It took Kimberlé Crenshaw, an esteemed civil rights advocate and law professor, about 60 seconds to lay out the importance of “intersectional feminism” on Friday ― and the internet could not get enough of it.
Intersectional feminism examines the overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination that women face, based not just on gender but on ethnicity, sexuality, economic background and a number of other axes.
Crenshaw introduced the concept of “intersectionality” to feminist theory nearly 30 years ago in a seminal paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, describing the “intersectional experience” as something “greater than the sum of racism and sexism.”
On Friday, during a panel discussion at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, she gave a gloss on intersectionality in a way that made clear the immense value of the concept.
“There are many, many different kinds of intersectional exclusions ― not just black women, but other women of color,” Crenshaw said. “Not just people of color, but people with disabilities. Immigrants. LGBTQ people. Indigenous people.”
“The way we imagine discrimination or disempowerment often is more complicated for people who are subjected to multiple forms of exclusion,” she continued. “The good news is that intersectionality provides us a way to see it.”
Crenshaw noted some of the ways in which intersectional feminism helps activists advocate for women of all backgrounds and identities.
“When we advocate for violence against women to be eliminated on campuses, we say, ‘Well, actually, it’s not just on campuses we have to worry about.’ We might have to worry about high schools,” Crenshaw said. “We might have to worry about police precincts and cars. We might have to worry about public housing.”
“We might have to broaden our scope of how we think about where women are vulnerable,” she added, “because different things make different women vulnerable.”
Supporters on Twitter were quick to praise Crenshaw’s words of wisdom: