Feminisms, Intersectionality and narrative practice: An introduction

This chapter introduces some of the histories of feminisms and intersectionality and describes the ways in which these movements have shaped narrative practice. We’ll learn many stories, private, collective and professional, of tension, dilemma, resistance and emergence which are as relevant today as they ever were.

Let’s dive in!

To get us started, Cheryl White describes experiences of living through the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s and 80s and its profound implications for the field of family therapy and the emergence of narrative practice.

Feminist challenge and women’s liberation by Cheryl White (she/her)

Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese reminds us why gender and culture cannot be separated. She speaks about the practice of researching liberative gender arrangements within cultural histories, the responsibilities of women from dominant cultures and the power of meaningful partnerships of accountability.

Working for gender justice across cultures: An interview with Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese (she/her) by Cheryl White (she/her)

In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe the ways that forms of race and gender discrimination were converging for Black women resulting in different consequences to those faced by Black men or white women. These ideas had been named over the previous decade by other Black and brown women including members of the Combahee River Collective. In this interview, Kimberlé describes the origins of the term ‘intersectionality’, her journey into feminism and racial justice, and how the lens of intersectionality can be applied to the ongoing police and state violence exposed by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sarah Hayat (she/her) interviews Kimberlé Crenshaw (she/her) about Intersectional Feminism [9:57]

Dulwich Centre is based on Kaurna Land, in what is now known as Australia. The following article by Pat Dudgeon and Abigail Bray from the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia describes how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women continue to be at the forefront of decolonization and the Australian civil rights movement. This history of Aboriginal women’s activism provides a powerful examples of the significance of intersectionality.

Women’s and Feminist Activism in Aboriginal Australia and Torres Strait Islands by Pat Dudgeon and Abigail Bray 

A diverse range of narrative practitioners contributed to the following paper about feminism, therapy and narrative ideas. Compiled by Shona Russell and Maggie Carey, this piece describes the feminist ethics woven into the foundations of narrative practices and how feminist challenges continue to influence the field.  

Feminism, therapy and narrative ideas: Exploring some not so commonly asked questions compiled by Shona Russell (she/her) & Maggie Carey (she/her)

Extra reading
For a further exploration of feminist histories in the fields of narrative practice, please see this interview of the influential Johnella Bird by Cheryl White: Creating contexts for discovery: A conversation with Johnella Bird


Contemporary intersectional narrative practice feminist engagements

Now let’s hear from three practitioners from diverse social locations about what intersectional feminist narrative practices mean to them.

‘Intersectionality is a point from which we must proceed if we are to offer an account of how power works’. Dương/Ocean Đặng describes her journey to find a practice that politicises suffering and refuses to erase or minimise contexts of colonialism, political and religious repression, and histories of war and violence.

Why intersectionality is the starting point for my feminism by Michelle Dang* (she/her) [5:49]

*Dương/Ocean Đặng was formerly known as Michelle

‘[F]or any of us to be free from oppression means all of us being free’. Social scientist Anita Franklin speaks about Black feminist histories and their challenges to white-dominated mainstream feminist movements as well as her experience of congruence with the narrative approach, particularly its attention to dominant discourses and the practice of deconstruction.

Black feminism and ‘intersectionality’ by Anita Franklin (she/her) [37:09]

Nihaya Abu-Rayyan describes the complex interaction of patriarchy and the oppression and violence of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She speaks about the importance of resisting ‘man-blaming’ and her approach to fostering conversations that make visible women’s oppression while honouring multi-storied relationships with husbands, sons and fathers.

Palestinian feminist narrative practice by Nihaya Abu-Rayyan (she/her) interviewed by Kassandra Pederson (she/her) [32:54]

Reflection questions

An essential part of intersectional feminist practice is being able to identify and address privilege and dominance as it shows up in practice and beyond. The following reflection questions have been adapted from An invitation to narrative practitioners to address privilege and dominance’.

Think of a form of privilege that you commonly have access to in your work. It’s especially useful to consider a form of privilege that those you work with do not have access to. For example, if you are white, perhaps you might focus on race privilege; if you are a man, male privilege; if you are heterosexual or cisgender, heterosexual or cisgender privilege. You may focus on class privilege, or if that is not something you grew up with, educational and professional privilege; if you are able bodied, you might concentrate on ability privilege. Then consider the following questions:

(We have provided some links for optional deeper exploration)


Optional further activities

To gain a greater appreciation of the relationships between racism and feminisms, we encourage you to engage with these key resources:

And know that there are many more incredible resources exploring the intersection of race and gender including throughout the rest of the course.

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