Part Two (Women’s Rights)- Intersectionality, Race and Gender: Understanding how Race and Socioeconomics affect Women’s Life Experiences

Intersectional Theology: A Prophetic Call for Change--

By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

This is the second article in our series on women’s rights, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1919. The bill officially became law throughout the United States when Tennessee adopted the legislation in 1920. In our last post we gave a brief history outlining the nearly century long struggle women underwent to finally gain the right to vote in 1920. We left off with the discussion of how a woman’s race or socioeconomic background can cause her to have less opportunities than others; or better put, experience the world differently than others. This is an idea known as intersectionality. This article will continue that discussion and examine how a woman’s position or positionality in society can affect opportunities and resources she has access to. Those influential factors might include race, economic level and other aspects that often cannot be changed. The term was coined by Kimberly Crenshaw in her 1991 work entitled “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Crenshaw is critical of mainstream feminism and explains how the movement overlooked the specific challenges of women of color. She states that her objective in the essay was to “explore the race and gender dimensions of violence against women of color.” Crenshaw goes on to say that “Contemporary feminist and antiracist discourses have failed to consider the intersections of racism and patriarchy.” Merriam-Webster dictionary defines interestionality as  “The complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

How do Girls and Women of Color Experience Society? How do Poor Girls of Color Experience Public Education?
As educators enter their classrooms, how often do they consider that a student of color might experience the world and the classroom in a different way than those of the dominant race? Or a student of low socioeconomics might experience the world in a fundamentally different way than someone from a middle or upper class background through no fault of her own. For example, a female student that is a Mexican immigrant will experience the world differently in many ways from their white counterpart. She might experience hardships because of language, lack of financial resources, social struggles of adjusting to American schools or probably worse of all, she may experience racial prejudice because of her ethnic background.

The womanist tradition (Developed by Alice Walker in 1979 in her short story, “Coming Apart.”) came about because many scholars did not feel that mainstream feminism addressed the distinct and unique challenges that women of color underwent. Womanist scholars argue that women’s rights and issues should not be painted with such a broad brush. Another example of intersectionality is the experience of an African American student at a predominantly white high school; their plight will be different from their white counterparts. Often when people in society see black women they read all sorts of stereotypes into who they are. People may perceive them as not being intelligent, sexually promiscuous, dishonest or mean and violent. This negatively affects how they experience the world.  Furthermore, if the African American student is from a low socioeconomic background they may not have access to the same resources as their fellow students; which may include not having money for field trips, necessary equipment and items for extracurricular activities, school supplies and money for breakfast or lunch. Another particularly disturbing example of the impact of intresectyionality is the frequent disappearance of Native American women due to sexual assault and violence. This is a contemporary challenge that is unique to American Indian women. Read further about the topic in this CNN article on the disappearance of Native Women.

Below we have provided some lessons and resources to assist students and teachers in gaining a deeper understanding of how intersectionality affects all of our lives.

Lesson Plans/Resources 
Understanding Intersectionality: Lesson Plan | Dolores
Teaching at the Intersections: Honor and Teach About Your Students’ Multiple Identities
Intersectionality Activities
Exploring identity and intersectionality in poetry – Lesson Plan
Resources for Teaching and Learning About Intersectionality
Crash Course in Intersectionality
Kimberlé Crenshaw Instructors’ Guide: Free Resources on Intersectionality, Criticial Race Theory across Disciplines
Lesson Plan: An Introduction to Intersectionality
Calculator: Intersectionality Score Calculator

Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color
By Kimberlé Williams-Crenshaw

What’s Intersectionality? Let These Scholars Explain the Theory and Its History By Arica L. Coleman
Why Black Feminism & Womanism? By Alice Walker

Discussion Questions
In what ways might other women experience the world that is different from the way you experience it?
As a teacher, how would you approach the topic of intersectionality in your classroom?
What resources from above do you find most helpful?
Why is the topic of intersectionality so important to the cause of women’s rights? 


