Where Do Gender, Sexuality, Ability & Personality Fit in Fraser’s Model?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

I am writing this blogpost because I’m having a mental block and I don’t know what to do with it. I feel like the answer should be obvious to me, but it is not.

I’ve learned and been using Nancy Fraser’s framework/model of social justice that takes into account the economic, cultural and political dimensions of injustice. And it has worked well for me in the past.

Except today, I’m working on something and unpacking how we apply it in different dimensions of learning design, and I’m stuck on something. The economic and political dimensions are relatively straightforward in terms of how we can try to tackle them and redress them in education, especially digital education (e.g. how to design for differences in students’ connectivity, or advocating for institutions ensuring all students get good devices – and the political dimension to nurture student agency for example). The cultural dimension is obvious when race or coloniality are involved, or just culture in general, but I was wondering where things like gender, sexuality, disability and just “personality” are in this model? I know it is intersectional, and often gender inequality or disability  can manifest under political power or economic capability, but where would redressing gender injustice/oppression/inequality fall within Fraser’s model? Or does it not? And what about just plain personalities, people with just more dominant personalities that do not fall under being of the dominant race or gender or whatever? I am learning towards placing gender and sexuality under culture, and disability under political, but I’m not sure that’s right, and I have no idea where to place “personality”.

I am having a brain block and I’m not sure if I’m just having a mental moment, or if Fraser’s model is missing something, or if this last one “personality” is just considered random and not part of systemic injustice and therefore… dismissable? It’s not dismissable in a classroom where students have similar economic privilege and race, right? And it’s still worthwhile to consider, since we want all students to succeed, and some learning designs privilege extraversion for example over introversion, or people who thrive on competition versus those who are intimidated by it? Those are not necessarily gender or race or culturally related, though they *can* be.

What am I missing here?

Perhaps I should not be using Fraser here at all, and I should just work with Patricia Hill Collins’ matrix of domination and axes of oppression? Her work differentiates between heteropatriarchy (covers gender and sexuality), white supremacy (covers race, possibly religion), settler colonialism (I don’t know why she uses “settler” and not just colonialism and neocolonialism) and the economic dimension. It still doesn’t cover disability and personality. And ageism. And other things relevant in some contexts.

Is there a model of social justice that covers all of these? Or maybe that’s not the point? Maybe the point is to cover all the oppressions and intersectionalities relevant in our context? Am I missing more dimensions, too? Should we just seek to focus on whichever power differences are in front of us?

And still. Personality is not often used in the context of injustice, as if all power comes from systemic causes and none on personality. Help me out here.

Header image: Intersecting Axes of Discrimination from Wikimedia Commons by Lay Vegan CC-BY-SA: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Intersecting_Axes_of_Discrimination.png

4 thoughts on “Where Do Gender, Sexuality, Ability & Personality Fit in Fraser’s Model?

  1. > And still. Personality is not often used in the context of injustice, as if all power comes from systemic causes and none on personality.

    I think that’s a great point, in several ways. First is the idea that personality (which could cover any number of things, from being shy to being sensitive to being sceptical or whatever) can be relevant in a context of injustice.

    But also, questioning the idea that “all power comes from systemic causes” is really important.

    One of the major criticisms of left-wing and especially Marxist-inspired critiques of injustice is the way they are class based, as in the idea that all instances of injustice are instances of a class struggle, whether that class is race, gender, religion, or whatever.

    Rejecting this idea doesn’t necessarily lead to individualism or some sort of self-serving egoism, but as the discussion is currently constituted, there is little room in between.

    1. Agreed. Focusing only on class struggle or reducing all injustice to economic is… reductionist. I realized something during a class discussion today. We were discussing identity and James Paul Gee refers to 4 lenses on identity, one of which is personality, and others are categories that would include things like gender, race, religion, nationality, affinity groups, etc., and though he isn’t talking about power or justice, my class discussion was around how certain elements of our identities can be an advantage in some contexts but a disadvantage in other contexts. Personality traits are definitely like that in education and professional contexts. There’s maybe danger of using personalities to over categorize ppl, essentialize? I guess any analysis that recognizes the complexity of all of these factors together is important. There is also what I call invisible inequity when someone has a need in a particular moment in time e.g. due to loss of a loved one. It’s not that they will be necessarily clinically depressed, but they are at a temporary disadvantage in a learning space.

  2. Hi Maha, your question about personality has got me thinking. Maybe personality is something that is more subjective and changeable and hence doesn’t fit neatly into a type of recognised oppression, although as you say it is not dismissable in a classroom context. Maybe personality is a symptom or enactment resulting from various types of structural and conditioning forces? So a person might be dominant in a particular classroom setting because of that setting’s implicit or explicit learning design, norms or expected practices, but less dominant in another setting?

    1. Yes, that makes sense. Certain settings advantage certain personalities. One of the issues is… do teachers and parents try to promote those personality traits to help someone succeed, like cultural capital, or are some of these inherent (parents of more than one child would attest to this but I’ve only got the one haha). I’m worried that using personality could be seen as over categorizing like MBTI or as over emphasizing preference like the evidence-less learning styles… or seen as static and unchangeable, unlearnable… though I do think some personality might be? Should ask a psychologist maybe on that one. What’s the difference between being extroverted and learning to be a better communicator even if you are naturally not extroverted?

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