“Intersectionality is about fighting discrimination within discrimination, tackling inequalities within inequalities, and protecting minorities within minorities.”
The world we live in can be best described as beautiful chaos- one of entanglement, overlapping, entropy, divergence, and convergence- all together at the same time. However, that being said, everyone on this Earth is also familiar with the fact the most marvelous inventions and discoveries are born from the womb of this very chaos. One term that captures this phenomenon of the various overlapping and diverging-converging factors in humans and the general world scene is intersectionality. Ironically, this term is also a product of the concept it defines. Defined by the Oxford Dictionary under the subject Sociology, intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise.”
First coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in her paper in 1989, this term gained momentum in the 1990s when more and more people started resonating with what this term encapsulated. However, when we talk about the coinage and popularisation of this term, we must also delve into the topic of the context of its usage. Well, Crenshaw used intersectionality as a prefix with another highly popular term, feminism. Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes. When the term ‘intersectional feminism’ is used, it refers to a state in which women’s rights are advocated for keeping in mind the different overlapping struggles and situations faced by women to ensure a more strategic, representative, and fair chance at equality for every female. This ensures that every woman gets access to a level-playing field and that disadvantage at a certain aspect doesn’t accumulate with her struggle for equality and pushes her further back into the oblivion of fruitless struggle.
The Feminist Movement formally took off in the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 and is referred to as the first ‘wave.’ This wave focused on women’s suffrage rights and granting equal legal status to the female gender. The consequent second and third waves demanded cultural equality, freedom from the stereotypes of gender norms, and gender role abolition; working upon the criticisms faced by the first two waves and continuing fighting for these rights respectively. However, within the Feminist Movement itself, the women of color, indigenous women, and broadly all non-white women associated with feminism and the movement criticized the same accusing the movement of being racist and colonial. It was an understood fact that within this discrimination faced by women, the above-said women faced greater discrimination and struggle in winning basic rights than their comparatively privileged counterparts. With these debates, discussions, and deliberations rising internally in the feminist community, the fourth wave came about- Intersectional Feminism, one that aimed at separating itself from ‘White Feminism’.
Since its official commencement in the 1990s and 2000s, many feminists have shifted from describing themselves as ‘feminists’ to ‘intersectional feminists.’ With several movements like BLM (Black Lives Matter), ALM (Asian Lives Matter), etc. breaking barriers to be heard globally making news, the issue of racial, societal, cultural, and economic chains acting out in the feminism scene and providing a major drawback to them is being widely recognized and talked about. If one is to talk about the contemporary situation keeping intersectionality in mind, one will conclude that there is a line of division that has been drawn between the conservatives and intersectional feminists, wherein the conservatives claim that intersectionality is the ‘highest form of victimization.’ However, the modern intersectional feminists are unfazed by this labeling of them and are raising their motto of ‘The future is female and intersectional’ with pride. Thus, like every popular movement aimed at bringing about revolution and change, this movement is receiving its fair share of applause and criticism as well.
Apart from its pioneer Kimberly Crenshaw, there are many other well-known faces associated with this movement. These range from the host, actress, and YouTuber Franchesca Ramsey to the globally known actress Emma Watson and the actress cum philanthropist Rosaria Dawson.
To conclude, my thoughts on this movement are that if this approach is to work, women and men all across the globe first have to fathom the depth of the systemic disadvantage faced by certain women and the ones who do not have to deal with this vicious cycle of disadvantage have to recognize their privilege and stand up for the ones who are stuck in this cycle. Cooperative and supportive gameplay is the only solution to winning this battle, first within this movement and then against the world to claim equal rights. Thus, I would like to end with the words of Kimberle Crenshaw, “If you see inequality as a ‘them’ problem or ‘unfortunate other’ problem, that is a problem.”
Picture credits- https://iwda.org.au/assets/files/intersectionalitystick_ed.jpg