“Intersectionality” refers to the idea that systems of oppression like racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc. are interconnected and interdependent.
The term was first coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. She used it to describe the way black women, specifically, experience a combination of racism and sexism. When black women are discriminated against, it is sometimes not because of sexism OR racism, but because of both.
She explains the concept in the following way: “Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination. . . . But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.”
Because oppressions intersect, it’s imperative that we fight all forms of oppression at the same time. It’s not enough to fight for gender equality alone – we also need to fight against other forms of oppression.
“Intersectional feminism” is a concept which describes a feminism that takes all oppressions into account. – SF