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What is intersectionality?

Updated: Apr 16

"There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives". Audre Lorde


“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things,” stated Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw.⁠


According to Linda Gordon (2016) in a text on intersectionality (which was later translated into Spanish by our Managing Partner Lía Díaz), when Kimberlé Crenshaw invented the term ‘intersectionality’ in 1989, she was speaking as a black feminist legal scholar, and all the four parts of that position are relevant here. Behind her insights lay, of course, the activist context of the civil rights and women’s movements of the 1955–80 period. Behind her insights also lay the particular experience of black feminists criticizing the ‘sisterhood’ claims of the dominantly white women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.⁠


Crenshaw’s specific motivation grew from legal advocacy. Crenshaw cited a particular case, DeGraffenreid v. General Motors. Federal courts dismissed the complaint because it fitted neither race discrimination (because black men were not barred from better jobs) nor sex discrimination (because white women were not barred from better jobs). Defining intersectionality as a critique of identity politics, she criticizes ‘the dominance of a particular orientation that disaggregates social problems into discrete challenges facing specific groups.’⁠


References

  • Gordon, L. (2016). ‘Intersectionality’, Socialist Feminism and Contemporary Activism: Musings by a Second-Wave Socialist Feminist. Gender & History, Vol.28 No.2 August 2016, pp. 340–357.⁠

  • Columbia Law School News. Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More than Two Decades Later⁠ https://www.law.columbia.edu/pt-br/news/2017/06/kimberle-crenshaw-intersectionality (retrieved on October 28th).⁠

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