Tackling Feminist Theory: Intersectionality
The term “intersectionality” was coined by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw in a paper she wrote for the University of Chicago Legal Forum entitled Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. She used the term to explain the oppression of African American Women and finally created the vocabulary to describe a phenomenon Black women have been expressing and fighting against for centuries. Now, 29 years later, Dr. Crenshaw’s once academic term has become the center of policy and social conversations and inspired generations of budding feminist; including myself.
A quick definition of intersectionality is how a person’s subscribed or assigned social categories cross to create their unique lived experiences of oppression or privilege. Crenshaw’s original work centered on how race and gender intersected to create a unique experience for Black women of both racism and sexism and how not acknowledging both, erased Black women from narratives of feminism and antidiscrimination doctrines. Now, 29 years later, intersectionality is used to describe the lived experience of many marginalized people and feminism has become more inclusive because of the recognition of the manifestations of sexism along a spectrum of different people.
My first encounter with the concept of intersectional feminism was my sophomore year of college (2016). It was the first time I had the vocabulary to describe how Black Women have historically faced pressures and discrimination from outside and within the Black community and how that differed from the experiences of White Women. Intersectional feminism is the reason Mother Wit Blog is vitally important. I’m not only giving a voice to Black Women who have made large contributions and have gone unrecognized but I am also acknowledging the added sexism Black heroines have had to surmount in order to make a mark on History. This blog is also a chance to highlight the vulnerability African American Women have faced, and overcome, because of gender.
In this video Margo Jefferson, a former Theater critic for the New York Times and current professor at Eugene Lang College at the New School in New York City, describes the intersectional plight of Black women and how it affected Women during the Civil Rights Movement. This video is phenomenal because it touches upon the history and struggle women have faced within and outside of the Black community when trying to penetrate circles of political activism. She also goes into detail about the history of the image of femininity and how Black women have been excluded from it. She says “we got none of the benefits of being a woman…[but] we got all of the liability.”
When looking at the material on Mother Wit Blog consider the intersectional experiences of the Black women highlighted in our stories.