Inclusive Langauge Series: Intersectionality

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 like 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

Places to find resources and community on campus

Upcoming Holidays and Observances

January 25: Mahayana New Year — A Buddhist Observance. In Mahayana countries the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January. (This date varies from region to region.) Celebrated in East Asia: China, Japan, Korea Thursday
January 25: Tu B’Shvat — A Jewish Observance. New Year’s Day for Trees, and traditionally the first of the year for tithing fruit of trees. Now a day for environmental awareness and action, such as tree planting.
January 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day — Annual day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust coinciding with the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.