Introduction

The term ‘Intersectionality’ was first introduced by Kimberle Crenshaw when she was describing the problems faced by black women while seeking employment in the United States. This theory is an offshoot of the feminist movement and arose as a result of rising criticism of the feminist and anti-racist movement in 1960s and 1970s.

The problem Crenshaw pointed out was that black women were being slotted either as being black or as being a woman but never identified as being a mixture of both. Feminist movements fought against oppression of women while the anti-racist movement fought against the oppression of racial minorities. Crenshaw argued that no one was considering what it meant for a black woman in the United States. These black women were being oppressed at two levels, one they were black and other because of their gender. Their race was clashing with their gender and if they were lesbians, the clash was with their sexuality as well.

Intersectionality

Air/Dollar Photo Club

Intersectionality

It rejects the notion that the social world views humans as belonging to either this or that category. The theory says that race and gender categories cannot be homogenized. An individual can fit into two or more social categories and therefore he should be understood in reference to all the categories. One isolated social category does not define a person.

The example of a four way intersection is used to depict the above argument. In a traffic junction where four roads meet, the traffic is flowing in different directions. If a lady crossing a junction is hit by two or more vehicles, each coming from a different direction, she is sure to be injured badly. At this point it is difficult to pinpoint which vehicle is responsible for which injury on the ladycaught at the intersection.

Similarly the theory says that a black woman could suffer as a result of sex discrimination or race discrimination because they were at the intersection where both the forces of gender and race operated. This intersection of multiple social categories (race, gender, class, sexuality) causes more severe damage. A black woman cannot be placed in the same level as a black man or a white woman. Intersectionality recognizes these differences and the changing circumstances that we live in. This leads to the enrichment and enhancement of the categories to which we belong.

Intersectionality refers to the processes through which multiple social identities intersect, affecting the life of individuals and groups. These intersections are referred to as the intersection paradigm, interlocking systems of oppression, multiple axes of inequality, race- class gender matrix, the intersection and Intersectionality.This theory identifies the variety of ways in which men and women are positioned socially and explores the relationships between the variety of social dimensions to which they belong.

This theory is a threefold theory

  1. The theory of marginalized subjectivity (refers to the social exclusion of individuals)
  2. The theory of identity (shows how identity is constructed at the intersections of social categories)
  3. The theory of the matrix of oppressions (shows how oppression takes place)

There are three types of Intersectionality

  • Structural Intersectionality refers to how the social systems in which we live or the social categories to which we belong intersect, to oppress us or at times influence our experiences in life
  • Political Intersectionality refers to the silencing of individuals at the intersection of various social categories from expressing their views. This is because each social category to which they belong will have its own political agenda and they are caught at the crossroads. Therefore a minority student may not speak up for or against gay and lesbian rights for fear of offending either of his social categories
  • Representational Intersectionality refers to the presence of multiple stereotypes in cultural presentations like music and films that affects individuals for whom two or more negative stereotypes are applicable. Eg. A song that degrades women and condemns immigrants

Intersectionality is famous in communication studies because it gives an in-depth understanding of the interplay between various social categories and communication.

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