Intersectionality is an important term to acknowledge when discussing any political movement, especially feminism. Historically, feminism has focused on helping white women gain higher standing socially and politically and has not taken other forms of identities into consideration.
For example, in the 1920s there was a huge political movement that led to the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote. However, it wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Right Act was passed and black people could vote. For 45 years, with some exception, white women sat back and felt victorious even though not ALL women could vote. This behavior of focusing only on one aspect of identity, intentionally or not, excludes marginalized individuals.
Feminism has also historically excluded persons who do not identify as cis women. The experiences of trans men and women, non-binary people, and other non-heteronormative identities have been ignored. The name of the movement itself, feminism, doesn’t bring gender into consideration and focuses on biological sex dichotomies. Feminism is a widespread and influential political and academic movement, so it needs to improve its approach.
Thankfully, leading scholar in critical race theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw eloquently came up with a term that allows feminism to broaden its scope beyond without completely disregarding the work of the movement’s supporters: intersectionality. According to Professor Crenshaw, “intersectional feminism examines the overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination that women face, based not just on gender but on ethnicity, sexuality, economic background and a number of other axes.” By taking on multiple perspectives, feminism can encompass dynamic issues that affect women across the globe outside of gender discrimination.
Professor Crenshaw has stated that “there are many, many different kinds of intersectional exclusions ― not just black women, but other women of color, not just people of color, but people with disabilities. Immigrants. LGBTQ people. Indigenous people.” A more-inclusive movement will grow to improve upon all forms of oppression affecting womxn today.
If you still need more background and information, look into her scholarship as well as her interviews and TED talks! There are a couple videos of her talking about intersectionality below.
- But, what really is it?
- Why is important?
Happy Black History Month!