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Intersectionality: what it means and why it matters so much

Intersectionality is essential: especially when it comes to sexual wellness. Let’s find out more about what it is and why it is so necessary.

By Giada | 30 September 2021
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How well do you know your intersectionality? The word intersectional is often used alongside the word feminism. As a company that strives to make sexual wellness better for everyone, we believe it’s paramount to take on an inclusive approach and gain an understanding of what intersectionality actually means, and why it’s so very necessary.

First thing first: intersectionality is essential, especially when it comes to making sexual wellness better for everyone. There is no equality without intersectionality. It must be known that everyone belongs to several social categories, and these categories are related to one another. Intersectionality considers the individual’s multiplicities; it is therefore a key concept for civil movements and identity politics that fight for equal rights. Let’s try to start a conversation around intersectionality by looking at some key points:

#1 Intersectionality: a definition

INTERSECTIONAL adj. [comp. of inter – and section] – which concerns several sections together or takes place between several sections.

Formal definitions aside, the term is and can be used in many different ways:

The first and most common way is in relation to dynamics between the “big three” social categories: gender, ethnicity and class.

It can also be used to indicate gender or sexual identity, and thus everything that involves its expression and orientation of attraction.

Last but not least, another way is to highlight other diversity factors such age and disability.

The concept of intersectionality is very broad and inevitably includes every person’s singularity as before. At the same time, intersectionality wants to problematize the distinctions and overcome the so-called categories.

#2 Feminist and anti-racist origins

Intersectionality owes a lot to feminist and anti-racist history and we must always remember why.

Let’s go back in time all the way to 1851, at the Women’s Convention in Ohio. There, Sojourner Truth, a well-known exponent of the anti-slavery movement, gave her iconic speech, Ain’t I a Woman?, which can be considered as the very first example of an appeal to intersectionality. One through which a woman asserted her gender and ethnicity. Proudly.

Throughout the decades, many female activists took inspiration from Sojourner Truth’s speech. Amongst more recent sources is a manifesto written sometime between 1974 and 1980 by Combahee River Collective, a collective of US-based black lesbian feminists. The text underlines the importance of uniting all the struggles that exist around oppression, racism and identity.

In more recent years, the best-known female advocate for intersectionality is Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. An African-American jurist and activist, she has used her vast experience within feminist and anti-racist movements to reflect upon the place of individuals within groups of power.

Crenshaw highlights three dimensions to always keep in mind when talking about differences and discrimination:

  • the multiplicity and plurality of differences
  • simultaneity of oppressions and the refusal to create a hierarchy among them
  • the need to pay attention to the context and position of the subject in a given place and time

Any issue that involves women and minorities has always required a collective effort. The only way these battles can be fought successfully is if every single one of us is involved.

#3 Intersectionality always.

When we talk about sexual wellness, education and freedom, we must always consider that representation and discourse can’t be considered truly collective unless they come with a strong intersectional vision. If we strive to include all “levels of differences”, the possibilities are endless.

It’s often easier to think that our differences bring us apart. But it’s precisely all this diversity that can eventually bring us closer and stop us from approaching distinctions as potential problems. Even in terms of sex!

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