The concept of intersectionality arose in the late 1980s and is associated with third-wave feminism. Intersectionality criticised previous forms of feminism for ignoring black and working-class women’s experiences of patriarchy.The concept of intersectionality arose in the late 1980s and is associated with third-wave feminism.
Intersectionality criticised previous forms of feminism for ignoring black and working-class women’s experiences of patriarchy. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, when showing how black women were oﬅen marginalised by both feminist and anti-racist movements because their concerns did not ﬁt comfortably within either group. She argued in 2015 that intersectionality ‘has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to ﬁght for their visibility and inclusion’.
In recent times, often described as the era of post-modern feminism, many critics have suggested that feminism has tended to be a largely white, middle-class, one-size-fits-all movement. They point out that women from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds face very different problems. For example, the oppression faced by black women is different in character from the experience of white women.
The same may be true of gay women, women from low-income families and women from minority religions or other ethnic groups. This has led to the idea of a very segmented movement and the philosophy behind it is known as intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. She pointed out that in modern society, we all have multiple identities and gender is only one of them. While gender is important, it is not the only identity we have.
Traditional feminism suggests that gender is everything, but this is a false perspective on women. The black American feminist bell hooks (she gives her name lower-case first letters) (1952–) stresses race as a key identity and insists that the battle against racism must go hand in hand with the battle against sexism.
She expresses this clearly in her book Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics (2000):
‘We knew that there could be no real sisterhood between white women and women of colour if white women were not able to divest of white supremacy, if the feminist movement were not fundamentally anti-racist.’
The implication of this is that there needs to be a black feminist movement, a gay women’s movement, a working-class feminist movement and so on, recognising the multiple identities women have and therefore the complexity of the oppression they face.