Critical Considerations for Advancing Gender and Racial Literacies: An Intersectional Approach

Critical Considerations for Advancing Gender and Racial Literacies: An Intersectional Approach

Petra A. Robinson (Louisiana State University, USA) and Maja Stojanović (Louisiana State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9567-1.ch001
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As the dialog related to diversity, equity, and social justice expands, especially amidst particularly turbulent times for people with traditionally excluded identities, it is important to contemplate the role of education, be it formal, non-formal, or informal, in advancing multiple non-traditional literacies that can help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The purpose of this chapter is to broaden our conceptualization of the term literacy and to focus specifically on two non-traditional literacies which are not only increasingly present in our academic and everyday lexicon, but also in everyday social life and educational practice. In this chapter, the authors discuss how these two non-traditional literacies, racial literacy and gender literacy, are defined and specifically describe how two literacy experts (a scholar and a practitioner) support the practical advancement of these literacies. Through a critical lens situated in diversity, equity, and inclusion work, the chapter centers on how gender and racial literacies can best be promoted and advanced in today's globalized world.
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“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” - Audre Lorde

This quote ascribed to Audre Lorde, an American writer and human rights activist, provides an important context for this chapter as it gets to the heart of the issue the authors discuss. In essence, it is important not only to acknowledge and celebrate the differences among us as people living in a dynamic, complex, inter-connected, globalized world, but also to emphasize the need to recognize, accept, and celebrate these differences by ensuring equity and social justice in all our endeavors, within and beyond the classroom.

In the United States, which many boast to being a pluralistic, multicultural society, and even within higher educational institutions in the country, there has been consistent challenge and struggle related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (Robinson & Henriquez-Aldana, 2020). On a broader scale, as communities and nations have become increasingly diverse based on multiple dimensions and perspectives, including cultural, national, ethnic, linguistic, and economic, just to name a few, it is essential to understand how equitable and just values, behaviors, and actions can be promoted. It is also imperative to learn practical ways in which educators and practitioners can support individuals in embracing differences in their classrooms, organizations, and beyond. One key feature of these germane examples of how we can partner to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice is authenticity. In this chapter, the authors also discuss authenticity as a key hallmark of social justice education and practice.

Moreover, as multiple scholars (Cervetti et al., 2006; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011; Robinson, 2020; Robinson & Robinson; 2021) suggested, there are a wide range of new, critical literacies that are essential for individuals to thrive, make informed decisions, and take appropriate actions in today’s society. This skillset is broad and encompasses critical literacies that can promote global citizenship and advance equity and social justice. In this chapter, the authors specifically focus on gender and racial literacies as two contemporary critical literacies that are indispensable for combatting bias and oppression in terms of gender and race. Additionally, the chapter will focus on and discuss how educators and practitioners can develop specific practical strategies that can first ignite critical thinking, and then sustain and even increase individuals’ awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion through the development of gender and racial literacies.



By directing our attention to these two important, contemporary literacies we acknowledge that literacy in itself is not new nor are these specific literacies totally brand-new concepts. In fact, literacy research is magnificent in scope and has evolved over the years mostly due to societal needs and contexts (Nitri, 1993). Often, literacy is framed through the lens of basic adult education, development, and lifelong learning which scholars such as Robinson et al. (2013) discuss as a necessary strategy for developing human capital through education. Smith (2018) and other scholars also highlight education as part of the economic imperative described as a mechanism whose purpose is to increase economic competitiveness.

In this instance, the authors discuss literacy not only as part of lifelong learning or education, or even as part of the drive to improve a nation’s skill base to increase global economic competitiveness, but more so from the perspective of developing productive, lifelong learners and critically thinking global citizens. Like Pacho (2020), the authors postulate that education, and in this instance lifelong learning, plays an important role in fostering global citizenship. Consequently, the authors adopt Longworth and Davies’ (1997) definition of lifelong learning in which they state,

Lifelong learning is the development of human potential through a continuously supportive process which stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire all knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will require throughout their lifetime to apply them with confidence, creativity, and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environments. (p. 2)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sexism: Discrimination against people on the basis of sex or gender.

Inclusion: Integrating all people or groups, especially those who are from marginalized populations, in a fulsome way through practices or policies that support access and work to remove bias.

Minoritized Group: People who are categorized as subordinate to a more dominant group. This is not necessarily related to numbers of people in a population/grouping but specifically related to marginalization.

Equity: Fair or impartial treatment to afford justice.

Gender Fluid: Persons who do not identify with having a fixed gender.

Gender Bias: Showing preference to one gender over another.

Racial Discrimination: Treatment that is prejudicial against people on the basis of race (racial discrimination).

Stereotype: Preconceived notions about characteristics or roles attributed to an individual or group.

Bias: This is the unfair privilege and preference shown to one group/individual against another.

Dominant Group: The dominant group refers to the group with power to which privilege and control are ascribed.

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