What is Intersectional Feminism?

Intersectoral Feminism Picture 1

Intersectional feminism acknowledges that the way a woman experiences life is deeply and distinctively influenced by her layers of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, language, class and sexuality. Intersectional feminism recognizes that these identities are lenses through which a woman sees herself and the world around her, it is her personal and individual view on the world.  In an ideal world women should celebrate these parts that make them uniquely whole. Sadly, for many women, society has turned these core elements of being into barriers to equitable and fair treatment and access to opportunity. Intersectoral feminism aims to raise awareness, and ultimately dismantle the reality that systemic inequity is aggravated by each category of discrimination a women experiences.

Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to describe how systems of oppression overlap to create distinct experiences for people with multiple identity categories. Here is a link to a TedTalk where Dr Crenshaw discusses the urgency of using and intersectional approach in all we do.  The Urgency of Intersectionality.

When applying for a job; a white woman is at a disadvantage because of her gender but has the advantage of race. A black woman will be at a disadvantage compounded by her gender and her race when applying for the same job. A Latina lesbian is likely to experience even further discrimination because of her ethnicity, her gender and her sexual orientation.

Author Lori Waxman gives these more famous examples, “Minh Khai was killed by a French firing squad in 1941 not because she was a woman but because she was a bourgeois Vietnamese woman deeply involved in an anti-colonial revolution. Marie Laveau, a vodou practitioner and madam living in antebellum New Orleans, was obliged by state law to tie her hair up in a tignon headscarf not because she was a woman but because she was a free woman of color.”

Like the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Women’s Centres Connect practices “an intersectional approach to feminism and pursuing gender equality. That means we try to understand the many ways women are affected by barriers and discrimination that go beyond their gender.” When we deliver programming and services we recognize and celebrate the cumulative layers women have, and we advocate and lobby we raise awareness about these social and systemic biases that prevent women from reaching their potential.