Intersectionality Lacks Individuality

Denoting Intersectionality to a Few Vectors Makes Inclusivity Harder to Achieve For An Array of Individuals and Not Just Marginalized Groups

Defining intersectionality is a relatively difficult task. It’s vague, paradoxical, and pervades scholarship on a number of levels. But for the sake of this piece and for the sheer understanding for potential new readers, intersectionality is popularly understood as the vector between race, gender, and sexuality whilst being used to combat exclusivity. However, using only a few vectors of intersectionality further marginalizes people and assembles groups relating to highlighted experiences of oppression. In order to fight against marginalization due to the common practice and understanding of intersectionality as a few vectors, the term needs to be surveyed with multiple lenses/vectors from an array of individual people instead of classifications of people. Doing so will resist exclusivity while simultaneously achieving inclusivity.

The coined term ‘intersectionality’ was created by critical race theorist, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Her piece titled, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”, emphasizes that feminist and anti-racist discussions have failed to identify intersectional identities within marginalized communities. Though her work specifically highlights violence against women of color, she denounces that the understanding of vectors of only race and gender further demonstrates the failure to capture diverse experiences.

According to a piece titled “re-thinking intersectionality” by Jennifer C. Nash, many theorists believe that intersectionality is an important theoretical contribution because it’s a

“multi-disciplinary approach for analysing subjects’ experiences of both identity and oppression” (p.2).

It must be noted that classifications of people whether based on gender, race, or sexuality, does not mean that every individual within that classification is the same. So, why do so many theorists tend to classify people as one and the same typically on identity and oppression? An example of this is exposed through Nash’s piece:

“Black women are treated as a unitary and monolithic entity” (p.8).

This means that black women are classified as one single group and lack diversity among experiences. The vectors commonly used to shape black women’s experiences usually revolve around race and gender. But, there are missing vectors that should also help shape black women’s and other individual experiences. By including additional vectors to the very definition of intersectionality, resists exclusivity. It should be understood that no two experiences are the same. Real and diverse experiences can be effectively theorized if additional vectors of intersectionality were used.

Drawing from my own experiences as a marginalized individual, it appalls me that my life story as a Mexican-American woman living in America, is highlighted as a struggle only on the basis of my race and gender. But, what about vectors such as class, age, education, and privilege? Truly, the list can go on. I would like to think that these vectors play a part in expressing my experience by not solely using my race and gender as a scheme. If I or others were to only theorize my experience based on my race and gender, intersectionality theory would be exceedingly vague since there are an abundance of other people with the same reduction. By not discussing the several other vectors that make up the real and true lived experiences, there is a lack of individuality which in turn rejects inclusivity.

Steve Williams, author of “What Is Intersectionality and Why Is It Important?”, stresses the significance of intersectionality in relation to highlighting the multiple struggles that people face. In Williams’ piece, he uses an example of how intersectionality while seen through many lenses, assists with modern civil rights movements. The multiple vectors/lenses used to highlight the experiences of those involved in civil rights movements, further minimizes exclusivity. His quote,

“recognizing its uses and limitations does help us to ensure that we aren’t overlooking the challenges people belonging to multiple minorities face as we move toward the goal of a fairer and more equal society.”

further argues the idea that understanding intersectionality as multiple vectors will make society inclusive and equal.

To clarify misconceptions about intersectionality, it should be understood that:

  1. Intersectionality can be used as an effective tool to further theoretical works.
  2. Intersectionality should include multiple vectors outside of race, gender, and sexuality.
  3. Viewing intersectionality through these multiple vectors/lenses makes shared experiences individualistic, inclusive and informative for an array of people.

Of course intersectionality and it’s multi-dimensional features are open for interpretation. But, from additional rationale from authors such as Crenshaw, Nash, and Williams, further makes viewing intersectionality through multiple lenses that much more significant for theorizing individual experiences. No one person is the same, and neither are their experiences.