Feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality
Feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality: presentation of poster tools
Intersectionality is a hot topic of discussion in many feminist groups. It also plays a central role in the work of Corbeil and Marchand for several years now, most recently in collaboration with the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes and the Service aux collectivités de l’UQAM. To update the foundations of feminist intervention, as presented in the collective work edited by Corbeil and Marchand (2010), our team embarked on a knowledge transfer and mobilization project with practitioners of feminist intervention to produce tools in poster form that could serve as a new model of feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality.
Each poster has a distinct focus: The first poster revisits the foundations of feminist intervention, through an intersectional lens; the second poster presents guidelines for the practice of feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality. The last poster puts into perspective issues related to organizational structures and practices of feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality. We hope these tools will provide a framework for reflecting on feminist practices at a time when intersectionality appears to be both a response to issues the women’s movement is confronting and an ongoing challenge, in terms of how we apply it to the realities and situations experienced by women calling for assistance and the organizations working with them.
Feminist intervention in Québec
In Quebec, in the mid-1970s, feminist intervention was widely practised to support women and defend their rights as a therapeutic and political alternative to traditional therapies in the field of mental health and the fight against sexist violence. It is based on a socio-political analysis of women’s problems, rather than focused on an individual’s intrapsychic dimensions. The “personal is political” has been the pillar of feminist intervention practices and political action from its origins to the present day. The foundations of feminist intervention in Quebec, as described in the pioneering work of Corbeil, Lazure, Legault and Pâquet-Deehy (1983) are: recognizing women’s potential, taking into account women’s life history, women regaining power over their lives, principle of egalitarianism in intervention relationships, and the overall aim of social change. Hundreds of women’s groups established themselves throughout Quebec, adopting feminist intervention and developing diverse practices and analyses. Groups inspired by the principles of feminist intervention adapted it in accordance with their needs and realities.
Some 30 years later, following extensive empirical research conducted with 60 women in various women’s groups, Corbeil and Marchand co-edited the book L’intervention féministe, d’hier à aujourd’hui: portrait d’une pratique sociale diversifiée (2010). This work was an effort to measure the evolution of feminist intervention. The book presents the writings of a collective of authors representing feminist organizations. It updates the foundations of feminist intervention while highlighting a set of plural practices and challenges underlying feminist intervention in its various spheres of application. These writings laid the groundwork for a feminist intervention framework that integrates intersectionality, a theory whose popularity has since grown rapidly in Quebec’s Anglophone and Francophone academic and activist circles (Bilge, 2009).
The term « intersectionality » was coined by the jurist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991 to analyze the response of American legislation to the violence racialized women experience as a result of the intersection of racist and sexist forces in their lives. The underlying theoretical underpinnings, however, were present in several works by African-American, Hispanic-American and lesbian (white and non-white) feminists dating back to the 1970s. While intersectionality is defined in various terms depending on the context—academia, the women’s movement—at the heart of these theories is the intersection of the different power relations formed by capitalism, colonialism, racism, patriarchy, ageism, and ableism. Over the past few decades, researchers and practitioners have adopted an intersectional approach to better inform their work and practice. It is from this perspective that the research team wished to reflect on the application of intersectionality to contemporary feminist intervention, as embodied in women’s groups in Québec. The three posters are therefore part of a collective effort to consider feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality. With the aim of co-constructing knowledge for action, these posters are intended, not as an end in themselves, but rather as analytical tools to open dialogue on the scope and uses of intersectionality in our daily practices.
Download the posters
24 × 36 color posters
11 × 17 color posters
11 × 17 black and white posters
Organizational structures and practices
underpinning feminist intervention in the era of intersectionality
Homogeneous nature of decision-making bodies and staff teams (obstacles to representativeness of all women, adaptation and inclusiveness of practices)
Unequal power distribution (e.g. knowledge, opportunity to exert influence, decision making)
Organizing activities and support within « office hours » only
Conditional admission policies and occasionally restrictive by-laws
Resources insufficient to meet all needs (e.g. interpreter)
Systemic obstacles to hiring and job retention
Work overload results in lack of time to reflect on practices and receive training
Evaluate the representativeness of women in decision-making bodies
Review recruiting strategies for staff and Board (e.g. means used, networks approached)
Value different types of experience in hiring staff and selecting Board members
Examine how information is shared within the group
Update the organization’s missions, policies and principles to make them more inclusive
Question the merits and purpose of the organization’s by-laws (e.g. who do they benefit?)
