4.4.3 Intersectionality


While the early feminist movement did make major strides in the political, economic, and social opportunities available to some women, a closer look reveals which women were prioritized, often at the expense of others. Indeed, the feminist movement in the United States held racially segregated marches and at times employed white supremacist arguments. At international gatherings, feminists from the Global North prioritized family planning and culturally-limited notions of female agency over the more pressing needs of their sisters in the Global South. In these cases, “women” was really read to mean the “unmarked” white women, or Global North women.

The term “intersectionality” was developed by U.S. lawyer and critical race theory professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It describes how identity hierarchies overlap to structure a person’s lived experiences. For this learning material, first watch Professor Crenshaw’s 2007 presentation, above, at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, before moving on to the UN Women’s page on intersectionality.


Guiding Questions:

  1. What two dynamics of oppression made Black women in the United States have to wait over 45 more years than white women to gain the unimpeded right to vote?
  2. Crenshaw describes a dynamic in which efforts to improve the well-being of a group (in this case, women) ignore, or even victimize, a sub-group that is further marginalized because of another identity hierarchy (here, women who are also Black). Do you see similar dynamics in your community?
  3. What would it mean, in your case, to start with the needs of the most marginalized sub-group?


Read: Intersectional Feminism // UN Women


Guiding Questions:

  1. Describe the overlapping dynamics of oppression faced by one of the women featured in the article.


For more on intersectionality, we recommend you explore the resources at Racial Equality Tools.

Thumbnail: Intersectionality graphic by Sylvia Duckworth. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.