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privilege, marginalisation & resistance

our sexuality, gender, race or ethnicity, level of ability and more may contribute to a sense of ‘identity’ but it’s not until we encounter systems that value some attributes over others that privilege and marginalisation occur.

In our society, there are a variety of attributes a person can have. Most of these attributes exist as a spectrum, although they are frequently treated as though they are a binary. In general, society is set up for people with attributes at one end of the spectrum — that is, the default is for people with those attributes. As a result, even though they might not be aware of it, they are treated as valued and experience ‘privilege’ while people with attributes at the other end experience disadvantage or oppression. Obviously, someone can be simultaneously at the privileged end of the spectrum for one attribute and at the oppressed end of the spectrum for another, and this intersection informs the lived experience of all of us.

A diagram with the words 'privilege' at the top and 'oppression/resistance' at the bottom. There is a line across the centre horizontally to divide the two. In the top half are words like 'white', 'heterosexual', 'able-bodied'. On the bottom half are words like "person of colour', 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer' and ''disabled'.

 

intertwine uses this ‘wheel’, adapted significantly from Kathryn Pauly Morgan, “Describing the Emperor’s New Clothes: Three Myths of Educational (in)Equality”, The Gender Question in Education: Theory, Pedagogy and Politics, Ann Miller et al, Boulder, CO, Westview 1996, to describe the ways in which individuals may experience intersecting privilege and marginalisation.

Although this would seem to concern individuals, the oppressions and privileges that individuals experience is structural and systemic — that is, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and so on are built into laws, education systems, pay scales, access to events and more. That means that any change to address oppression requires structural and systemic resistance, not individual change.

The table below is provided for accessibility, and replicates the labels on the axes in the image above. However, the table makes it appear that these are binary opposites rather than showing the nuance of the spectrum positions in the image above.

 

Privileged Oppression/resistance
Male Female
Cisgender Transgender
Gender conforming Gender diverse
Sexual Asexual
Heterosexual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer
Fertile, a parent Infertile, childless
Thin, tall, attractive Fat, short, unattractive
Able-bodies, neurotypical Disabled, neurodiverse
Healthy, coping Chronically ill, mentally distressed
Upper & middle class, wealthy Working class, poor
Young adult “Too” old, “too” young
Urban Rural, remote
Qualified, literate Unqualified, illiterate
English-speaking English as a second language
Majority religion Minority religion
Anglo/European, settler Indigenous, refugee
Light-skinned, pale Dark-skinned
White Person of colour

Download this free resource for your training

This A4 PDF consists of the privilege wheel above and prompts to add the labels on the axes that create marginalisation and oppression.

Our most requested resource, the privilege wheel handout is designed for use in small group discussion as part of intersectionality training. Although it is free, we ask that you add a donation to your order if you or your organisation can afford it. intertwine pays 1% of all income to First Nations communities via the Pay the Rent Grassroots Collective.

Considering in-house training?

We offer a free one-hour consultation for those looking to add intersectionality into their organisational practices. After we have determined your key areas of interest, we will discuss which of our services might be right for you, from intersectionality 101 training for your staff to organisation-wide assessment of your business goals, your policies, buildings and amenities and more.

 

What we do

  • Tailored intersectionality training to help your organisation understand the basic elements
  • CultureShift five-week program to embed practice and intersectional approaches
  • Audit your organisation using an overarching intersectional lens
  • Review policies and collateral
  • Consult on event accessibility
  • Evaluate existing intersectionality strategies and outcomes

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