What Does “Intersectionality” Mean?
We all hold different identities, whether we are talking about our race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and many (many) more. Intersectionality refers to how all those individual identities mix and mingle with each other and the people around us, and how that in turn impacts and creates unique forms of discrimination. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to address discrimination that occurs to people holding two or more marginalized identities. According to intersectionaljustice.org, intersectionality “describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination ‘intersect’ to create unique dynamics and effects.” In other words, all our identities are valuable and deserve to be acknowledged when addressing inequality because those identities cannot exist individually or by themselves; they all play a major role in how we experience our daily lives and can impact many layers of discrimination that some people may face.
What is the Importance of Intersectionality?
Understanding how our intersectional identities affect us is imperative to seeking and promoting justice and how we can better understand others. For example, two woman-identifying people have similar gender identities; however, we cannot focus on that identity alone to better understand how they may experience life or varying forms of oppression that they may experience. Based on their multitude of other differing identities, in addition to their one shared one, we are better able to understand and create change for people who hold various identities. If you want an even more concrete example, consider the US pay gap. In the US, women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, this number quickly changes when you factor in additional identities, such as race, and discover that Black women earn a mere 64 cents for every dollar that a white man earns. Because of intersectionality, we can see that two women, sharing that one gender identity, experience different levels and forms of discrimination when other identities are considered, which better highlights the differences in lived experiences due to our intersecting identities.
Why Should We Approach Relationships with an Intersectional Lens?
When considering relationships with others in the world, it is important to think about the various identities that people hold. To understand someone better, we must see the entire picture, rather than focus on one small detail about them. Social justice issues, such as access to resources such as quality education or safe and affordable housing can be better understood when viewing them from an intersectional lens . Celebrating our differences and taking the time to learn about each other is one way we can start having conversations about intersectionality and its role in how we live our lives.
Online Resources – Intersectionality and the Importance of Diversity & Difference
- Global Citizen (information on history & importance of intersectionality)
- Center for Intersectional Justice
Places to find resources and community on campus:
Upcoming Holidays & Observances
December 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – a religious holiday in Mexico commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531.
December 13: St. Lucia’s Day – a religious festival of light in Scandinavia and Italy commemorating the martyrdom of St. Lucia.
December 16 – 24: Las Posadas – a nine-day celebration in Mexico commemorating the trials Mary and Joseph endured during their journey to Bethlehem.
December 18 – 26: Hanukkah – a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for eight days and nights. Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Israelites over the Greek-Syria ruler, Antiochus.