A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the lessons that I have learned as a freelancer in her 40s. The blog was my attempt to encourage others to think about the viability of freelancing later in life. Little did I know that it would strike such a chord, and even a nerve, with so many people.
As I read the comments and considered their implications, I also thought about how age is a topic that we don’t often talk about. We seem to be more comfortable talking about race, gender, sexuality, and even socio-economic class.
The reality is that no one can wake up in the morning and say, now which of these identities will I put on or take off today? In the ubiquitous words of the woman from the TV commercial, “That’s not how it works; that’s not how any of this works.”
The intersections of our identities are what make each of us whole, unique individuals. Kimberle Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA, first coined the term intersectionality as a way to help us to understand the interconnected nature of categories such as race, class, age, and gender. These categories overlap and seep into our professional and personal lives.
Intersectionality grapples with the multiple avenues through which oppression can be experienced and how certain members of a group can experience erasure simply by also being part of another group.
Intersectionality is critically important for freelancers and creative entrepreneurs because as we engage in our crafts, we do so as individuals with varied and diverse life experiences who are also part of a group.
Asking someone to hide or minimize any one of his/her identifiers is like asking someone to only celebrate certain aspects of his/her existence and ignore others. In other words, I can’t be Black and not be a Black woman. I can’t be a Black woman and not be over 40. I can’t be a Black woman over 40 and not a freelancer. My race, gender, age, and employment status are linked and inseparable. This is who I am. I am always at the intersection of my identities.
As freelancers, we’re part of a group that faces many challenges from client nonpayment to episodic income to reduced access to benefits. There are many reasons to stand together as a group – and we should. But in grouping together, we cannot forget our diversity and that members within our group face different challenges based on their identities. In standing together as freelancers, we must also stand together for all.
Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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