Equality for All: Intersectionality

The concept of intersectionality is the intersection of the minority groups, also known as the middle point between minority groups. Intersectionality is a feminist sociological theory first highlighted by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989). Intersectionality is a methodology of studying “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations” (McCall, 2005). Crenshaw expressed this concept to highlight the race and gender oppression amongst the Black women. For instance a woman belonging to a minority group is likely to face more difficulties then a White woman. For example a Black woman may face disadvantages when seeking a job in comparison to White woman. Regardless of the discrimination that happens in society, the courts and police have refused to recognize the discrimination.
The Critical Legal Study is largely a U.S. movement, and was influenced by European philosophers, such as nineteenth-century German social theorists Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Max Weber; Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt school of German social philosophy; the Italian marxist Antonio Gramsci; and Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida (Legal Information Institute, 2013). Critical Legal Study scholars took ideas from diverse fields like social theory, political philosophy, economics, and literary theory. Over time Critical Legal Study has become quite popular and influential along with changing the aspect of legal theory. The upper class used law as a mechanism for oppression and to maintain their hierarchy status. With the Critical Legal Study, the movement tried to overturn the domination carried by the wealthy (Legal Information Institute, 2013). The fundamental idea surrounding Critical Legal Study is that the law is politics not neutral or value free (Legal Information Institute, 2013). With the Critical Legal Study the laws have changed for the better and have benefited individuals in all aspects of life but with that being said it is also evident that discrimination has not been completely eliminated. Minority groups still face discrimination in the workplace; it is not as apparent and harsh as it was years ago. Intersectionality can relate to critical legal studies because both theories are trying to better society but yet flaws still exist. Intersectionality and Critical Legal studies both recognize the existence of complex and intersecting forms of hierarchy, status, and identity.

In 1980, Crenshaw recognized that US law was failing to protect Black women in the workplace, she concluded “the law distinguished between two kinds of discrimination: gendered discrimination and radicalized discrimination. That is, US law distinguished between discrimination against women (on the basis of their gender) and discrimination against Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous people (on the basis of their race)” (Carastathis, 2008, par 2). In Crenshaw’s study, she expressed how Black women were being victimized on basis of gender and race in the workplace. For instance, when a Black woman was seeking a job, she would likely be the last in the group hired while a White woman and Black man would have priority in work places. At these workplaces, employers would decide to lay off individuals, where as the Black women were fired, the reason being their seniority in the company. Since the Black women were the last from the group to be hired they did not have seniority over the other individuals hence were the first to be fired in the company. The process of hiring and firing played a major role in Black women having trouble seeking employment. Due to them being hired last, it only complicated things down the road because they would likely be fired. The group of women, who were discriminated in this company, took this to court but the judge said, “there’s no gender discrimination here because White women weren’t fired. And there’s no race discrimination here because Black men weren’t fired” (Carastathis, 2008, par 2). According to Crenshaw, this case is a prime example of how Black women were discriminated in the workplace and their claims were overlooked by the courts. Regardless of the laws implanted to better society and provide fairness to all individuals, there still seems to be minor issues of discrimination that exists in society.
Carastathis, A. (2008, February 15). Kick Action. Retrieved from http://www.kickaction.ca/en/node/1499
Legal Information Institue. (2013, November 17). Retrieved from Cornell University of Law: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/critical_legal_theory


1 Comment

by | November 21, 2013 · 7:03 am

One response to “Equality for All: Intersectionality

  1. Interesting post.

    You note that “Intersectionality can relate to critical legal studies because both theories are trying to better society but yet flaws still exist. Intersectionality and Critical Legal studies both recognize the existence of complex and intersecting forms of hierarchy, status, and identity.”

    Note that intersectionality is a theoretical concept, whereas Critical Legal Studies is a diverse movement and perspective based on a shared set of ideas and objectives. The key commonality between intersectionality and CLS is the recognition of overlapping and co-constitutive forms of discrimination, inequality, and hierarchy.

    You do a good job of unpacking the case study discussed by Carastathis.

    Question: What problems could a Critical Legal Studies scholar encounter (in research and praxis) if she were unaware of the concept of intersectionality?