Published on: November 28, 2018 by Desirae Brooks
Despite its use in scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw's academic essay "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color," the word Intersectionality wasn't added to the Merriam Webster dictionary until April of 2017. So what is Intersectionality? I'm glad you ask.
Crenshaw coined this term in order to help express the problems that immigrant women of color were experiencing. At this time, the 1980s, the very real and specific prejudices these women were facing seemed to be being brushed under the rug by feminist anti-racism groups, and so Crenshaw decided to say something about it. Crenshaw brought up and proved that legal and authoritative institutions (AKA the people in charge) have designed policies that essentially cause the odds to be stacked against people with intersectional experiences, or people belonging to multiple minority diversities. It's important to mention that this term is controversial. Some people belonging to specific movements—feminist movement, LGBT+ rights, etc—use the argument that if a woman is being discriminated against because of her race, then its racism, or if a lesbian is being discriminated against based on her gender, then its sexism. The people using this argument see oppression as, for lack of a better term, a black and white matter.
Although intersectionality is a term originally made to give immigrant women of color a way to express their personal experience, this is not where the term stops. Intersectionality can also be applied to a trans woman, a gay Asian man, or anybody who is defined by multiple marginalized diverse groups. Today, this term is still very important. While we see representatives of different groups appearing in media and at the front of movements, all too often these people are still able-bodied and cisgendered (a person who identifies as their biological gender). Even though it is a great step that different groups are receiving representation, this leaves us with the matter that still, even today, very small portions of these groups are being represented. even today, in 2018, people are not being represented to their fullest extent.
It can be very difficult to think about how rough of a day someone else may have had–especially if yours was rough. But thinking about the experiences someone else may have had, both on that day and on many others, can help us to be more empathetic. Empathy involves, in a way, trying to put yourself in someone else's shoes. This isn't always easy, in fact, in many cases, it can be very difficult. Empathy is hard. What are some experiences you may have had with this? Have you ever thought about all the different forms of identity and diversity that one person may possess? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.