theoretical framework of multidimensional oppression

Intersectionality is the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination.

It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather the security of any one particular difference. ~ Audre Lorde

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links

  • [W]hile intersectionality is a good tool to orient empirical analysis, since it prevents any sort of reductionism (e.g. class or race being the factor that explains everything), there is the risk of losing something about the specificity of women’s oppression. If all forms of oppression are meant to intersect with one another, does it even make sense to speak about ‘feminism’? If lists are ever expanding, what is so specific about women’s condition? What are we saying when we say ‘women’? Is that word not in itself surreptitiously suggesting a heteronormative gender distinction between women and men that can itself be a source of oppression for those who identify themselves as neither men nor women? Can we talk about the specific condition of women, and justify a distinctively feminist position, without falling into the trap of heteronormativity or, even worse, essentialism?
    • Chiara Bottici (2017), "Bodies in Plural: Towards an Anarcha-feminist Manifesto", Thesis Eleven 142(1), p. 95.
  • The refusal to allow a multiply-disadvantaged class to represent others who may be singularly-disadvantaged defeats efforts to restructure the distribution of opportunity and limits remedial relief to minor adjustments within an established hierarchy. Consequently, “bottom-up” approaches, those which combine all discriminatees in order to challenge an entire employment system, are foreclosed by the limited view of the wrong and the narrow scope of the available remedy. If such “bottom-up” intersectional representation were routinely permitted, employees might accept the possibility that there is more to gain by collectively challenging the hierarchy rather than by each discriminatee individually seeking to protect her source of privilege within the hierarchy. But as long as antidiscrimination doctrine proceeds from the premise that employment systems need only minor adjustments, opportunities for advancement by disadvantaged employees will be limited. Relatively privileged employ- ees probably are better off guarding their advantage while jockeying against others to gain more. As a result, Black women — the class of employees which, because of its intersectionality, is best able to challenge all forms of discrimination — are essentially isolated and often required to fend for themselves.
  • People who live in the cathedrals of intersectionality — the nation's most progressive campuses and corporations — report that they risk their careers if they dare dissent...

    [T]here's something different about intersectionality. The virus has jumped from patient zero and is spreading like wildfire in blue culture. And it’s spreading in part because it is filling that religion-shaped hole in the human heart...

    Smart people know religious zeal when they see it...

    Interestingly, however, the emphasis on experiential authority applies mainly to the experience of leaders and activists. Their experiences give them very real power. Their experiences define the narrative. Contrary experiences, then, represent a threat that must be extinguished. Dissenting women (such as Christina Hoff Sommers) or dissenting people of color often find that they’re vilified, shamed, and “no-platformed.” For the in group, it’s easy to see the appeal of the philosophy. There’s an animating purpose — fighting injustice, racism, and inequality. There’s the original sin of “privilege.” There’s a conversion experience — becoming “woke.” And much as the Christian church puts a premium on each person’s finding his or her precise role in the body of Christ, intersectionality can provide a person with a specific purpose and role based on individual identity and experience. The faith is fierce. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is the norm. Debate and dialogue are artifacts of scorned “respectability politics.” I’m reminded of the worst sorts of fundamentalist Christian sects, the kind that claim to take the Bible literally yet live as if mercy is alien to Scripture and that commands to “love your enemies” or “bless those who persecute you” somehow fell off the page. In the church of intersectionality, grace is nowhere to be found. Indeed, you can often prove your faith through your ferocity. The right amount of rage, properly directed, can cover a multitude of sins. Do you wonder why the high priestesses of intersectionality — the leaders of the Women’s March — won’t condemn Louis Farrakhan? Because he’s been fighting their version of the good fight for generations. He’s an ally. He’s made all the right enemies.

  • [In intersectionality] the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.
  • Feminist thought and practice were fundamentally alltered when radical women of color and white women allies began to rigorously challenge the notion of "gender" was the primary factor determining a woman's fate. I can still recall how it upset everyone in the first women's studies class I attended—a class where everyone except me was white and female and mostly from privileged backgrounds—when I interrupted a discussion about the origins of domination in which it was argued that when a child is coming out of the womb the factor deemed most important is gender. I stated that when the child of two black parents is coming out of the womb the factor that is considered first is skin color, then gender, because race and gender will determine that child's fate. Looking at the interlocking nature of gender, race, and class was the perspective that changed the direction of feminist thought.
  • Being women together was not enough. We were different.
    Being gay-girls together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black women together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black dykes together was not enough. We were different.

    Each of us had our own needs and pursuits, and many different alliances. Self-preservation warned some of us that we could not afford to settle for one easy definition, one narrow individuation of self. At the Bag, at Hunter College, uptown in Harlem, at the library, there was a piece of the real me bound in each place, and growing.

    It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather the security of any one particular difference.

