Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how the different aspects of a person’s identity combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. The “intersection” of these multiple identities may simultaneously include among other things, race, gender, age, sexuality, religion, physical appearance, and able-bodiedness. These overlapping identities and experiences underscore the perspective that we are complex human beings who are defined and influenced by a number of identifying factors.
While the concept of intersectionality helps us understand the unique spaces that each of us occupies in the world, it also speaks to the multiple ways we can experience discrimination. As a result, the same mentality that justifies discrimination based on race will quite easily use a similar rationale to justify biases based on sexual orientation, immigrant status, or religion.
The concept of “Intersectionality” was coined in 1989 by a law professor, Kimberle Crenshaw as, “a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” Crenshaw said, “All inequality is not created equal – An intersectional approach shows the way that people’s social identities can overlap, creating compounding experiences of discrimination.” Using the concept to discuss feminism, she said, “We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”
- Since intersectionality allows us to think about systemic oppression in a broad sense, in what ways has your personal experience helped you better understand issues of privilege and power?
- Has the recent spotlight on racism impacted your ability to see similarities and differences in your marginalized experiences?
- Consider the larger group in your place of schooling or work and consider whether there are subgroups and identities within the larger group that go unnoticed or tend to be “invisible”. Have the “groups” changed over time? Which groups are newly affected? Why?
Hill, C. P., & Bilge, S. (2016). Intersectionality.
The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw
Tomlinson, Yolande, and Margot Baruch. 2014. Framing Questions on Intersectionality. Rutgers Center for Women’s Global Leadership.