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March 25, 2024

Have an Intersectional Women’s History Month

As March rolls in, so does Women's History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. However, as we commemorate women's progress, it's crucial to ensure that our celebrations are inclusive and intersectional.

Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, emphasizes the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, and acknowledges that discrimination can't be fully understood without considering these intersecting identities.

This Women’s History Month, join me in exploring the depth of intersectionality and recognizing women's diverse experiences and histories.

The 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The Landscape of Women's History

Women's History Month traces its roots back to the first International Women's Day in 1911 when (white) women's rights and suffrage movements gained momentum. Since then, it has evolved into a month-long celebration in many countries, highlighting women's achievements in various fields, from politics and science to arts and literature.

While this celebration is crucial for recognizing women's accomplishments, it's equally essential to recognize that not all women experience the same privileges and opportunities.

During the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ+ Liberation, and even Migrant Rights, women have been at the forefront of leadership but haven’t always received their due credit. When we apply an intersectional lens to history more broadly, we understand the pivotal role women in the margins of society have played throughout history.

In the context of Western women's history, intersectionality helps illuminate the experiences of women who have been marginalized not only because of their gender but also due to other aspects of their identity. When learning about Women’s History Month, I invite you to ask yourself: is this history lesson intersectional?

Kimberle Crenshaw's Theory of Intersectionality, Visualized by Sylvia Duckworth

Intersectionality: What Does it Mean?

Kimberle Crenshaw has said, “Intersectionality is an analytic sensibility, a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power. Originally articulated on behalf of Black women, the term brought to light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members but often fail to represent them.”

Intersectionality is not the understanding that humans are multidimensional. We are all more than just our gender identity, race, or any singular attribute. That is understood. Intersectionality is "a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it locks and intersects. It is the acknowledgment that everyone has unique experiences of discrimination and privilege (Kimberle Crenshaw).

The Intersections of Power and Privilege, Visualized by Sylvia Duckworth

Intersectionality reminds us that women are not a monolithic group; they encompass a spectrum of identities and experiences. Women of color, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, and women from marginalized communities often face unique challenges and barriers that are often overlooked in mainstream narratives.

For example, the contributions of Black women and femmes to the feminist movement have historically been marginalized despite their pivotal role in advocating for both racial and gender equality.

Here are some of the ways intersectionality illustrates interlocking systems of oppression:

  • Race and Gender: One of the central aspects of intersectionality is recognizing how race intersects with gender. Historically, mainstream feminist movements in the West have often been critiqued for primarily representing the interests and experiences of white, middle-class women. However, intersectional analysis reveals that women of color, indigenous women, and other marginalized groups have faced unique forms of oppression and discrimination that cannot be fully understood through a gender-only lens.
  • Class and Gender: Class is another critical dimension intersecting with gender in shaping women's experiences. Working-class women, for instance, have historically faced economic exploitation and lacked access to resources and opportunities that more privileged women might have enjoyed. The feminist movement itself has often been divided along class lines, with tensions arising between middle-class and working-class women over priorities and strategies for social change.
  • Sexuality and Gender Identity: Intersectionality also considers how sexuality and gender identity intersect with gender to shape individuals' experiences. LGBTQIA+ women have faced discrimination and marginalization both within society at large and within feminist movements.
  • Disability and Gender: Disability is another dimension that intersects with gender, affecting women's experiences in various ways. Disabled women have faced multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization, often being excluded from both feminist discourse and disability rights activism. Intersectionality helps to shed light on the unique challenges faced by disabled women and the ways in which ableism intersects with sexism.
  • Colonialism and Imperialism: Intersectionality within Western women's history also encompasses the experiences of women impacted by colonialism and imperialism. Indigenous women, for instance, have endured not only gender-based oppression but also the erasure of their cultures and the destruction of their lands by colonial powers.

Intersectional analysis reveals the interconnectedness of gender oppression with broader systems of colonial domination and racial hierarchy.

In summary, intersectionality is a crucial framework for understanding the complexities of women's experiences in Western history. It highlights the intersections of gender with race, class, sexuality, disability, and colonialism. By centering intersectionality within the study of women's history, scholars can better capture the diverse realities of women's lives and the multifaceted nature of systems of power and oppression. 

Happy Women's History Month from Raven Solomon Enterprises

In conclusion, Women's History Month reminds us to celebrate women's achievements throughout history while recognizing the ongoing struggles for gender equality. An intersectional approach to feminism acknowledges the diversity of women's experiences and seeks to address the intersecting forms of oppression they face. We can work towards a more equitable and inclusive society for all women by centering marginalized voices and embracing solidarity. 

Enter your text here...Raven Solomon Enterprises is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion education and consulting firm that aims to help organizations integrate DEI through exploration, motivation, and activation. Through a myriad of services (including Keynote Speaking, DEI Learning and Development, Strategic Advisory, and Leadership Coaching), RSE helps organizations make spaces more inclusive.

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Raven Solomon

Raven is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Speaker, Author, & Strategist who helps organizations understand generations, racial equity, and their intersection.

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