’ll bet you didn’t either.
As a professional communicator, I find it a fascinating example of how the choice of words can have virtually the opposite effect of the intention. If “inclusion” in this example was part of a call for all women to reach out to each other, the word “intersectionality” did nothing but make me feel excluded from some secret society using a lingo I could not fathom. I’m quite sure that wasn’t the idea.
Of course, it did manage to spark my curiousity. I did a quick Google search and sure enough, there are several pages of lengthy definitions. My Oxford dictionary, on the other hand, does not acknowledge it exists. For those of you who know what it means (hint – you’re probably a social worker), I challenge you to come up with a plain language translation that will help the poster say what it means.
I’ll let the rest of you Google “intersectionality” for yourself – there’s not room here to explain it – and I invite you to join me in the fight against obscure public communications. Send along your own examples. I’d love to hear from you.