If you follow activist accounts on Instagram or have been reading those opinion pieces on Buzzfeed lately, you may have been confronted with term “intersectional feminism.” We know, feminism is a heavy one already, and now we have to add another complex word to it? But once you learn the correct definition, you’ll realise it’s just as simple as the true (and only) meaning of feminism: equality for all. So let’s break it down and make it easier to digest.
Intersectionality is a concept introduced to feminist theory by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. Crenshaw wrote a paper in 1989 in which she first proposed the term. In her essay, she analysed black feminism and its differences with mainstream (or white) feminism, arguing that the experiences of black women cannot be studied as being black and being a woman independently. Rather, those identities often intersect with each other to form unique experiences.
Now, in feminist discourse, the various parts of our identities are considered because we may experience privilege or oppression due to these varying factors. For example, while someone may encounter straight privilege as a heterosexual individual, they may face caste oppression as a member of a scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, or backward caste.
It’s important to take these differing characteristics into account because not everyone goes through life in the same way just because they fit into one “category” as such. When we better recognise these intersections, we’re also better equipped to create policies and campaigns that specifically target critical, distinct oppressions.
And so, consider that everyone’s lives are layered, multi-dimensional reflections of society and observe the ways in which seemingly separate identities interact with each other to form a different kind of marginalisation. This is how we can create a reality where we can target disenfranchisement in more accurate ways, building a more equitable status quo.