In honor of Black History Month, this post is focused on Intersectional Feminism. More specifically, this post will highlight the contributions of a Black Feminist and her work on establishing and creating the theory of intersectionality.
What is intersectionality? Intersectionality is the understanding that everyone has a unique personal identity as well as a unique experience. The Oxford Dictionary states that intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” A more simplified way to state this is intersectionality is how the marginalized factors that make up a person's identity, such as racial or ethnic background, gender, and socio-economic status, impact peoples’ lives and provide them with privilege or oppressions. Intersectionality is directly tied to an individual’s experience in the world and how systemic oppression affects individuals socially, mentally, and physically.
The Combahee River Collective is the first known organization of Black women to craft the idea and theory of intersectionality. Intersectionality and Intersectional Feminism were only established in the late 1980s to early 1990s, making both theories more recent parts of history. However, even though they were only coined roughly 30 years ago, there have been many intersectional feminists before the terms were officially coined. Angela Davis is a prime example of a Black woman fighting for intersectional feminism before the term ever existed formally. The Black woman who took significant strides for the movement of intersectionality and intersectional feminism was Kimberle Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and a legal scholar who coined the term “intersectionality.”
Intersectional feminism is a feminism that encapsulates and appreciates every unique personal identity that women can have. Feminism in itself promotes the end of systemic oppression that women face. However, women of different backgrounds suffer from many different forms of oppression, as well as the number of oppressive systems they are suffering from at once. Intersectional feminism celebrates people typically left behind in the feminist movement, such as non-cis gendered women, Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color. As women of a Mercy education, we must strive to be intersectional feminists to end the oppression of all women and ensure everyone’s safety, opportunity, and future.
Read on to learn more about Intersectional Feminism!