  1. In the beginning of the feminist and suffrage movements, it made sense to lump all women together, an entire half of a population denied basic rights, it made sense to fight for these causes together, and we still must fight feminist causes together, the difference being that we now must recognize the difference in fights, the intersexuality as this article mentions. Now the sexism women face can no longer be painted with such a broad brush because now we have the ability to look at more specific issues, whereas when the movement first came into fruition women had to focus on basic rights. I liked this article because as a middle class white woman myself, I think many middle class white women in particular tend to not understand or get upset when they become excluded from the conversation, but we must understand that the fact we are now able to look at sexism not only broadly, by race, by socioeconomic standing and other specific sections of feminism it means that we have progressed. It is also a bit odd to me to think that other parts of someone’s life does not affect another, of course a gay woman, a trans woman, a poor woman, a black woman and so on and any combination of would all experience sexism differently and face other hardships on top of it, and I think to ignore these so you are not excluded from the conversation is only hurting and contributing to the very thing you are fighting against. Overall, I think this article does a good job of explaining intersexuality in the feminist movement and why it is important to the movement.

  2. I think intersectionality is a topic that is not discussed often enough. I feel as though in today’s society few people realize how all these topics can interact with one another and so greatly change the way one is seen in their society. Most importantly, however, how they’re effected by their resources and/or lack of in not just academic aspects but throughout other aspects as well such as basic necessities and healthcare. I agree that often times women’s issues are painted with too broad of a brush, however, I think this also happens with many other issues nowadays.

  3. The second article dove deeper into the different parts of women rights by breaking it up into race. All women need more social justice, but this article explains that there needed to be more done for the women of color it the feminist movement. The Feminist tradition was made to address unique situations of women from different backgrounds instead of grouping all women together.

  4. The topic of intersectionality is important when discussing women’s rights and feminism. This is because, though all women experience some forms of sexism, their struggles are not all the same. Women of color are subject to much more discrimination than white women. With this, to properly fight for women’s rights, individuals must understand and address the different levels of discrimination that occur as a result of intersectionality.

  5. By reading part two, I learned that women’s fight for equal rights is not only a fight for gender equality but a fight against intersectionality as well. Women of all color and class experience discrimination at different severities. Women’s fight for equality will continue to be an ongoing issue until we also fight for women of color and women who are part of the lower class. It will always be an ongoing fight until we put an end to discrimination against gender, race, and class.

  6. Female is the only marginalized group I belong to. I am in the dominant group in every other category I can think of. I am white, middle class, and Christian. Although I face some hardship being female, so many women have to deal with very different challenges in their life. I have never experienced racism, I have access to a good school and all of its resources, and I have never faced persecution or judgement for my religious beliefs. I could go on forever about all of the challenges and limitations I don’t have because of my positionality. It is very important that intersectionality is considered in the fight for women. If it isn’t, people may never hear the voice of women of color, they may never consider what women in lower socio- economic statuses face, they may not realize that the problems of women in every social group are specific, and they all need to be addressed. Not just the problems of middle to upper class white women. Teachers should tell their students about intersectionality and give real examples of how social groups can affect how people are treated. The more people are aware of the problem, the more can be done to solve it.

  7. I think a common thread which runs through this article and our college course is understanding that everyone you come across has a life in which you could never truly understand unless you were them. Concepts like intersectionality are so vital to understanding no matter where you are, but especially for those in the field of education. Much like doctors, we are sworn to an oath to teach our kids, to guide their minds, and help them discover a new world and knew them through the help of our teaching. Understanding that they have each been given a life unique to only them is an important step to completing and honoring that oath throughout your career and is vital to their and your own growth.

  8. Intersectionality is an important topic to be talked about, especially in educational institutions. Most people who aren’t minorities are not even aware of this term. It’s so important to realize how much this can have an impact on a female in school. The stereotypes she has to face, and how it can even be worse coming from a lower socioeconomic background. It’s also very important as a future educator myself, to take into considerations how people of color face different hardships in school. They see the world a bit differently than their white counterparts.

  9. Intersectionality is probably something many people, who aren’t a person of color or identify as a female, don’t think about. So I think bringing it into the classroom needs to be done, sooner than later. After looking at the resources posted, the one I found most helpful (and the one I would personally use first in the classroom) is the Crash Course in Intersectionality. The fight for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is ongoing, and one action we can take is educating our students on it. I believe that will make a world of difference, even if it doesn’t feel like a huge step in this battle.

  10. I love this extention to the first article. Its so important to see that women rights is not only a fight of gender equality but also a fight within gender dependingon race and background. As a white woman I still see the struggle for equality in multiple places, the biggest being the work place. I know my friends and adult women of color have an even harder time than me. While women having the right to vote was and still is a huge step in equality and women’s rights, the fight is still going on today.

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