Thougths about Intersectionality - reports from a conference with CIVIS.

Photo by Juliana Zapata for CIVIS from

During 29th-30th of November Safaa Daoud and Carola Ståhl at the international Loesje office attended a conference arranged by the peace organisation CIVIS in Gothenburg to discuss the concept “Intersectionality” and how it can be used by organisations that work with subjects such as gender equality, anti-racism, diverse sexualities and other categories that could be a target of oppressive norms. The organisation for the Swedish united anti-discrimination bureau lists seven categories that they focus on. They are religion, sex, gender, functionality, ethnicity, age and sexuality.

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by scholars, from  the black working class feminist movement in the US. They were questioning the kind of feminism that was predominant then, which they thought only advocated for the rights of white middle class women. They believed that in general, we cannot only deal with one struggle against oppression within one norm. They rather saw that all predominant norms were intersected. All the norms enforce each other and are in need of each other to exist. Here is some easy reading about the term

A very interesting example that was given in one of the lectures by Paulina de los Reyes, one of the most distinguished scholars within intersectional research in Sweden, was the “Millionsvenska” or “Förortsvenska”. It is a name for the kind of Swedish that was created in the suburbs of the big cities of Sweden. The creators and speakers of this dialect are mainly young men and women, referred to as immigrants and un-educated youngsters coming from socioeconomically poor families. In other words, all bundled into the category, “ troublesome young immigrants from the suburb”. Millionsvenskan was picked up by a magazine called Gringo, which was dealing with issues of racism and sexism. A huge debate was started, about what kind of Swedish is correct Swedish. There were advocates for the ‘correct’ kind of Swedish, saying that promoting the ‘wrong’ kind of Swedish will only keep the people living in the suburbs to “selling bananas”. And that the language was sexist. The reply came from advocates of the Millionsvenska that the language was in fact inclusive of women, but that picture didn’t fit the prejudice of young men from the suburb. A female journalist also replied that apparently the ‘correct Swedish’ advocators weren’t aware that women like her who are speaking “Millionsvenska”, happen to be ‘successful’. Conclusively, through an intersectional analysis, one can see that the advocators of the ‘correct Swedish’ weren’t only confirming prejudice of men with migration background in the suburbs being more sexist than white middle class men, thus assuming that women in the suburbs automatically are more oppressed. In a class-based society, it is implied that selling bananas in a market is a “failure”.  This example shows how a problem usually is multi-layered, and how categories could intersect. Noteworthy to this example is that Kiezdeutsch, the German equivalent of Millionsvenska, is today classified as a dialect.

At the conference, we dealt with questions of how we could implement an intersectional thinking into our work. We at Loesje believe that this term could be useful in our network. Many organisations expressed that they were already working in an intersectional matter, without knowing that there was a term for it. And this is how it feels a little bit with Loesje. The posters are dealing with so many different themes. The texts are questioning different oppressive norms and wants everybody’s freedom, no matter which categories people are forced into. We would like to go further with this perspective, and consciously implement it, not only in the posters, but in other projects we are involved in.

Now Loesje International has been asked to participate in yet another project from the organisation CIVIS that initiated the conference, where we would be part of a long term web-based  training in intersectionality, this together with other organisations in Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively. To know more about CIVIS project about the subject, you can visit the website here get an English version.