Intersectionality – a term coined by Kimberelé Crenshaw in 1989 – “describes the ways which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another” (taken from Geek Feminism Wiki). More on intersectionality by NCCJ.
What is intersectionality?
Kimberlé Crenshaw: What is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality is the joining of multiple identities. What is an identity?
Identity is the window into how and who someone is. In sociology, identity is seen as the way one defines oneself; the condition or character of who a person is. Our identities drive our sense of self, our values systems, and our perceptions. They influence how we see the world around us and how we see ourselves in the world around us. Our identities connect us, the individual, to the collective whole.
Along with socialization, we are influenced by society and those around us. These messages are social constructs and pertain to socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, etc.
Each of these constructs is a house for our identities. We identify with each of these categories as a means of personal identity and a means by which we organize ourselves — a collective identity. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The danger of a single story” can illustrate the power of a collective identity.
Chimamanda points out the consequences of a single story that creates stereotypes, society division, etc. If you apply her talk to everything around you, I bet you will see things differently. The single story also takes away empathy for others, the most important thing in humanity.
Back to intersectionality, all of these constructs intersect; here is where we observe the larger relationship between them. These relationships are not fixed or static. They include intersecting identities and intersecting histories – all dependent upon time and location. Recall the sociological imagination – the invitation to observe the intersection of history and biography.
The unmarked category is the social identity that is assumed to be the “norm.” American culture centers on white, middle-class, heterosexuals as the norm. This norm is usually invisible in society, which is why sci-fi writer John Scalzi wrote an article to help white guys better understand how privilege works. Here is the full article: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.
Gender constraints or dictates all our social identities: gender affects the way age, the treatment, expectations, and representation that center around physical ability; class and inequality are gendered. Everybody employs some sort of gender strategy that works for them. The gender strategy we employ can (and does) change according to the situation and the individuals involved. Some social identities provide privilege, the unearned social and economic advantage based on our location in the social hierarchy. And some do not.
Let’s learn about oppressions from Audrey Lourde (Read by Lauren Lyons).
Since there is no hierarchy of oppression – it becomes more important to educate ourselves on intersectionality and gendered language. It is the first step to stepping up to the social construct.
I hope you learn something, good luck!