  • Women’s studies has long constructed black feminism as a form of discipline inflicted on the field and has imagined black feminists as a set of disciplinarians who quite literally whip the field into shape with their demands for a feminism that accounts for race generally, and for black women specifically. Of course, in an account where black women’s primary labor is to remedy—and perhaps even to save—the field from itself, ... once the field has effectively reconfigured itself, black feminism is imagined as no longer necessary or vital. Nowhere has this simplistic construction unfolded more visibly than in the context of intersectionality.
  • The emergence of the "post-" links both transnationalism and intersectionality to a kind of past tense. ... If the past tense of these terms is, in part, secured by "newer" work that challenges the hegemony of these terms, it is also secured through the fantasies of "political completion" that have swirled around the terms. ... The impossibility that any analytic can perform or produce "political completion" means that both intersectionality and transnationalism have been bemoaned and criticized for what they cannot ever accomplish. ... Because both analytics have been posited as correctives, both are imagined as exhaustible or finite. ... This conception of these analytics is at odds with the analytics themselves, both of which call for ongoing feminist engagements with questions of power, dominance, and subordination.
  • Intersectionality is a substitute religion. Lack of faith doesn’t always make people secular. It often makes them seek out substitutes which provide some of the same things found in traditional religions, i.e. an all-encompassing view of the world, a sense of right and wrong, a place in which they belong and feel at home, etc.. [T]hose are real human needs that almost everyone feels in some sense or another. Intersectionality is just a new faith on the scene, one that seems to appeal to a lot of young people on the far left.
  • Many activists who have heard the term "intersectionality" being debated on the left have found it difficult to define it--and for a very understandable reason: Different people explain it differently and therefore are often talking at cross-purposes. For this reason--along with the fact that it is a seven-syllable word--intersectionality can appear to be an abstraction with only a vague relationship to material reality. It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss the concept out of hand. There are two quite distinct interpretations of intersectionality: one developed by Black feminists and the other by those from the "post-structural" wing of postmodernism. ... Black feminist tradition advances the project of building a unified movement to fight all forms of oppression, which is central to the socialist project--while post-structuralism does not.
  • Intersectionality is a concept, not a theory. It is a description of how different forms of oppression--racism, sexism, LGBTQ oppression and all other forms--interact with each other and become fused into a single experience. ... Intersectionality is another way of describing "simultaneity of oppression," "overlapping oppressions," "interlocking oppressions" or any number of other terms that Black feminists used to describe the intersection of race, class and gender.
  • Because intersectionality is a concept (a description of the experience of multiple oppressions, without explaining their causes) rather than a theory (which does attempt to explain the root causes of oppressions), it can be applied alongside different theories of oppression--theories informed by Marxism or postmodernism, but also separatism, etc. Because Marxism and postmodernism are often antithetical, their specific uses of the concept of intersectionality can be very different and in very different and contrary ways.
  • It is important to challenge the idea held by many critics--some Marxists among them--that the Black feminist concept of intersectionality is just about the experience of racism, sexism and other forms of oppression on an individual level. The Black feminist tradition has always been tied to collective struggle against oppression--against slavery, segregation, racism, police brutality, poverty, sterilization abuse, the systematic rape of Black women and the systematic lynching of Black men.
  • Intersectionality is a concept for understanding oppression, not exploitation. Many Black feminists acknowledge the systemic roots of racism and sexism, but place far less emphasis than Marxists on the connection between the system of exploitation and oppression. Marxism is necessary because it provides a framework for understanding the relationship between oppression and exploitation and also identifies the agency for creating the material and social conditions that will make it possible to end both oppression and exploitation: the working class. Workers not only have the power to shut down the system, but also to replace it with a socialist society, based on collective ownership of the means of production. Although other groups in society suffer oppression, only the working class possesses this collective power. So the concept of intersectionality needs Marxist theory to realize the kind of unified movement that is capable of ending all forms of oppression. At the same time, Marxism can only benefit from integrating left-wing Black feminism into our own politics and practice.
  • Although Black feminism and some currents of postmodernist theory share some common assumptions and common language, these are overshadowed by key differences that make them two distinct approaches to combatting oppression. Thus the concept of intersectionality has two different political foundations--one informed primarily by Black feminism and the other by postmodernism. More recent evolution of the post-structuralist approach to identity politics and intersectionality, which has a strong influence over today's generation of activists, places an enormous emphasis on changing individual behavior as the most effective way to combat oppression. This has given rise to the idea of individuals "calling out" interpersonal acts of perceived oppression as a crucial political act. More generally, intersectionality in postmodern terms, even among those who have no idea what postmodernism is.
  • Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation. It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably...

    Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all.

  • Intersectionality's greatest flaw is in reducing human beings to political abstractions, which is never a tendency that turns out well—in part because it so severely flattens our complex human experience, and therefore fails to adequately describe reality. As it turns out, one can be personally successful and still come from a historically oppressed community—or vice versa. The human experience is complex and multifaceted and deeper than the superficial ways in which intersectionalists describe it.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: