During a 5-day women’s leadership intensive at the renowned Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, our Board President Ashley Sweet explored ways of doing power differently.
Most impactful was the full-day exploration of intersections between privilege and power, especially in feminist spaces. As most of workshop attendees (including Ashley) were caucasian women in leadership roles across the country, discussing intersectionality was essential to help participants better understand how their own status as White Americans influences their power positions, values, and decision making.
Facilitator Mallika Dutt led the group of 40 women through a “privilege walk activity” (see an example here) that allowed participants to conceptualize their own privilege in a visual way. The activity was incredibly powerful to the group as they gazed around and saw their fellow participants at varying points in the privilege spectrum. Ashley recognized the ways her own language, citizenship, race, ethnicity, education, abilities, and socioeconomic status elevate her power, while marginalizing others.
In the intersectional feminist movement, we must acknowledge that the same privileges that benefit some of us oppress others. In order to do power differently we must use our positions of privilege to elevate the voices of the systematically marginalized, oppressed, and ignored, instead of perpetuating inequality by ignoring their lives.