Intersectionality is a way of looking at how different parts of who we are (like our race, gender, or where we come from) can all come together and affect how we experience the world.
What is intersectionality? Meaning and explanation
Intersectionality is a way of looking at how different parts of who we are can all come together and affect our experiences. It helps us understand that we have different identities, like being a woman or a man, being from a certain race or ethnicity, or coming from a rich or poor family.
These identities can overlap and affect how people treat us, what opportunities we have, and how we feel about ourselves.
Aspects of a person’s identity can be the following:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Socioeconomic status
Certain attitudes, systems, and structures in society can interact to create inequality and result in exclusion. These include sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, and transphobia.
Definition of intersectionality
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of intersectionality is the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect – especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.
Simply put, it is a framework that recognizes how different parts of our identity intersect and create unique advantages or disadvantages. It helps us see that the systems of power, discrimination, and privilege in society work together and influence our lives.
Why is intersectionality important?
It is important because it offers a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of social inequalities. It highlights the experiences of marginalized individuals who face discrimination, ensuring their voices are heard and their unique struggles addressed.
For example, if we only focus on one part of who someone is (like just their gender or just their race), we might miss the important thing about their experiences. Intersectionality helps us see the whole picture and understand how different parts of someone’s identity can affect their lives.
It also promotes inclusivity by recognizing the interconnections between different forms of oppression. It encourages collaboration and understanding among diverse groups, leading to more effective and impactful advocacy for equality and justice.
An example to illustrate the importance of the concept
To illustrate the concept further, let’s consider an example of intersectionality.
Imagine a young girl named Lily. Lily is an Asian girl and comes from a low-income family. These different parts of Lily’s identity (being a girl, being Asian, and coming from a low-income family) intersect and shape her experiences in different ways, affecting how people treat her, what opportunities she has, and how she sees herself.
Due to the intersections of her race and socioeconomic status, Lily may face unique challenges. For instance, she may experience discrimination based on her race, such as racial stereotypes or biases, and she may also face economic barriers that limit her access to quality education, healthcare, or opportunities for advancement.
In this case, it reminds us that we cannot look at one thing, like being a girl or being Asian, and expect to understand everything about someone’s life. Instead, we must consider all the different parts as overlapping and mutually constitutive rather than isolated and distinct.
Understanding intersectionality helps us see that Lily’s experiences are shaped by both her race and her socioeconomic background – and addressing these intersecting forms of discrimination is crucial to creating a more equitable society.
Who coined the term?
Intersectionality was first coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw back in 1989. Crenshaw is a renowned American legal scholar and critical race theorist. She introduced the concept to highlight the experiences of Black women who faced intersecting forms of discrimination that were often overlooked by traditional feminist and anti-racist frameworks.
Kimberlé Crenshaw particularly wanted to highlight the legal cases wherein women were required to choose between bringing a claim of racism or sexism instead of having the ability to say they had been discriminated against because of the combined effects of race and sex.
A typical example of intersectionality
A typical example of intersectionality can be seen in the experiences of a Muslim woman who wears a hijab and faces discrimination based on her religion, gender, and appearance.
The intersection of these identities can result in unique challenges – such as islamophobia, sexism, and racial profiling.
By considering the interconnected nature of these forms of discrimination, it allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the woman’s experiences and the development of inclusive strategies to combat these multiple layers of oppression.
In feminism, intersectionality plays a crucial role in recognizing and addressing women’s experiences from diverse backgrounds.
For example, within the feminist movement, intersectionality has shed light on the specific challenges faced by women of color, LGBTQ+ women, disabled women, or women from marginalized communities.
Intersectional feminism aims to challenge not only gender inequality but also the intersecting systems of oppression that affect different groups of women in unique ways.
It recognizes that gender oppression intersects with other forms of discrimination, and it strives to create a more inclusive movement that fights for the rights and needs of all women.