Interview with Giovanni Gaetani on the Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Giovanni Gaetani is the Growth and Development Officer of Humanists International, and the Creator of the Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism. Here we talk about the recent work of the Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Out of Italy or in Italian online, you have the new Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism. Obviously, this builds on the intersectionality analysis framework of Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Why use this framework of analysis for humanism?

Giovanni Gaetani: You say “obviously”, but I don’t agree that this reference is that obvious for everyone. Indeed many feminist and progressive activists use the adjective “intersectional” without knowing its academic origin, and this is not a bad thing. On the contrary, this was actually Crenshaw’s goal, who coined the term “intersectionality” as “an everyday metaphor that anyone could use”, outside the inner circle of academic research. 30 years later, we can say that her goal is achieved.

Going back to your question, I decided to talk about “intersectional humanism” to overcome the common criticism for which humanism is just a mere lack of belief in God or, at best, the mere defence of few “atheist values” (if I may use this weird expression) like secularism and the fight against religious superstition.

Humanism is more than that: it’s a 360-degree philosophical worldview which implies a 360-degree political activism. I wanted to highlight this feature because I often hear some self-proclaimed humanists saying that, for example, feminism is not a humanist issue, or that LGBT+ rights are not a humanist issue, and so on. This is a really claustrophobic and short-sighted way to conceive humanism.

Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism

Jacobsen: We can see some of the general values including science, democracy, empathy, feminism, and so on. How does the Graphic Manifest work?

Gaetani: The Graphic Manifest is divided in two intertwined sections: values and fights. On the top there are the eight values:

  1. Immanence (that is, the idea that life is a earthly matter to be regulated by human beings without the intervention of any transcendent entity)
  2. Self-determination
  3. Reason
  4. Science
  5. Freedom
  6. Democracy
  7. Meaningfulness
  8. Empathy

Below the eight values, and strictly interconnected to them, there are the eight fights of intersectional humanism:

  1. Secularism
  2. Feminism
  3. LGBT+ rights
  4. Anti-racism
  5. Non-violence
  6. Ecologism
  7. Liberalism
  8. Justice

At first glance this seems just a long list of names, but actually each value and fight is precisely defined in the Manifest. The problem is that I wrote everything in Italian, because the whole project is indeed addressed exclusively to an Italian audience. Perhaps one day I will find the time to translate it into English.

Jacobsen: How can one use the graphic manifest method to represent the fundamental premises and supports of the belief structure of humanism?

Gaetani: The Manifest is a sort of graphic memorandum. It visually reminds us that all humanist values and fights are interconnected, thus we must defend all values and carry on all fights at the same time. Limiting oneself to one single value or fight is both naive and counterproductive: this was exactly the disruptive and revolutionary idea of intersectional feminism. The Graphic Manifest of Intersectional Humanism lies on this premise and tries to visually represent it.

Jacobsen: Why create this in the first place? What spawned the idea?

Gaetani: On top of what I said above, I wanted to create a graphic manifest because I’m convinced by Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “the medium is the message”. This was true already in 1964 and it is valid even more today. We live indeed in the era of social networks. Communication is absurdly fast nowadays. Images and videos took over words and long texts. And you have up to 3 seconds to get people attention while their scrolling their timeline. We can either decide to ignore this fact, keeping on communicating in the old-fashioned way, or we can try to adapt to it, creating new original ways to share the same humanist message through the media we have at our disposal today.

I chose the second option. Not because I don’t like long texts (it’s quite the opposite) nor because I want to over-simplify things. On the contrary, I value the importance of the humanist message and the urgency to reach and attract as many people as possible. The Graphic Manifest was one of the most immediate ways to do it in my opinion.

Jacobsen: Do other graphic manifests exist? Or is this a wholly novel idea?

Gaetani: Not that I am aware of, but I doubt that this is a wholly novel idea. Anyway, it was for sure something new for Italy, where few people know the actual meaning of the word “humanism” and even fewer people define themselves “humanist”.

Jacobsen: How can people become involved in relevant humanist organizations?

Gaetani: On the website of Humanists International there is a long list of humanist organizations around the world. I believe that the best way for people to get involved is to volunteer for their closest humanist organization. It’s important that we all do our own small bit of activism, because in the end is the sum of all those bits that will eventually make the word a better place to live in.

Humanist activism is indeed effective only in the long run and provided that everyone will do their own part. For regressive and conservative movements around the world the task is easier: they fight to slow the advancement of human rights and to deny the recognition of those rights to new groups of people (women, LGBT+, atheists, etc.). We are here to do the opposite: we want to foster the advancement of human rights and to recognise those rights to each and every human being as such, to protect all aspects of their holistic identities from any discrimination. The task of intersectional humanists is way harder, yes, because we promote inclusiveness where other promote discrimination. I don’t know if humanism will succeed in the end, but this doesn’t matter, because, as William of Orange said, “it is not necessary to hope in order to act, nor to succeed in order to persevere.” I think and act as an intersectional humanist because it’s simply the right thing to do right now.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Gio.

Gaetani: It was my pleasure!

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Image Credit: Giovanni Gaetani.

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