So First Thing’s First…What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality

Artwork by Miriam Dobson

 

Note: Click image for full illustration.

If you’re a self-proclaimed feminist (or just an awesomely informed person), then chances are you’ve heard of the term ‘intersectionality’ at some point in time. But for those of you who are coming across this word for the first time, well, this post is for you.

So…let’s get to it.

To grasp the concept of intersectionality, let me first explain the term ‘feminism.’

In the broadest sense, feminism is the belief that women should have the same rights, merit and opportunities as our male counterparts and that being a woman should not be viewed as a disadvantage.

Intersectionality, on the other hand, goes far beyond the fight for equality among the sexes.         The term was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 work. It not only recognizes the system of oppression between the sexes, but also acknowledges the interconnectedness of multiple oppressive systems. These systems can include gender, class, ability, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other forms of identity.

The goal of mainstream feminism is for women to effectively integrate into the present system. While this is needed, it just simply isn’t enough. The system itself is the problem. Being “welcomed” into a broken system isn’t the solution.  We must condemn the system that has unapologetically been built by groups that are now marginalized by that same system.

This is why my feminism HAS to be intersectional. Because I’m not just a woman. Because I’m not just black. Because I shouldn’t have to pick and choose which oppressed group I identity with that day.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the theory of intersectionality has been fully understood, accepted and embraced by “mainstream” feminists. Despite that, I’m hopeful that the feminists of my generation will continue to embrace the many faces of feminism, including my own.

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