Why we need to talk about intersectionality

Gwenyth Withers


In the first instalment of our new series At the Intersection, Gwenyth Withers looks at what intersectionality is and why it's important to talk about.

I'm a disabled person who exists within multiple minority groups. I understand intersectionality because I live it. But a couple of critical incidents made me realise that many people don’t. With this series, I want to walk you through what intersectionality is, and why it's important.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how social identities overlap. It looks at ways discrimination interacts with this. It was a concept coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar, in 1989. It sought to understand how systems of power can oppress and disadvantage people.

The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage."

How does intersectionality impact an individual?

I realised that many LGBTQIA* venues are inaccessible, for one. I noticed it was harder to access medical care for my friends of colour and those who identify as trans. Their disabilities went undiagnosed or unsupported. I also found that I was ignored or underestimated as a disabled woman.

A lot of people have never considered what it means to exist within different minorities at once. To fix this I came up with At the Intersection. This will be a series of personal stories and articles that tell you about these experiences. 

Why is intersectionality important?

Those who have intersectional minority identities are often more vulnerable. They are more at risk of hate crimes and what are known as microaggressions. These are small actions that make you feel excluded because of who you are. 

If we want our culture to be inclusive, we really need to understand intersectionality. We need to know what it means to be part of more than one minority group. 

Somebody who exists at the intersection of protected and/or minority identities is more at risk of prejudice. These identities are inextricably interwoven at points of intersection. They shape the experiences, positive and negative, of each person.

Throughout the coming weeks, At the Intersection will explore the intersectional experience. We'll be sharing stories and resources on our website and social media. So, keep your eyes peeled!

The urgency of intersectionality

Kimberlé Crenshaw discusses the urgency of intersectionality in the video below.

Share your intersectionality story

If you would like to share your story too, please get in touch with us. We'd love to hear more. You can get in touch via our social media channels or through our Contact Us page