Intersectionality Week celebrates identity

The week of April 23–27 is Intersectionality Week at St. Olaf. This series of events is sponsored by the Inclusivity Advocates and focuses on different classifications of people. Intersectionality is the interconnected systems of oppression that affect people’s experience and rights. Categories included in intersectionality are gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, religion and nationality. 

Each day of the week will focus on a different issue surrounding intersectionality. Monday, April 23 focuses on the Origins of Intersectionality, consisting of a TED talk and a Privilege Walk activity in the Pause from 4 to 6 p.m. On Tuesday, the Women in Business club will table in Buntrock, with donations going towards microloans for female entrepreneurs. Wednesday will be about U.S. Immigration, where students take the U.S. naturalization test to learn more about the immigration process. Thursday is Mental Health Day with a Walk to the Core activity and a Wellness Center talk from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Pause. The week will wrap up on Friday on the National Day of Silence, where students can remain silent in honor of LGBTQ+ bullying victims and wear pins in solidarity.  

While this week was originally only going to consist of the National Day of Silence, Damian Waite, the advisor for the Inclusivity Advocates, explained the expansion. 

“At first we thought we would do one event for the campus, but as we brainstormed, the more different people threw out different ideas, so we decided to do a week,” Waite said.

Because Day of Silence is a national event, the Inclusivity Advocates wanted to create an event that focused on this day. But after some discussion, the Inclusivity Advocates were able to make a full week about different intersections that people face. Fortunately, this week of intersectionality was able to align with the National Day of Silence.

“These topics are pertinent to the public discourse right now in America,” Waite said. “We tried to piggyback off of some of the topics that have taken place not just on the campus but also events in the halls.” 

The events of this week are chosen due to their relevance to the St. Olaf community; however, there are many more topics that could have been discussed, but due to time restraints, cannot be covered in just one week.

“We hope that we are adding a small part to the conversation about awareness about the makeup of the campus. We have students and faculty and staff who are a part of, who make up, who come from, who represent all of these different intersections, which as human beings we all are,” Waite said.

Intersectionality Week is hosted by the Inclusivity Advocates, a new position to each dorm’s hall council. Glenn Mayer ’21 defines his role as an Inclusivity Advocate as a role that “ensures that everybody is included, or at least considered, when planning events or doing really anything.”

Although it would be impossible to adequately cover every issue of intersectionality, this week hopes to inform students about some of the major issues.

“[This week is] to spread awareness about certain groups and how they can be often overlooked, I wouldn’t say flat out ignored, but I mean not a lot of people every day of their life wake up and think about women in business,” Glenn Mayer ’21, Inclusivity Advocate for Ellingson Hall, said.

“We hope to have awareness, some education, and some reflection,” Waite said. “I think that is a very big part of it; to reflect on the different privileges or lack thereof that we all are engaged in. Reflection, education and awareness.”

Waite also hopes that this Week of Intersectionality will create a more inclusive campus. 

“We are a community of learners so this is our way of impressing upon the campus, all members of the campus, to continue to examine our own conditions. The Week of Intersectionality aims to take some time, to be aware of the event, and to challenge yourself in terms of the privileges that you have and to see how we can make the world a better place,” Waite said.