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What Is The Theory Of Intersectionality?

By Antonia Čirjak February 11 2020

Intersectionality was established to give a new dimension to feminism.
Intersectionality was established to give a new dimension to feminism.
  • Intersectionality provided an additional dimension to feminism, and aimed to include experiences different from the experiences of white, middle-class women.
  • The main purpose of intersectionality is to provide the base for promotion of social and political equity.
  • Todays theory of intersectionality combines many societal dimensions, and not only race and gender.

The theory of intersectionality deals with questions of how a person’s different identities can combine and thereby create new and unique forms of discrimination. The identities can be social or political, and when dealing with intersectionality, we are mostly talking about race, gender, class, and sexuality. The main reason intersectionality was established was to give a new dimension to feminism. Since early feminism focused almost exclusively on white, middle-class women, it was necessary to give a different perspective.

Intersectionality focuses on the underprivileged and sheds light on the plights of people that are discriminated against for a combination of reasons. For example, while feminism is striving to fight for better rights for women, black women are often discriminated against because of the combination of the two (race and gender). Intersectional feminism claims that not all women have the same identities, and their experiences can differ significantly. 

Origins Of The Theory

Intersectionality provides a framework that can show us how different systems of power interact with one another and thereby affect the people that are greatly marginalized by the rest of society. The first person to use the term was black feminist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989. She claims that there are many forms of how social stratification can form itself in society, be it through class, gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, and many more. She takes all of those into consideration while talking about intersectional feminism, and says that they all have large social effects. The theory of intersectionality tries to explore ways how these categories interact with one another and overlap, thereby impacting marginalized individuals. 

black women are often discriminated against because of the combination of race and gender.
Black women are often discriminated against because of the combination of race and gender.

The goal of the theory of intersectionality is to promote political and social equity. Through the theory, we can open up new dimensions in movements and ideologies such as feminism by making it so that it does not focus solely on gender. If its only focus remained gender, there would be times when feminism itself would discriminate on people based on their race, for example, because it did not take their experiences into account. By combining race and gender through intersectionality, that can be avoided.

Today, intersectionality is not used to combine only race and gender, but many more aspects of society today.

The Goals Of Intersectionality 

The critics of the theory of intersectionality often refer to it as ambiguous, since it is hard to define clear goals it is trying to achieve. Critics point out that intersectionality is too focused on subjective experiences, which can be the source of contradictions and make it harder to define what causes oppression in a given aspect of society.

However, despite those criticisms, it’s hard not to stress the importance of intersectionality today. It provides us with a way to describe oppression that is coming from multiple sources and sheds light on identifying it. Race and gender are considered as separate, but discrimination can combine the two into one and be even more harmful. The theory of intersectionality helps us identify and find ways to combat it.

Racial diversity is essential
Racial diversity is essential.

In today’s society, the need for diversity in all fields has rightfully increased. Feminists should not only deal with issues such as reproductive rights and gender diversity in workplaces. Racial diversity is essential as well since feminism cannot focus solely on the experiences of white, heterosexual, middle-class women. Issues of race, class, and sexuality should not be ignored. This is why the theory of intersectionality is important today.

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