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Kimberlé Crenshaw : A Black Woman’s Influence on Feminist Studies

There are so many women that deserve to be celebrated and recognized this month. This month is for the women that have been handed the shorter end of the stick, to those who have been erased or left out of history, for those badass women who are incredibly strong despite all the shit the world throws at them. Happy Black Women’s History Month!

If you know anything about feminism or Women/Feminist Studies, then I'm sure you’re familiar with the concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality plays on the idea that there is a mixture of multiple different social categories that are at play at once when defining someone’s experience: someone has different social identities that will affect them every day and in different ways. For example, a black woman faces racism and sexism at once while also possibly facing struggles of poverty, colorism, disability, and more. This is a concept that has ultimately shaped Feminism and Feminist studies because of the very limited lens that was given before. Intersectionality fundamentally shaped the third wave of feminism which has been the most “intersectional” and inclusive wave of Feminism yet. This concept was developed and explained by no other than a black woman who experiences what this concept explains. 

In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw who is a feminist scholar coined the term intersectionality. Crenshaw created a different way we can use people’s personal lives and identities to talk about issues like racism, sexism, discrimination, etc. For a long time, Feminism has been thought of as White: A space where white matters were the focus. Thankfully, the frameworks developed and explained by Crenshaw encourage a different kind of focus for these issues. Crenshaw’s framework of intersectionality gives voice to the issue that Black women cannot separate their womanhood from their Blackness or vice versa. Because of this, they face a doubled oppression that is created with the combination of these identities. Crenshaw's work makes it so that people that are in multiple vulnerable positions do not “fall through the cracks” as she says.  Last month celebrated all women but this month is important to me because each year I am starkly reminded of how Black women have been excluded from movements, whether the feminist movement or anti-racist struggles but we have black feminist and civil right scholars and activist working at the core of these issues, making significant contributions. Whether it's been in education, literature, politics, or anywhere else: their seats at the table are precarious, marginalized, and conditional.

It is incredibly important to highlight Crenshaw for her amazing work and contributions to her areas of discipline and expertise. Black women have been at the forefront of advocating for progressive platforms for a long time, and many times have been discredited for their contributions. Let’s honor their work and commitment to equality by becoming aware of the racism that exists in feminist spaces and the many oppressions that exist in shaping an individual's identity. Let’s use these frameworks to understand the world around us, in research, and politics.

 

Jahaira is a double major in Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies and a campus correspondent for the Her Campus chapter at Wells College. 
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