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The Concept of Intersectionality in Sociology

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Intersectionality is probably one of the most complex concepts in sociology. This is because it can always be examined on increasing levels, each person’s individual story adding to the collective. In a subject that tends to look at the macro-level intersectionality forces at least some examination of the micro. Because intersectionality affects every individual in varying ways it hold a magnifier to the concept of difference between people of different identities.

Often times there are calls for everyone to just become one, for example instead of saying I’m Black I would simply say I am American. This reduction of an individual to a monoculture is one of the most pervasive forms of erasure (Siebers). By asking people to redefine themselves based on the overarching dominant culture their own individual narratives are being ignored and equally devalued. The “refusal to recognize differences” only further separates us as a society (Lorde). However, the other side of that issue is that often when differences are recognized they are acknowledged individually creating a reductionist uni-dimensional view of an individual. In fact “reducing people to a single dimension of who they are marks them as other” (Johnson). So to intertwine the two points as a society we must recognize differences; however, we cannot attempt to pick out a particular difference to base everything on. There is a need to understand the intersections of everyone’s identities.

Recognizing intersectionality is important not only for society to better understand an individual and a groups narrative, but also for the individual to get a better grip on their place in society. “Intersectionality allows people to exist in states of both privilege and oppression,” i.e. forcing the individual to understand both sides in society (Johnson). As a woman I experience oppression, as a person of color I experience oppression, but as a heterosexual I experience privilege. By fully embracing the intersectionality of my identities I am able to create a better picture of myself both personally and have a better understanding of the complexity of social systems. I am able to recognize within myself and call other’s attention to the way that “multiple identities—including race, gender and class—limit the entitlement and status individuals receive” (Steinbugler). By doing so people are forced to see how differences interact with each other and how they can help to create a more inclusive society.

Everyone’s end goal is, or at least should be, greater equality and recognizing intersections furthers that process. As a society we often view things as black or white, male or female, homosexual or heterosexual; however, “by examining identity as fields of intersection we can imagine possibilities other than binaries” (Sengupta). Although binaries can seem easier to tackle it often gives way to identity politics with individuals having to pick what matters most and therefore once again resulting in erasure. When operating in binaries it is very easy for “one analysis to deny the validity of another,” meaning that in a white woman’s fight for equality with white men they inadvertently box out the women of color who are also fighting to overthrow the patriarchy (Sengupta). Lorde postulated that by embracing differences and learning from them oppositional sides could be brought closer.

Embracing differences has to be both internal and external. A person needs to understand how their identities intersect with each other in order to better explain their experience to the people around them. From there the same person must be willing to both listen to and attempt to connect with the experiences of the people around them. By finding common ground within differences people going to be able to connect on a deeper level and truly find the root of the issue in a way that will prove to be mutually beneficial.

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The Concept of Intersectionality in Sociology. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-concept-of-intersectionality-in-sociology/> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2021].
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