Intersectionality: definitions, videos, and links

Kimberlé Crenshaw on The Urgency of Intersectionality

“Intersectionality” is a concept that a lot of people — including me, when I first heard it — find challenging to really understand.

The definition is actually fairly straightforward. Merriam-Webster has a very pithy version:

When forms of discrimination combine, overlap, and intersect

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Intersectionality is a term coined by American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.

And M-W’s Words We’re Watching page has a short history of the word

The term was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in a 1989 essay that asserts that antidiscrimination law, feminist theory, and antiracist politics all fail to address the experiences of black women because of how they each focus on only a single factor. Crenshaw writes that “[b]ecause the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.”
Though originally applied only to the ways that sexism and racism combine and overlap, intersectionality has come to include other forms of discrimination as well, such as those based on class, sexuality, and ability.


Still, even once you know the definition, the concept itself is subtle and complex, and the implications are very far-ranging. If you want to understand it better, you really need to dig into it. So here are some videos and links.

  • Ange-Marie Hancock’s Intersectionality: An Intellectual History is a deep dive into the background of intersectionality’s histories, genealogies, and meanings — including a lot of attention to precursor work by bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, the Combahee River Collective, and others. Jennifer Nash’s detailed review in Hypatia is a good overview.
  • And speaking of bell hooks, her public dialog with Laverne Cox at New School (from 2014), is as insightful as it is entertaining.

These links only scratch the surface. outstanding Intersectionality 101: A Reading List has tons of worthwhile links to books, academic articles, blog posts, and videos (including several more by Kimberlé Crenshaw). And there’s lots of other good stuff out there as well … if you have some favorite links, feel free to share them!

A stick figure, with arrows pointing to it saying race, education, sexuality, ability, age, gender, ethnicity, culture, language, and class
Image: a stick figure with arrows and text illustrating different dimensions (race, eductation, sexuality, ability, age, gender, ethinicity, culture, language, class). source: All Booked Up

Originally published at A Change Is Coming.