Today’s word of the day at Dictionary.com is a modern word coined by the American feminist legal scholar, critical race theorist, and civil rights activist, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989. Intersectionality is the theory that the overlap of various social identities as race, gender, sexuality and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively): Her paper uses a queer intersectionality approach. It is also defined as the oppression and discrimination resulting from the overlap of an individual’s various social identities: the intersectionality of oppression experienced by black women.
In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other. Crenshaw mentioned that the intersectionality experience within black women is more powerful than the sum of their race and sex, and that any observations that do not take intersectionality into consideration cannot accurately address the manner in which black women are subordinated.
Intersectionality is a theory which considers that the various aspects of humanity, such as class, race, sexual orientation and gender, do not exist separately from each other, but are complexly interwoven, and that their relationships are essential to an understanding of the human condition. When systems of justice or other entities attempt to look at each aspect in isolation, then misconceptions may occur and essential understandings may be lost. The theory proposes that individuals think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one’s identity.
In 2011 Columbia Law School, under the direction of Professor Crenshaw, established the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. “The Center’s existing projects focus on race, gender, and incarceration; substandard education and low-wage work; race, sexuality, and masculinities; and the generation of new disabilities and illnesses among communities of color.” You can read more about their work HERE.
Kimberlé Crenshaw is also featured in a variety of lectures and TED talks. A quick Google search will give you an opportunity to learn more about intersectionality from Dr. Crenshaw herself.
Here’s a quick haiku (which wasn’t easy, considering that this is a SEVEN syllable word!)
Have a great weekend…
it’s just a theory
unless it’s your life