Throughout this semester, we have looked at several concepts that shape and help us to understand what is going on in our world regarding sex and how we view it. However, I believe the most important concept that we have studied to be intersectionality.
As people who exist in this world, we all hold multiple identities that shape us and inform how we view humankind. However, identities do not just consist of your race, gender, age, or sexuality. Identities also include your occupation, religion, nationality, political affiliations, athletic positions, and organizational positions. Each of these identities intersects with the others and complicates how we view ourselves and the world around us.
The concept of intersecting identities is the most significant when taking into consideration the identities that are in opposition to the dominant culture, and are thus oppressed and discriminated against within our current society. For example, it may be concluded that two identical woman can possibly have similar experiences to one another, specifically in terms of experiencing sexism. However, when comparing a black woman and a white woman, it should be concluded that they do not necessarily experience everything – namely sexism – in the same ways. For the black woman, her experiences will include racialized sexism that the white woman will never know from firsthand knowledge. Moreover, the experiences of a black woman and a Latino woman will also differ; even though they are both racial minorities, the different histories of their racial backgrounds impact their lives and the discrimination that they face in distinct ways. These nuances are only multiplied when other marginalized identities – non-heterosexuality, disability, immigrant status, etc. – are present in conjunction with one another.
The concept of intersectionality is so important because no one on this planet lives a single-issue life. Everyone experiences different levels of privilege and oppression based on the specific identities that they hold. While a white lesbian woman may enjoy some of the privileges of being white in a white dominated society, she is also disadvantaged in that she experiences sexism (because she is a woman) and homophobia (because she is lesbian). Furthermore, when specific spaces are taken into account, certain disadvantages in the larger society can turn into privileges. For example, while being a lesbian is a marginalized identity in our society, it is a privilege in the LGBTQIA+ community because she is not bisexual (a marginalized identity within a marginalized community).
Because there are so many ways in which different people move throughout the world and so many ways in which they experience this movement, one cannot use one concept alone to analyze how the world is or how people view it. Intersectionality is important because we all have complex identities, and as such, a complex concept is needed in order to encompass all of these possibilities.