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If you're an avid feminist you will likely be familiar with the terms “intersectionality” or “intersectional feminist”. While these words have only been added to the Oxford Dictionary in the past decade, they’ve been around since the late 1980s. Kimberlee Crenshaw first coined the term “intersectionality” back in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics intersect and overlap with one another - saying that "all inequality is not created equal".

People are multidimensional beings with different experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, identities, characteristics and circumstances that all coexist. Social characteristics, financial status, ethnicity and nationality can be attributes that one person can inhibit and yet, experience collectively. The overlapping of collective attributes can lead to the amplification of discrimination and marginalisation. For example, a cis-white man who is able-bodied may experience homelessness - but when we look at a woman of colour who is also a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or a trans woman living with a disability - there are multiple facets of marginalised experiences that intersect with characteristics already subject to discrimination, therefore exacerbating the chances of facing prejudice and mistreatment. Even cis-white women who face gender inequalities still maintain some privilege above intersectional identities wherein experiences of discrimination are disproportionate.

In our fight for a better and more equitable world - we cannot leave anyone behind. This is why when considering solutions to eliminating sexism, racism, ableism and any form of discriminatory behaviour, it is crucial to look at it with an intersectional lens in order to effectively work toward equal change. These “isms” all aid and amplify each other, but the riddance of one doesn’t simply abolish the others.

When fighting for our own voice and rights, we need to fight for everyone's voice and rights and recognise that it’s also a process of standing alongside those whose voices have been silenced and ignored. In order to achieve equal reform, we must be aware of intersectionality. Increasing awareness means more education on the ways in which highlighting intersections impacts us all. We cannot achieve equality or create long-lasting change with feminism if we are only fighting for one group. True reform demands that you cannot fight for rights unless you include those that are left out of the picture.

In 2023, we are witnessing exactly why we need an intersectional lens and focus. The current attacks against transgender people, gender non-conforming people, drag queens, women’s reproductive rights, disabled communities, Indigenous people and many other groups have seen their rights revoked, threatened and debated without including those who are directly impacted. Australia currently has no formal human rights enshrined except for the five which are mentioned within the Constitution. These are the right to vote (Section 41), protection against the acquisition of property on unjust terms (Section 51 (xxxi), the right to a trial by jury (Section 80), freedom of religion (Section 116) and prohibition of discrimination on the basis of State of residency (Section 117). These rights are limited, creating unease and instability for those who are marginalised. The protection and ratification of more diverse human rights within Australia are desperately needed.

The way to move forward, protect at-risk groups and prevent any future discrimination or harm, is to ensure we use an intersectional approach within our education systems, institutions, workplaces, communities and political agendas. This would pave a way for a better, safer and more inclusionary future where we can all benefit from the diverse experiences that will enrich our lives for generations to come.


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