Intersectionality is a term that was created by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It is a feminist sociological theory that centers around analyzing and discussing how oppression often intersects, creating unique and varied experiences of discrimination. While the theory was originally meant to address the unique intersection of oppression faced by black women (misogynoir), it has since been expanded to include anyone who suffers disadvantages in today’s society. Examples of this include oppression by race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.
Even though the concept of intersectionality in feminism has been around for decades, it only seems to have made it into mainstream debate in the past couple of years, especially with the creation of the #MeToo movement. Like Tarana Burk, the founder of the #MeToo movement said at her speech at Cornell University this February: “#MeToo is not just a movement for famous white cisgendered women. What we are is a global community of survivors committed to healing as individuals and as a community.” The term today is also used by many feminists to explain how the feminist movement can be more diverse and inclusive, led by the example of #MeToo movement. If feminism is advocating for women's rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is fighting the battle for better understanding of how women's overlapping identities impact the way they experience discrimination.
How we address issues like street harassment, for example, doesn’t just matter to all women, it matters especially to trans women, who experience not only more harassment, but significantly higher rates of assault than other women.
Intersectional feminism also means fighting for the raise of the minimum wage, as nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the U.S. are women, according to the National Women's Law Center.
It means broadening the conversation around reproductive rights. If we don’t acknowledge the extra barriers faced by low-income and rural women, who have limited access to abortion care services when compared to other women, we fail to see the importance of the problem, and risk failing to provide solutions to marginalized groups who need it the most.
Intersectionality is still a new term for the masses - and yet its message is one that surely any feminist can relate to so start listening more and include various groups of women, and their multi-layered aspects and experiences of life in the overall debate.