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Intersectionality Concepts and Theories

1571 words (6 pages) Essay in Sociology

08/02/20 Sociology Reference this

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Intersectionality is an analytical framework used in the liberal studies discourse to describe the overlapping nature of social identities to the disadvantage of the marginalized sections in the society. In essence, the interlocked nature of social identities perpetuates inequalities and related oppression. Kimberle Crenshaw first coined the term ‘Intersectionality, American civil rights advocate and a critical race theory scholar in her article “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Crenshaw used the term to demonstrate the manner in which African American women experienced extensive discrimination based on both sexism and racism in complex ways. A black woman would be discriminated by being black and a woman, as opposed to a white woman whose discrimination would be premised on her gender as a woman. Many people consider Intersectionality as only useful in understanding oppression and inequality, overlooking the fact that it forms and instrumental framework for understanding and dismantling (McCall, 2008).

Intersectionality offers an important tool for addressing oppression in society by offering a framework for the creation of common ground to deliberate social differences and similarities between individuals (Yuval-Davis, 2006). It recognizes the fact that in the face of multifaceted identities there lies similar attributes, shared values, and experiences. For instance, various shared components and experiences of religion, language, age, gender, and heritage may prevail above racial differences. Therefore, intersectionality should not always be viewed from the perspective of understanding oppressions and inherent differences between individuals. People bond over shared experiences and values, and implication that it is possible to find common ground regardless of the varied social identities. As reiterated by Nash, acknowledgment of the differences in marginalized groups offers a sense of validation and awareness capable of fueling sociopolitical change to address discrimination and inequalities (2008).

Groups, grounds, identities, and Intersectionality

The non-discrimination view of intersectionality offers an instrument in the minds of an individual to challenge the unequal treatment of people. Intersectionality insists on the inherent self-worth of everyone in the society and their equal self-worth. Intersectionality makes the existing economic and social activities to pass muster in justification of ethics. The analysis of intersectionality looks at the identification of differences in treatment, the explanation of the differences, and how to condemn them (Crenshaw, 2018). However, the difference of treatment from one group to another shows both injustice to a particular group and lack of openness in the society.

Regardless of whether there exist differences in traits among the people in a society, intersectionality insists that all individuals should have equal treatment. Groups that share the same traits or identities can trigger positive reactions and outcomes. Intersectionality presents two overlapping reasons as to why people should oppose exclusion and discrimination. First, there is the ethical importance of keeping the lives of people discriminated (Anthias, 2013). Secondly, deals with the idea of an open and thriving society. A society should serve the active purpose of respecting the rights of individuals.

Markedly, intersectionality focuses on the importance of every individual in a society regardless of their traits. Intersectionality offers a broader strategy to create awareness of the shared similarities and values thus help in fighting discrimination. There are several ways that individuals can define or label themselves. Even though intersectionality shows that there are multiple ways of oppressing people, it also shows that there are multiple ways for an individual to relate to someone else. For instance, women can relate well when they discover that they have the same age, they are married and they can be mothers (Crenshaw, 2018). Everyone has several identities, and instead of using them to separate themselves, they should use them to look for similarities.

Traditional NonDiscriminatory View of Intersectionality

The traditional analysis of intersectionality focuses on the discrimination of individual groups in the society and forgets their similarities. The traditional analysis overlooks the ambient or background “political economy” of bias or hatred in the society. Specifically, it focuses on the surface but does not look at what causes the accumulated disadvantages of exclusion and discrimination. An individual can look at the surface manifestation of the discrimination without dislodging them. Put differently; intersectionality portrays that successful removal of discrimination is the society starts from deeper soul-searching on the root causes of discrimination (Nash, 2008). People forget that they have multiple similarities and they, therefore, should not discriminate others regarding color and other aspects.

