Kimberlé Crenshaw: Intersectionality and Gender Equality | Summary and Q&A

March 14, 2016
Southbank Centre
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Kimberlé Crenshaw: Intersectionality and Gender Equality


Intersectionality is a framework that examines how various forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism, intersect and compound each other, leading to unique burdens for individuals who experience multiple forms of discrimination.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did intersectionality emerge as a framework for understanding discrimination?

Intersectionality emerged as a framework in response to the unique challenges faced by black women who experienced exclusion and discrimination due to both their race and gender. It aimed to draw attention to and address the overlap of multiple forms of discrimination that were not adequately addressed by existing feminist and anti-racist movements.

Q: How does non-intersectional feminism and anti-racism reinforce each other?

Non-intersectional feminism historically relied on racial hierarchy in arguments for women's rights, reinforcing the exclusion of women of color. Similarly, anti-racist advocacy that neglects questions of patriarchy perpetuates gendered power imbalances. By reinforcing each other, these movements fail to address intersecting forms of discrimination, further marginalizing certain groups.

Q: How does intersectionality address the invisibility of certain forms of discrimination?

Intersectionality highlights the experiences and vulnerabilities of individuals who are subject to multiple forms of discrimination but may be overlooked or marginalized within non-intersectional frameworks. By acknowledging and centering these experiences, intersectionality aims to bring attention to the hidden dimensions of discrimination and advocate for more inclusive support.

Q: What are some examples of intersectional failures in contemporary society?

One example is the "My Brother's Keeper" program, which focuses on men and boys of color and underachievement without addressing racism or racial power. This exclusivity neglects the experiences of girls and women of color who face similar structural problems. Another example is the disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates of black girls in schools, which often go unnoticed due to the focus on black boys. These instances illustrate the need for intersectional approaches in addressing discrimination.

Q: How does intersectionality shed light on the experiences of women of color in cases of sexual and state violence?

Intersectional analysis highlights the specific vulnerabilities faced by women of color in cases of sexual and state violence. It calls attention to the fact that women of color often face unique challenges, such as being less likely to be believed or receiving lower sentences for perpetrators, which may go unaddressed within non-intersectional approaches. This understanding emphasizes the need to widen the scope of anti-violence movements to encompass the intersectional dimensions of these issues.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Intersectionality was developed to address the overlapping and compounding discrimination faced by black women in employment contexts, where they were excluded due to both their race and gender.

  • Non-intersectional feminism and anti-racism often reinforce each other, as feminist arguments historically relied on racial hierarchy and anti-racist advocacy neglected questions of patriarchy, perpetuating unequal power dynamics.

  • The failure to have an intersectional politics leads to the exclusion of certain groups, such as girls and women of color, from discussions on racial and gender abuse, resulting in unseen vulnerabilities and diminished support.

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