As we celebrate the progress made by amazing women across the globe this Women’s History month, we also would like to spread the message of Intersectionality. This recap of the month of March will demonstrate how you can apply intersectionality in the future.

First, What is Intersectionality?

Gender identity is only one piece of the complex puzzle that defines who we are. Factors like race, class, sexual orientation, disabilities, body size, age, transgender, and cisgender identity, and age work alongside gender to determine the experience of feminine people in society.  

As such, it is essential to understand the impact of these factors on feminine people in order to create the most equitable feminism possible. This is known as intersectionality.

As we reflect on this past month, it is vital to use an intersectional lens to better understand how a variety of factors have impacted feminine people differently over time.

History of Intersectionality

In the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, the plaintiff argued she had been discriminated against by General Motors both for being a woman and being black, making it highly difficult for herself and other black women to gain employment. The court ruled that she could not have been discriminated against for both reasons.

Scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw disagreed. In her eyes, factors like race often overlapped with gender to create even more profound discrimination for certain women.  In 1989, Crenshaw coined this school of thought as intersectionality.

Intersectionality can be seen throughout history, even before it gained an official name, and it is still relevant today. 

Take these two all-too-common examples:

  1. The pay gap is more pronounced for women based on their race.  
  2. Transgender women and women of color are more likely to be the victims of LGBTQ+ murders.

These are two examples of issues today, but intersectionality touches every issue facing feminine people today simply because there is such a great diversity of perspectives represented.

Intersectionality Today

International Women’s Month has historically been sponsored by the United Nations, presenting a new theme each year. The 2022 theme perfectly encompasses the idea of intersectionality: “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope, both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, courageous women faced tremendous risks each day as healthcare and essential workers. High-risk women, those suffering from pre-existing conditions, also faced extensive difficulties that surpassed in many ways those of normal risk women.  For feminine people facing domestic violence, the pandemic proved especially difficult.   Intersectionality allows us to see that these women had other factors that made their experience different from other feminine people. When we understand the disparity in the experience of feminine individuals based on their background, race, religion, etc., we can be better allies to our communities.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, an American attorney currently awaiting Senate confirmation to sit as a Supreme Court Justice, has marked this past month as the first black woman nominated for this prestigious role.  For comparison, the first caucasian woman to serve as a Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, was appointed in 1982. Most relevant, however, was the manner in which Congresspeople questioned Jackson during the confirmation, which was noticeably more scrupulous than other female counterparts, such as Amy Coney Barrett in 2020.  These discrepancies highlight how valuable intersectionality still is today. Judge Jackson’s experience before the U.S. Senate is indeed tied to her race—not just her gender—and is met with discrimination, hostility, and bigotry.

This month, we celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout history. Moving forward, we should all strive to use intersectional history to improve the quality and inclusivity of our own feminism. The fight for gender justice cannot wait, but to move forward, we cannot leave anyone behind, and so we must continue to teach and advocate intersectionality every month—regardless of whether it is Women’s History Month or not.

Today, on the last day of Women’s History Month, we carry this with us, determined to continue making modern feminism an inclusive and equitable movement for all people.