Over the past month, we have explored one particular aspect of intersectionality: race. But race is just one way that women can experience either further oppression or greater privilege. Intersectionality, a concept first introduced by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, encourages feminists to consider how there are many issues that impact women on top of sexism — including race, sexuality, gender identity, religion, disability status, and age.
To include all women in our struggle for equality, we must first understand how these different identities intersect — so that we can be sure to include each of them in the goals of our movements. We are highlighting a few of these identities here, but there are many others, and we encourage you to explore those as well.
Similar to how men have the privilege to operate more freely in the world than women, white or white passing women have more freedom and privilege than women of color. Women of color can face unique and further oppression due to the intersection of both racism and sexism. While we discussed the societal barriers that women of color face in a previous blog post, “The Impact of Gender-Based Violence on Women of Color,” this oppression can affect every aspect of their lives.
Women with disabilities face challenges that women without disabilities may never contemplate. They may struggle to find appropriate work, housing, or transportation, and may have difficulty obtaining access to services and other necessities. Considering how women with disabilities are impacted by different issues in feminism — such as health care — is necessary to be truly intersectional.
Religion can intersect with gender oppression among different religions as well as within a single religion. Christianity is the predominant religion in the United States, and non-Christian women can face further oppression because they are marginalized as a gender and as a person of faith. In particular, Muslim women in the United States may face persecution because of their religion. Women can also face oppression within her religion, especially if the religion reinforces a patriarchal structure in which men hold power and women are largely excluded and oppressed.
Traditional gender roles marginalize women as well as members of the LGBTQIA community. In both cases, the focus and value placed on straight, cisgendered men result in the exclusion of other genders and sexualities. Women of the LGBTQIA community can face even further oppression because they are marginalized for how they identity as well as who they love.
In our youth-obsessed culture, aging can strip women of further rights. Older women can be viewed as too mentally and physically fragile to have a professional career. Likewise, older women can be stereotyped into a “grandmother” role of being nurturing and maternal in a way that older men are not. Conversely, younger women are often not taken seriously because of their youth, creating a world where women are rarely — if ever — considered the “right” age. Just like any other identity, we should consider how ageism further oppresses women.
Through exploring how just a few identities intersect with gender, the importance of intersectional feminism as well as how oppression can combine and interact among identities becomes exceedingly clear. Again, these are just a few of many identities, and each of these identities can intersect with one another as well as gender. Oppression does not occur in a vacuum. If we truly want equality for all women, regardless of her race, age, religion, or sexuality, we must educate ourselves and others on the importance of intersectionality.
Why Intersectional Feminism Matters