What is Intersectionality?

What is Intersectionality?


Intersectionality is beginning to make its way into mainstream conversation and understanding it can be a bit tricky if it is not explained properly.

In 1989 Kimberly Crenshaw coined the phrase “Intersectionality” as a way to understand multiple oppressions and or discriminations and how they affect different people.

Discrimination as we know it exists with words like Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Classism, Ageism, Abelism etc… These discriminatory concepts relate to an individual’s identity.

In our society our particular identity gives us access to certain opportunities, which is totally unfair for those who do not have a “desirable identity”.

Intersectionality gives us way to understand the obstacles that people face because of their identity and the intensity of the oppression that is experienced.

Try to imagine that you are 55 years old, you’re a female who is visibly disabled, you are poor, and you have brown skin and have a thick foreign accent. Intersectionality would say that the oppression you experience exists on multiple levels because:

1)-Your skin colour means that face-to-face interactions make you vulnerable to racial prejudice.

2)-You have a foreign accent, which means that when people cannot see you and communicate with you by phone, you’re still vulnerable to racism and you’re asked to repeat yourself constantly.

3)-Due to your age, some people assume you’re a little deaf, so when they speak to you THEY RAISE THEIR VOICE! Finding work is also difficult because 90% job vacancies describe their ideal candidate as “dynamic and capable of working in a fast paced environment”.

4)-To make things worse, your financial situation does not allow you to go out very often, but even so, people tend to YELL AT YOU when you’re out so you’d prefer to stay at home anyway.

This type of existence does not allow you to feel confident in meeting new people or making new friends. Instead you choose to surround yourself with people who similar to you because they understand how you feel.

Intersectinality widens our breadth of understanding regarding our “ways of seeing”, so that when we look, we are capable of seeing more.

Leave a comment