Discrimination and oppression are not singular systems. Instead, multiple factors simultaneously interact to produce systems of injustice and inequality. Race, gender expression, class position, sexuality, religion, nationality, age, and ability are some of the factors that interact and produce intersectional, simultaneous, and complex structures, manifestations, and processes of discrimination against women.
Importantly, intersectionality calls attention to the multiple grounds of identity and the variety of configurations of sexist oppressions. Even as intersectionality is a productive lens for thinking about the complexities of identity and inequality, it is also crucial to recognize intersectionality as a non-binary concept, one that moves beyond black/white, straight/gay, cis/trans oppositions. In other words, history, location, and power relations are also factors that inform identities, oppressions, and privileges.
Intersectionality emerged from revisionist feminist critiques that argue gender is only one category that informs the unequal status of women. Feminist women of color—dating as far back as Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)—helped to clarify the diversity among women, that women are not homogeneous, and that one form of gender discrimination or oppression is often shaped by other kinds.
Watch: Kimberle Crenshaw “Intersectional Feminism” (Lafayette College, 2015)
Notably also, black feminists in the 1970s associated with the Combahee River Collective described intersectionality as “simultaneity,” the ways in which simultaneous influences of gender, race, class, and sexuality inform experience.
Racism cannot be separated from the gender oppression women of color face. Similarly, homophobia and heteronormativity inform the sexism lesbians confront, just as housing and healthcare discrimination, economic injustice, and homophobia compound the challenges facing transgender people.
Read: Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” Stanford Law Review 43 (July 1991).
Daisy Hernandez and S. Bushra Rehman, eds. Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism (2002)
Sonia Shah and Yuri Kochiyama, eds, Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire (1999)