Sexism and patriarchy
in The futures of feminism
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This chapter starts with the ideas of the black American feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw, who introduced the concept of intersectionality in 1989 to expose the invisibility of black women in both feminist and anti-racist theory and politics. The chapter explores the earlier history of the idea, before tracing its movement into mainstream feminist thought and assessing debates around its use and meaning today. It argues against open-ended individualistic approaches that ignore structural forms of power and reduce intersectionality to a bland form of ‘identity politics’. The chapter also argues that, although there are a number of socially significant differences and identities, intersectional analysis should generally focus on the ‘big three’ of gender, race and class, and that women who are multiply oppressed should be at the heart of feminist theory and practice. The chapter concludes with some examples of intersectional approaches in Europe and the UK, focusing on the implications for anti-discrimination legislation and some forms of feminist activism.

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