Ilira Mucaj is a political science student at the University of Ottawa.
Focus Group Findings,
What was done?
A discussion group was organized with the objective of enforcing the necessity of intersectionality as a factor of coalitions for successful protests. Prior to addressing the findings derived from this discussion group, it is important to first address how it was organized. The discussion group was held for approximately two hours on February 24th, 2022, in a collective group through a virtual platform, specifically named zoom. To ensure privacy, the names of the participants will remain anonymous. However, a brief description will be provided to allow further insight. The discussion group was composed of five individuals, each female and ranging between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. The number of participants was kept to a smaller number with the goal of encouraging equal opportunity for participation. These participants were chosen because they each offer a different perspective based on their experiences and backgrounds which allows for interesting opinions. It is important to note that the majority of participants are children of immigrants of countries that underwent and continue to face social movements, revolutions and political disputes, more specifically, Iran, Lebanon and Rwanda. Although the participation in this discussion group was not limited to any factor besides a minimum age of fifteen, diversity was highly encouraged to avoid the risk of dull discussions and universal perspectives. Before moving on to the actual discussion component, each participant was privately asked the following question: Do you think intersectionality is an important factor in coalitions to ensure successful protests? One participant answered yes, another answered no and the other three stated they weren’t sure. Instead of encouraging a yes or no response, it was decided that it would be best to wait until the end of the discussion group to ask the same question again in order to evaluate whether or not the participant’s opinions changed. After receiving each of their responses, all the participants collectively gathered in the zoom meeting, where a brief explanation of the topic was made and followed by a discussion.
How it went?
At the beginning of the discussion, intersectionality as a factor of coalitions was presented as a force of power that can lead to change and political action. Additionally, this topic of discussion aimed to raise the issue of the assumption that all who identify within a specific category share the same struggles or interests. This assumption was discussed in order to explain how intersectionality was created to solve such issues. Furthermore, it was highlighted that it is important to have intersectionality within coalitions so that all come together for the same goal, however, acknowledge and represent a diverse spectrum of backgrounds, identities, struggles and interests in which shall be advocated for. The article, Rose-Redwood and Rose-Redwood, “Women’s March in Victoria”, was referenced in order to highlight the consequences of racial divides which can cause deviation from common goals. It is thus important to have intersectionality in coalitions, as in the women’s day march in Victoria, where women of color felt lost or lonely surrounded by majority white women, who as stated in the article, “claim to stand in solidarity for all women yet rarely support women of color when it really matters..”1 After this statement was read to the participants along with other statements in the article, it was explained that differences must be acknowledged because solutions that may result from protests such as new legislation need to ensure a positive change for all, instead of being limited to factors such as race, sexual orientation, religion and more. If such differences are acknowledged, it is only then that a protest can lead its way to truly being successful by representing and aiding a much broader demographic. Another article was also presented to the group entitled “Intersectionality and social justice: assessing activists’ use of intersectionality through grassroots migrants’ organizations in Canada” by Ethel Tungohan. From this article, a specific quote was read out which stated, “If social movements want to be representative, they must use intersectionality to advocate for their most marginalized members and to critique and dismantle “social structures [that] interact to create particular injustice and problems” (Weldon 2006, 246). Otherwise, they cannot justifiably “lay claim to the egalitarian goals … with which they are affiliated” (Strolovitch 2007, 208). Intersectionality thus becomes a goal for organizations to work toward and provides guidelines for action.”2 This statement served as a vital tool in proving intersectionalities importance to the participants as it exemplified how minorities in society are often seen as exceptions of social movements due to a systematically racist system that only advocates or takes into consideration the struggles of one majoritarily white individuals who have always been privileged enough to be heard. For many minorities, the minimal action of being heard is still an issue acting as an obstacle to real change due to lack of support from majority groups. As this was explained, it was clear that the participants began to truly understand the importance of intersectionality in coalitions for successful protests.
1 Rose-Redwood, CindyAnn & Reuben Rose-Redwood. “‘It definitely felt very white’: race, gender, and the performative politics of assembly at the Women’s March in Victoria, British Columbia.”, 2017, pp. 652.
What were the takeaways?
The group discussion allowed each of the participants to listen to each other’s
perspectives, which allowed them to respond in more detail, as hearing each other’s responses
sparked a greater opportunity for ideas to be expressed. After discussing the benefits of
intersectionality and how there can be serious racial divides without it, participants were curious
as to why this approach is not taken with all social movements, since through the knowledge
they acquired, they felt it was a powerful tool to almost guarantee action. At the end of the
session, each of the participants were asked again privately the same question: Do you think
intersectionality is an important factor in coalitions to ensure successful protests? Their answers
proved that this discussion group was extremely successful as they each answered yes this time.
2 Tungohan, Ethel. “Intersectionality and social justice: Assessing activists’ use of intersectionality through grassroots migrants’ organizations in Canada.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4.3, 2016.