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Intersectionality a useful concept in describing oppression along multiple axis.  Let’s cue up Kimberle Crenshaw who coined the term for a little more background.

“The term intersectionality theory was first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.[3] In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other.[19] Crenshaw mentioned that the intersectionality experience within black women is more powerful than the sum of their race and sex, and that any observations that do not take intersectionality into consideration cannot accurately address the manner in which black women are subordinated.”


On to what Carly Thomsen says:

“I recently asked my students in an upper division Gender and Women’s Studies Feminist Engaged Research course—in which all students are Gender and Women’s Studies majors or minors—a question about that day’s reading we were discussing in class. A student responded with: “It’s all about intersectionality.” My initial question is not particularly relevant, as I have found that students will attempt to answer nearly any question by referencing (the need for and value of) “intersectionality.” I followed up to ask: “What is intersectionality?” My students looked at me blankly. All of my students had been exposed to what they would describe as “intersectionality.” Yet, not one had read the original theory of intersectionality. Not one could accurately describe the theory. Not one had a sense of the genealogy of the term. Not one could think of limits to intersectionality. Some thought that the term refers to moments in which activism and scholarship “intersect,” while others insisted that it refers to the moment when any two or more marginalized identities meet within one person’s life. Not one knew its roots in black feminist theory or critical race theory. I raise this point not because these moments gesture toward some type of feminist pedagogical failure—if only the students learned the material properly!—but because these moments point to the hegemony of discourses of “intersectionality” within Gender and Women’s Studies. In these moments, we can see that, as Ahmed (2012a) suggests, “intersectionality can be used as a method of deflection,” as a way of re-directing attention away from race and racism (195)—and, by extension, from whichever form of marginalization one is working to address—by bringing up other forms of social exclusion. The failure here lies with neither an individual instructor nor student but with a field that has produced so little critical reflection on the limits of “intersectionality” that it figures as that which is largely beyond contest.”

 “Becoming Radically Undone: Discourses of Identity and Diversity in the Introductory Gender and Women’s Studies Classroom” – -Carly Thomsen

   Pay attention when people start throwing the term intersectionality around.  Quite often you’ll see intersectionality thrown at feminists who have the utter temerity to want to discuss issues that concern women directly or who want to centre women in their discourse.  Silencing women, of course, is the goal.

 

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