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HIV, Intersectionality and the Generation Gap

November 18, 2013

Becky Allen

Becky Allen

Here at TheBody.com, we have a long-standing, awesome tradition, which is that we order lunch together as a team every Wednesday. (Don't be confused into thinking we eat together as a team; we're all cubicle-dwelling workaholics, so after some chatting and banter, we retreat to our desks to work while we eat, just like every article on living healthily while working in an office says you should never, ever do.) We're a small but tight-knit group -- we know one another's favorite TV shows and musicians, what we all did last weekend and where we're all planning to go for our Thanksgiving vacation days. So it's always surprising when one of us says something that gets nothing but blank looks in return. And when that happens, it's almost always caused by one thing: the generation gap.

It happened when our esteemed editorial director Myles made a passing reference to Murphy Brown, and when we went out for group karaoke and only half of us started headbanging during "Bohemian Rhapsody." And a week or two ago, it happened again, a contrast so sharp it could practically be on the Beloit College Mindset List. While doling out our Wednesday delivery, Myles started to hum the "My Buddy" commercial jingle. And some of us -- specifically those my age and older -- started singing along, while the young'uns of the crowd (I'm looking at you, Mathew) stared in blinking incomprehension. ("There's a girl version, too!" "What?")

I don't just bring this up because I think it's funny to make Gen Xers feel old (as someone born in '83, I sit perfectly on the fence here -- too young for Gen X, though my sister is a member; too old to be a proper millennial, and among the first kids to grow up knowing about HIV). I think it shines a light on something that we try to keep in mind here, behind the scenes at TheBody.com: Sometimes, it's easy to just assume that everyone out there knows what you know, that other people are all basically like you, and to not realize how important those differences are.

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We actively try to guard against the complacency of that mindset here at TheBody.com -- we have to. HIV is an intersectional issue: It can affect anyone, but is made worse by racism, homophobia, and misogyny, not to mention poverty and our culture's completely borked responses to addiction. And none of those issues are isolated from others. That's why women may need different kinds of help coping with HIV than men, but have been too often overlooked; it's why HIV is currently a crisis among young, gay men of color. So, while we're brainstorming new articles to write, we try to keep that in mind. We have specific spaces devoted to African Americans, women, gay men and Latinos -- which hardly covers everyone. This year, we've tried to address that by shining a spotlight on other marginalized groups, but we still have conversations about it over and over again. "When was the last time we interviewed a Pacific Islander?" "Are we doing enough stories on HIV in the trans community?" And, well, there's never enough, but we try.

I have no doubt that we've failed occasionally, but I hope we've built up enough trust with those of you reading this that, if you ever feel we've settled too far into our own assumptions and overlooked something, you'll let us know. We want to make TheBody.com the best resource we can, for as many people as possible. (Even those who, whether too young or too old, don't know that My Buddy did indeed have a rather uncreatively named girl equivalent.)

Becky Allen is the site director for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Becky on Twitter: @allreb.

Read the blog, The Viral Truth.

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Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


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