33 Gallows Lane is a confusing, sprawling space. To get there, you have to make your way down a winding side road of Williams Street and look to your right. The building has a boxy exterior and, once you enter, you see it is made up of many large, interconnecting rooms joined by narrow hallways. The inherently convoluted nature of this location made it perfect for hosting an event on intersectional feminism.
Scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectional feminism” in 1989. It is defined as “the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.” There are many people on our campus that need a place to acknowledge and advocate for their intersecting oppressions, and others that need to understand those experiences.
The first portion of the event involved brief lectures from professors about their experiences with intersectionality, but the second part of the event struck me as the best embodiment of intersectional feminism. It was a time for freeform expression through art, conversation and video recording to document our thoughts and feelings about the topic. I walked from the main room through a dim hallway and entered the art space, where I saw a large, tan cloth draped out in front of me. To the right of the cloth was a round table with numerous paint colors, brushes and paper plates for palettes. People were drawing, writing, discussing the topics with friends, brushing color onto the canvas.
Words and phrases jumped out at me: “What are the intersections of your identity?” “How are you silenced at Conn?” “Does art reflect identity or create it?” “Genderqueer.” “I am free.” “My lyrics are full of lies.”
Voices blended together around the room, creating a cacophony of ideas, thoughts and emotions as people congregated together. I briefly stepped out of the room and chose a vantage point from which I could view a range of rooms within the building. People were scattered, finding their own spaces and activities that had meaning to them, interacting with new people, finding a voice through conversation or an artistic medium.
The space created was individual, but communal. It was messy and uninhibited, but unified by passion. It was intrepid, but safe. It refused to let a voice go unheard or an identity go unacknowledged. There are voices on this campus that need multiple spaces to constantly communicate, not just a singular night at 33 Gallows.