Additionaly, the traditional analysis does not look at the socio-economic effects or determinants of exclusion and discrimination. In the long term, the traditional analysis does not reach the broader socio-economic strategies that can liberate the people with disabilities from a disadvantaged condition. The non-discrimination frame tries to be synchronic, examining the treatment of a particular group relative to a different group (Crenshaw, 2018). There are a few links between non-discrimination and social justice. After all, the modern analysis of intersectionality welcomes positive action measures to resolve the systemic cause of discrimination. Also, intersectionality leads to the creation of reasonable accommodation that stretches in the positive obligation direction.

Consequently, the non-discrimination analysis shows the circular nature of intersectionality. The traditional analysis does not portray how people can identify and figure out the difference, how they determine the difference and the type of move deemed necessary to take regarding the difference. The focus in the traditional analysis is on the inherent differences and oppression is circular in that it leaves room for importing prevailing assumptions about traits such as disability and color. Rather than providing deep self-questioning occasions, it affords to allow prejudice to pretense as deliberative judgment.  The circular nature does not flush out the bias but can give it a chance to renew itself periodically (Nash, 2008). There is nothing necessary in the case, but it reflects poorly on the process of judging thus people fail to see the discrimination hence assume differential treatment as normal. It is prudent to look at the similarities that people have and why they should be treated with equality rather than  look at why they discriminated.

What Offered in Intersectionality

Intersectionality acts as a remedy to ground-centric or the uni-centric way of shaping reality experienced in the traditional analysis. Most people assume that intersectionality is a tool for creating awareness of the accumulated disadvantages that individuals go through. The individuals could be those who have disadvantages and overlapping identities such as gender, disability, and race. Intersectionality also advocates for the designing of programs intended to remedy cumulative disadvantage (Yuval-Davis, 2006). The society needs to avoid discriminating people on certain grounds or falling to a certain group of disability.

The analysis of intersectionality from shared attributes, shared values and experiences acts as a remedy to the creeping hierarchies of the discriminated. There is no difference between individuals discriminated on the ground of race and those discriminated on the ground of age. The awareness of intersectionality can help increase sensitivity in the administration of justice. The emphasis on intersectionality helps people understand justice from the perspective of social justice and the civil rights perspective (Yuval-Davis, 2006). Intersectionality tries to make people understand that there is a deep nexus between the economic, social, and cultural rights and the independence of political and civil rights.

People must understand that there are different means through which intersectionality offers a solution for a well-known-problem of discrimination. Intersectionality focuses on some of the issues that affect the oppressed people and offers a solution in different ways. People who look at intersectionality as a way of dismantling discrimination may not have a clear understanding of what it is. Pointing out that the analysis of intersectionality from a different perspective is important in understanding how it can support society (Anthias, 2013). The analysis of intersectionality regarding the shared attributes of individuals in a society can aid to a greater level in solving the issue of oppression.


A clear understanding of intersectionality can help people understand some of the partiality in the society. Intersectionality should help lead people to a more self-conscious treatment of individuals of particular groups with disadvantages. People should not overlook the significance of intersectionality in forming a contributory basis for understanding and dismantle discrimination. Every individual in a society has similar attributes in society hence should use these similarities to identify themselves with others and avoid exclusion and oppression of the disadvantaged.  Shared values such as age, language heritage, and gender can prevail above differences in race. People should view intersectionality as a tool of bonding people due to their shared experiences regardless of their identities in society.


  • Anthias, F. (2013). Intersectional what? Social divisions, intersectionality and levels of analysis. Ethnicities, 13,1, 3-19.
  • Crenshaw, K. (2005). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color (1994).
  • Crenshaw, K. (2018). On intersectionality: The essential writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw (p. 320). New Press.
  • McCall, L. (2008). The complexity of intersectionality. In Intersectionality and Beyond (pp. 65-92). Routledge-Cavendish.
  • Nash, J. C. (2008). Re-thinking intersectionality. Feminist Review, 89, 1, 1-15.
  • Yuval-Davis, N. (2006). Intersectionality and feminist politics. European journal of women’s studies, 13, 3, 193-209.
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