‘Intersectionality’ is a bit of a buzzword. But there’s quite a lot of confusion buzzing around with it, so I’m going to try and break it down as simply as I can.
Intersectionality is the idea that all different types of identity (like gender, race, class, etc.) intersect to form different, overlapping systems of oppression. To simplify, if you add yellow to blue you get green – a whole different color. If you take the oppression experienced by a black women because of her race (lets call this yellow) and add it to the oppression experienced because of her gender (lets call this blue), you get something different: intersectional oppression (green!). It’s key to note here that you don’t get some kind of weird yellow and blue mishmash, rather that they blend to form green – just as different kinds of oppression blend together to form something different. It’s actually pretty simple.
However, intersectionality is sometimes used to (further) exclude people. Like this…
That’s not useful. But the concept of intersectionality is – it’s used to better understand systemic oppression, and the experiences of other people. People who experience intersectional discrimination are often even further discriminated against because of this intersectionality. Wikipedia puts it quite well: “because laws and policies usually only address one form of marginalized identity but not the intersection of multiple oppressed identities, intersectional identities often go overlooked. Since these identities are overlooked, there is a lack of resources needed to combat the discrimination, and the oppression is cyclically perpetuated.”
Another important takeaway from intersectionality is that there is no hierarchy of oppression, that is, no one kind of oppression is better or worse than another – rather they all work together and intersect and overlap. In the same vein, you can’t just solve one type of oppression on its own. As Audre Lorde wrote, “any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black”. Acknowledging the intersections of oppression is key to addressing and solving the issues that all oppressed groups face – we are way too different to have one-fix-all solution per oppression type!
I think that understanding intersectionality is important (and it’s a fairly logical concept). But we definitely don’t need to spread any more hate or exclusion because of it! Lets spread education instead 🙂