Kimberle Crenshaw – #WomenWhoLead: Powerful Women Changing the World

This is part of the #WomenWhoLead campaign! During Women’s History Month is featuring powerful women who are making a difference in their fields, inspiring the next generation, and changing the world for the better. These fierce feminist icons advocate for gender equality, challenge sexism, fight the patriarchy, and empower women everywhere to live their dreams.

Who is Kimberle Crenshaw?

You may not be familiar with the name Kimberle Crenshaw, but you’ve definitely heard the term she coined: intersectionality.

Kimberle Crenshaw is a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, famous for the development of Critical Race Theory, and a for being a leading voice in the fields of gender, racism and law. Her work on intersectionality became popularized in 1989 when she wrote about it in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum. The paper discussed the way that traditional feminism has excluded black women and does not acknowledge the overlapping forms of discrimination.

What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. It acknowledges all the different forms of discrimination and they way that they are compounded with one another. For example, a white woman faces discrimination because she is a woman; a black woman faces discrimination because she is black and because she is a woman; a queer, black woman faces discrimination because she is queer, because she is black and because she is a woman.

While the term was originally expressed on behalf of black women, it has now come to represent so many different groups of people fighting for recognition and acknowledgement within various movements. As Crenshaw continues to point out in her current work, sexism and racism are not the only forms of discrimination a person might face. Class oppression, transphobia, and able-ism are just a few of the many types of discrimination. By developing the theory of intersectionality, Crenshaw gave people a way to talk about and frame their experiences.

A Lasting Legacy

Kimberle Crenshaw will be remembered as someone who made the world a better place for women, people of color and others on the margins of society. Her research and writing are so influential that South Africa used her work in the equality clause of their constitution. She continues to teach and speak all over the world and is a champion for gender and racial equality.

Notably, the work that Crenshaw has done and continues to do has led to so much positive change and progress within the feminist movement. Thanks to her, feminism is becoming a more inclusive movement where women of color, transgender women, poor women, queer women, immigrant women and everyone in between can have a chance to speak up and tell their stories.

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