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Study Notes

Intersectionality (Feminism)

AQA, Edexcel, IB

Last updated 26 May 2019

Intersectionality refers to the intersection between overlapping social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.

The traditional conceptualisations of social oppression (namely sexism and racism) do not operate independently of each other. Instead, forms of oppression intersect to create a system of oppression. Intersectionality therefore seeks to identify a system of oppression that moves beyond our traditional focus. Crucially, this occurs on a multidimensional basis.

The clear implication behind intersectionality is that there is no singular experience of identity and patriarchy. For instance, rather than seeking to comprehend women’s health via the gender perspective we need to consider other categories of social differentiation such as social class and ethnicity. In doing so, we can establish a deeper understanding of the range of health issues facing women. Intersectionality also claims that distinct forms and expressions of oppression are shaped by one another. As such, to fully comprehend the scale and character of oppression we must investigate the ways in which racialising structures, social processes and social representations are shaped by gender, social class and sexuality.

Historically, intersectionality began as an exploration of oppression against black women, the analysis is also applied to all various categories. The notion of intersectionality thereby focuses upon how various biological, social, religious and cultural categorisations interact on multiple levels. This enables us to recognise the multidimensional basis of social injustice. Intersectionality is particularly appealing to those who do not wish to identify as a feminist. This may well explain its salience amongst contemporary feminists.

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