“Ain’t I a woman?” – Intersectionality as a model of multiple discrimination

Group: Lisa Bennet, Lena Kunert, Pinja Fernström, Anna Majava, Julia Korhonen


The term „intersectionality“ describes a bunch of theoretical attemps to gather the interaction between gender and other factors of social disparities (cf. Lenz 2010: 158).  The argument about intersectionality started around 1970, initiated by black feminists in America. General Motors discharged a multitude of workers, whereby especially black women lost their jobs. The courts holt against the accusations from the discharged women, because General Motors kept on employing (white) women and (black) man, so that the judges could not see any discrimination about gender. The black feminists saw, nevertheless, that those women were not discriminated only because of their gender, but also because of their race. As a result they felt misguided in the debates about (most white) women discrimination and championed the awareness of multicausal segregation factors cf. Crenshaw 1989: 41 f.). For the leader of the stir, judge Krimberly Crenshaw stated : “Black women sometimes experience discrimination in ways similar to white women’s experiences; sometimes thy share very similar experiences with Black men. Yet often they experience double-discrimination – the combined effects of practices which discriminate on the basis of race, and on the basis of sex. And sometimes, they experience discrimination as Black women – not the sum of race and sex discrimination, but as black women.“ (Crenshaw 1989: 44). Thereby the term “Intersection of race, class and sex” was born (cf. Crenshaw 1989: 44), which was expanded later by other categories, like migration, sexuality, religion, age and disabilities (cf. Lenz 2010: 159).

Crenshaw compares intersectionality with a freeway, which interface different inequality factors, that create the moment of discrimination (cf. Walgenbach 2010: 249). To conclude, her model of intersectionality does not include only one factor (like e. g. gender), but different personal backgrounds, which are often misused for discrimination.

The intersectionality concept can be used for analyzing the difficult situation of disadvantaged pupils, because many children are excluded due to their different backgrounds. To increase the awareness of multiple discrimination, teachers should make intersectionality visible and thematize it in the lessons to encourage the development of an atmosphere which is against racism.

Here it becomes apparent, that dealing with the complex mechanism of racism is an important part in the battle against racism both in the society and in schools. Crenshaws model makes a valuable contribution to the work for an inclusive and human society.



Crenshaw, Kimberle (1989): Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”. In: University of Chicago Legal Forum. Vol. 1989, iss. 1, Article 8.

Lenz, Ilse (2010): Intersektionalität: Zum Verhältnis von Geschlecht und sozialer Ungleichheit. In: Becker, Ruth & Kortendiek, Beate (Hrsg.): Handbuch Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung: Theorie, Methoden, Empirie. Band 35. Von Geschlecht und Gesellschaft.

Walgenbach, Katharina (2012): Intersektionalität – eine Einführung. URL: www.portal-intersektionalität.de [last retrieval: 18.10.2017, 7.45 pm].

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