Intersectionality Wars

, Leonard Robinson, Leave a comment

Most of us might think intersectionality somehow relates to midtown traffic but academic elites, as they will point out, know better.

Intersectionality is defined as, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”

Tom Bartlett, senior writer for the Chronicle Review, in his article, “The Intersectionality Wars!”, focuses on the theory of intersectionality, once a term familiar exclusively to social science majors and their professors. Bartlett claims that the word has grown in usage from a relic in the halls of social science departments to now being a household word. On Instagram, more than 100,000 photos are tagged with some variation of the term. In addition to this, Huff Post published an article titled, “50 Groups to Learn About if You Are Committed to Intersectional Feminism.”

The concept was discovered by Kimberle’ Williams Crenshaw, a legal theorist and law professor at Columbia Law School and UCLA, during her research on racism and sexism which she claims cannot be viewed independently of one another.

Many argue that the term’s true meaning is not evident in the relatively small buzz that it has garnered. Sirma Birge, sociology professor at University of Montreal, refers to the growing- but small buzz- as “ornamental intersectionality” lacking true understanding of the term’s meaning. Some argue that the term is merely inconclusive. Jennifer Nash, contributor to American Quarterly, made note of ““It’s [intersectionality] histories and origins, its methodologies, its efficacy, its politics, its relationship to identity and identity politics, its central metaphor, its juridical orientation, its relationship to “black women” and black feminism.”

Others, such as Christina Hoff Sommers, claim that the philosophy has grown from an observation to nothing more than an awarding of prestige of the most oppressed. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor, referred to the theory as a “pseudo- academic concept.”

It is fair to say that whether or not we disagree of the merits of the theory, it is probably just a fad among those ensconced in social studies department which have seen significant growth in recent years. American students, now more than ever, are pursuing social science majors causing intersectionality to gain increasing buzz, not based on its merit but simply on the amount of research available on the subject. After all, in the last year alone, 10,000 articles mentioning the term was published along with three books including Kimberle’ Crenshaw’s, “On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” expected to appear May 2018.