Woke Up: Why Intersectionality Matters

During a time where many people (the majority of the popular vote, for measure) feel underrepresented, there is something to be said about what the diverse voices that represent us. 2016 has popularized and/or created terms such as Latinx, millennial, dudebro, Trump supporters and so on. While we can guess who these words define, there are two identifications from this last year that everyone should know a thing about: intersectionality and intersectional feminism.

 

Intersectionality was first defined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights professor and author. Now I know I was born in 1997, but I’m a little hard on myself that it took me so long to write about this issue; it’s strange to think that people go through their whole lives not knowing what a word is. Crenshaw defines intersectionality as “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.”

In today’s society, intersectional feminism isn’t making the news during a #BlackLivesMatter protest or the listicles we see about fragile masculinity, but it is a social movement--if understood properly--could help progress those issues. Intersectional feminism can sadly and only be considered a type of feminism since its definition doesn’t hold without mentioning intersectionality, but it is something myself and others can argue we need to adopt as the only type of feminism.

Where we see an ongoing race war or women’s abortion rights, we can extend understanding of those issues to describe something where women, trans women or non-binary gendered people of different colors, classes, abilities, ethnicities or sexual identities are oppressed. In an essay titled “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Crenshaw outlines evidence supporting the fact that people of multiple identities tend to be criticized more harshly and with less equality.

With exposure to stories about LGBT women of color being discriminated, abused, neglected and oppressed, now more than ever is it important to realize that intersectionality and intersectional feminism should be in our vocabulary. The importance we place on an unjust event or act of discrimination must acknowledge murky-surfaced facts that people are oppressed for more than one reason at a time.

This isn’t a safety course, and this isn’t one person in a sea of billions just telling you her opinion. To protect and ensure the lives of everyone around us, we must recognize that we need to understand intersectionality and intersectional feminism.

We are less than one month into 2017. One transgender black woman has been murdered. Woke up.

Image Credit: everydayfeminism.com