What is intersectionality?

What is intersectional feminism? Why is it important? Intersectionality has often been misunderstood as a theory that places certain groups above others. The term was coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw (graduate of Cornell University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin) in 1989. She wanted to give a word to how the oppression she faces as a Black woman is different from the oppression a white woman would experience.

In an interview with Columbia Law School, she defines intersectionality as ‘a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.’ Crenshaw added that ‘it’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.’ Intersectionality also highlights the historical context and power imbalances that are highly prevalent.

Some conservative political commentators like Ben Shapiro claim intersectionality means ‘the value of your opinion depends on how many victim groups you belong to. At the bottom of the totem pole is the person everybody loves to hate: the straight white male.’ This statement is far from the truth. Intersectionality does not place any group above another. By acknowledging that certain groups face oppression, you are not denying that straight, cis, white, able-bodied, wealthy men have problems or ignoring their opinions; it is merely an awareness that their lives have not been made harder due to these factors. They live in a system built for them.

Our feminism needs to be intersectional. COVID-19 made clear the time-hallowed inequities and years of discrimination that have created unequal paths. Majandra Rodriguez Acha (a climate justice activist and youth leader from Peru) said to UN Women, “Those who are most impacted by gender-based violence, and by gender inequalities, are also the most impoverished and marginalized-black and brown women, indigenous women, women in rural areas, young girls, girls living with disabilities, trans youth and gender non-conforming youth.”

We have to understand the impacts of crises and oppression on people are not uniform. By understanding how multiple forms of discrimination intersect and that history still has an impact on the power dynamic that is prominent today, we can work towards solutions.

Originally published at https://intersectnews.wixsite.com on October 5, 2020.

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