Strengthen inclusion practices (e.g. universal accessibility, child care)
Consider the most equitable and appropriate way to allocate resources (e.g. develop inclusive practices, support committees of marginalized women)
Promote collective actions involving all women connected with the organization
Support activities carried out by and for women
Develop, support and give visibility to solidarity and struggles with other social groups working for justice and social transformation.
Taking it further
Some online resources
– Marchand, I., Corbeil, C. and Boulebsol, C. (forthcoming), L’intervention féministe sous l’influence de l’intersectionnalité : enjeux organisationnels et communicationnels au sein des organismes féministes au Québec, Revue Communiquer.
Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes (2018). Intervention féministe intersectionnelle. Réflexions et analyses pour des pratiques égalitaires et inclusives. Guide d’introduction à l’intention des partenaires.
Corbeil, C. Harper, E., Marchand, I. Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes et Le Gresley, S-M (2018). L’intersectionnalité, tout le monde en parle ! Résonnance et application au sein des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes. Montréal: Services aux collectivités de l’Université du Québec à Montréal/ Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes.
Crenshaw, K. (2005). Cartographies des marges: intersectionnalité, politique de l’identité et violences contre les femmes de couleur. Cahiers du Genre, 39(2)
Pagé, G. (2014). Sur l’indivisibilité de la justice sociale ou Pourquoi le mouvement féministe québécois ne peut faire l’économie d’une analyse intersectionnelle. Nouvelles pratiques sociales, 26 (2), 200–217.
Buettgen, A., Hardie, S. and Wicklund., E., Jean-François, K.M., Alimi, S. (2018). Comprendre les formes intersectionnelles de discrimination des personnes handicapées. Ottawa, Programme de partenariats pour le développement social du gouvernement du Canada – Volet Personnes handicapées. Canadian Centre on Disability Studies.
RQCALACS (undated), L’intervention féministe intersectionnelle (IFI). Principes, objectifs et stratégies.
Girardat, J., Jung, É. & Magar-Braeuner, J. (2014). Le concept d’intersectionnalité à l’épreuve de la pratique : l’exemple de la formation « regards croisés sur l’égalité et les discriminations ». Nouvelles pratiques sociales, 26 (2), 235–250.
Pierre, A. (2016, automne). Mots choisis pour réfléchir au racisme et à l’antiracisme. Revue Droits et libertés, 35(2).
Pagé, G and Pires, R. (2015). L’intersectionnalité en débat. Pour un renouvellement des pratiques féministes au Québec. Montréal : Service aux collectivités de l’Université du Québec à Montréal et Fédération des femmes du Québec.
Bilge, S. (2015). Le blanchiment de l’intersectionnalité. Recherches féministes, 28 (2), 9–32.
Hill Collins, M. and Bilge, S. (2016). Intersectionality. Malden: Polity Press
Corbeil, C. and I. Marchand (eds) 2010. L’intervention féministe d’hier à aujourd’hui : portrait d’une pratique sociale diversifiée, Montréal: Éditions du Remue-ménage
hooks, bell (1981). Ain’t I a woman: black women and feminism. Boston: South End Press.
hooks, bell (1984). Feminist theory from margin to center. Boston: South End Press.
Online audio recordings
Intersectionality matters! website and podcast.
Created by Isabelle Marchand (UQO), Christine Corbeil (UQAM), Carole Boulebsol (UdeM) and the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes, 2020. Project conducted under the aegis of the Service aux collectivités de l’UQAM. Our thanks to the RéQEF for funding the project.
Reproduction permitted, without modification and with mention of the source.