Women of Color in ELT

Intersectionality: Not a Term to Recenter Whiteness


The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

I believe “Intersectionality – working with and through our diverse multiple identities” is problematic on so many levels.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a Black feminist, civil rights activist, and critical race theory scholar, coined intersectionality because white feminism excluded Black women’s oppression.

In this blogpost, intersectionality has been whitesplained, whitewashed, and “reframed” from a white male privilege perspective without acknowledging that not all intersections of identity are equal, especially when whiteness intersects as whiteness does not let individuals experience the full impact of oppression and erasure uncovered by intersectionality, and instead toxic “positivity” in the name of neurodiversity has been suggested.

We need to ask:

Why is the intersection of maleness and whiteness driving this analysis and reframing and not the intersection of being a woman and a Black or Person of Color?

According to Crenshaw, “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where *power* comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects“ (source: Click here). There is no discussion of *power dynamics* in this blogpost.

Black activists and activists of color, such as Rachel Cargle, Ebony Janice Moore, Dr. Nelson Flores, have constantly reminded us of the fact that concepts developed by Black and People of Color are often co-opted by white people to re-center whiteness, and intersectionality is one of these concepts as “many white people have divorced it from its roots in Black feminist theory to analyze their multiple identities with no analysis of oppression” (Flores, 2018, click here). I believe this is what has happened in “Intersectionality – working with and through our diverse multiple identities” blogpost and the authoritative universal voice —white male subjectivity masquerading as non-racial and neutral objectivity—has been re-centered.

Final words:

Follow Kimberlé Crenshaw on Twitter at @sandylocks and subscribe to Intersectionality Matters! (@IMKC_podcast), a podcast hosted by Crenshaw herself.

Dr. Parisa Mehran 

Born and raised in Tehran, Parisa Mehran holds a BA in English Language and Literature, an MA in TEFL, both from Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran, and a PhD in CALL from Osaka University, Japan. Her research interests include CALL and Social Justice and Equity Studies (SJES) in Education with the focus on Anti-racist Feminist Pedagogy. She currently teaches part-time at several universities in Japan.

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