The term “intersectionality” was first introduced in a 1989 essay by Kimberly Crenshaw titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” Crenshaw used the term to argue how Black women are sometimes excluded from feminist theory because it often does not address the interaction of race and gender. Furthermore, she argues that because the intersectional experience is greater than just racism and sexism, any movement that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the way that different identities are affected. Today, intersectionality is used as an analytical framework to identify how the impact of systematic inequities regarding gender, race, sexuality, and class are interconnected and create overlapping disadvantages.
Intersectionality became a popular term following the worldwide Women’s March protest on January 21st, 2017. Many argued that the protests perpetuated “white feminism” which overlooks privilege and neglects the differing experiences of women of color, which was one of the reasons I personally did not attend. When I heard about the Women’s March I felt like my voice would not be a significant part of the narrative. Marked with pink hats representing female genitalia, the March would only touch the surface of issues that women of color face in our everyday lives. For many of us, and myself personally, we identify as women secondly to being people of color. Though women of color may identify as female, our oppression goes much deeper than our anatomy and stems from the colonization of our ancestors that has left the mark of systematic oppression on us. Analyzing intersectionality, which aims to bridge these divides, is about being an ally/accomplice for people of differing identities regardless if they overlap with your own; which is what I felt was absent at the Women’s March.
By allowing women of color to share space in areas of organizing and implementation of movements like the Women’s March, we can develop a more inclusive narrative and gain more visible support from people of different backgrounds. It is time we give women of color an adequate platform to share our experiences with others and understand how we can truly be united in the fight for women’s rights. We can create these changes by refraining from stereotyping and assuming the experiences of every individual. Though women of color may share similar experiences, the use of a single narrative can be damaging and further the concept of “the other.” We also need to stop tokenizing women of color and truly include them in the work by having them be the faces and voices we hear at women’s conferences and other organization events. We also need to start asking individual women of color how we can be allies/accomplices to them in their personal journeys. Not all women are comfortable, interested, or able to be directly involved in organizing efforts, however, that does not mean that they are unworthy of our support. And lastly, this is only the start. There are many intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class and only when we start to implement a diversity of narratives into a movement will it catch momentum and truly bring about lasting change.