BookPDF Available

Intersectionality 101

Olena Hankivsky, PhD
Author: Olena Hankivsky, PhD
Title: Intersectionality 101
Publisher: The Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy, SFU
Publish date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-86491-355-5
This publication was made possible in part through funding from the Public Health
Agency of Canada (PHAC). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect those of PHAC.
Cette publication a été rendue possible en partie avec le financement de l’Agence de la
santé publique du Canada (ASPC). Les opinions exprimées dans cette publication sont
celles de l’auteur et ne représentent pas nécessairement celles de l’ASPC.
Interest in and applications of intersectionality have grown exponentially in popularity
over the last 15 years. Scholars across the globe from a variety of disciplines, including
sociology, political science, health sciences, geography, philosophy and anthropology, as
well as in feminist studies, ethnic studies, queer studies and legal studies, have drawn on
intersectionality to challenge inequities and promote social justice. This practice has also
extended to policy makers, human rights activists and community organizers search-
ing for better approaches to tackling complex social issues. Yet most people don’t know
about intersectionality and why it is such an innovative framework for research, policy
and practice.
The aim of this primer is to provide a clear-language guide to intersectionality; we
explore its key elements and characteristics, how it is distinct from other approaches to
equity, and how it can be applied in research, policy, practice and teaching. Most im-
portantly, the primer aims to show how intersectionality can fundamentally alter how
social problems are experienced, identified and grasped to include the breadth of lived
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
The term “intersectionality” was coined in 1989 by American critical legal race scholar
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1989). However, the central ideas of intersectionality have
long historic roots within and beyond the United States. Black activists and feminists, as
well as Latina, post-colonial, queer and Indigenous scholars have all produced work that
reveals the complex factors and processes that shape human lives (Bunjun, 2010; Collins,
1990; Valdes, 1997; Van Herk, Smith, & Andrew, 2011).
As intersectionality has gained popularity, it has been interpreted and discussed in vari-
ous ways – e.g., as a theory, methodology, paradigm, lens or framework. Moreover, many
different definitions have been proposed. In general, however:
PUT SIMPLY: According to an intersectionality perspective, inequities are never the result
of single, distinct factors. Rather, they are the outcome of intersections of different so-
cial locations, power relations and experiences.
Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped
by the interaction of different social locations (e.g., ‘race’/ethnicity, Indige-
neity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration
status, religion). These interactions occur within a context of connected
systems and structures of power (e.g., laws, policies, state governments
and other political and economic unions, religious institutions, media).
Through such processes, interdependent forms of privilege and oppression
shaped by colonialism, imperialism, racism, homophobia, ableism and
patriarchy are created.
Intersectionality 101
• Human lives cannot be explained by taking into account single categories, such as
gender, race, and socio-economic status. People’s lives are multi-dimensional and
complex. Lived realities are shaped by different factors and social dynamics operat-
ing together.
• When analyzing social problems, the importance of any category or structure cannot
be predetermined; the categories and their importance must be discovered in the
process of investigation.
• Relationships and power dynamics between social locations and processes (e.g.,
racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, sexism) are linked. They can also
change over time and be different depending on geographic settings.
• People can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously. This depends on
what situation or specific context they are in.
• Multi-level analyses that link individual experiences to broader structures and sys-
tems are crucial for revealing how power relations are shaped and experienced.
• Scholars, researchers, policy makers, and activists must consider their own social
position, role and power when taking an intersectional approach. This “reflexivity,”
should be in place before setting priorities and directions in research, policy work
and activism.
• Intersectionality is explicitly oriented towards transformation, building coalitions
among different groups, and working towards social justice.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
There have been numerous attempts to try to visually represent intersectionality. These
include: a traffic intersection that depicts intersecting roads of oppression (Crenshaw,
2003), the final product resulting from blending baking ingredients that, like the factors
going into lived experience, are blended together into batter (Bowleg, 2013); the rich,
complex and historically shaped topography of the Grand Canyon (Crenshaw, 2010);
the dynamic reflections in a kaleidoscope (Easteal, 2002); the interconnected swirls of
a marble cake (Jordan-Zachery, 2007); and the unique, compound nature of a fly’s eye,
which is made up of thousands of individual lenses (Weber, 2007).
Intersectionality 101
Similarly, several models have been developed to clarify the essence of intersectionality.
For instance, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
depicts intersectionality in a wheel diagram that captures some of the multi-level di-
mensions of experience that shape social exclusion, from individual identity and circum-
stances, to macro-forces:
Next, Mason (2010) presents an “Intersectional Approach Model for Policy and Social
Change.” This model depicts issues of social change and equality as shaped by intersect-
ing dimensions. The model aims to promote policies that address the social and struc-
tural roots of policy issues:
Intersectionality Displayed
in a Wheel Diagram
(CRIAW, 2009, p. 5)
The Intersectional Approach
Model for Policy & Social
Change (Mason, 2010, p. 6)
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
Others yet, have developed illustrations that aim to make
intersectionality accessible to broad audiences such as
Intersectionality: A Fun Guide, featuring Bob the Triangle.
Finally, Rita Dhamoon’s model of the “matrix of meaning-
making,” (Dhamoon 2011) as depicted by the image below,
is a powerful way to show movement among multiple
processes and structures of power, across time, dimensions
and levels. The image provides us with a “pictoral repre-
sentation of the paradigmatic shift that an intersectionali-
ty-type lens invites” (Dhamoon 2011, p. 238).
From: Jang, G. (2010). A matrix of meaning-making. Uni-
versity of the Fraser Valley, cited in Dhamoon, R. (2011).
Considerations on Mainstreaming Intersectionality. Politi-
cal Research Quarterly, 64(1), p. 238
From Miriam Dobson’s website:
Intersectionality 101
Intersectionality encourages researchers, policy makers and social change leaders to:
• Move beyond single identities or group-specific concerns, which are ineffective in
explaining the nuances of human lives; in this way, important information about the
unfair impacts of politics and policies is less likely to ‘fall through the cracks.’
• Explore new research and policy approaches to understand the connections be-
tween structures that shape diverse populations.
• For example, in Canada increased diversity is driven by immigration trends and
intercultural unions. By 2031, 29-32% of Canadians could belong to a visible minority
group, and 30% will have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French (Statis-
tics Canada, 2010b, p. 1).
• According to the most recent Census data (Statistics Canada, 2011, p. 4), Canada is
home to people of more than 200 different ethnic origins and increasing numbers
are identifying with multiple ethnicities.
• Beyond Canada, there are similar trends of increasingly diverse populations (e.g.,
across religion, culture, ethnicity, race, language, etc.), creating new and complex
challenges in all areas of public policy (In Diversity, 2010; Hedetoft, 2006; Thorud et
al., 2014).
• Generate new and more complete information to better understand the origins,
root causes and characteristics of social issues. This can be accomplished by studying
existing data or by producing new data.
• Enable more effective and efficient responses than a ‘one-size fits all’ approach for
solving persistent and growing social inequities.
Why is this important?
• “Seven out of ten people in the world today live in countries where inequality has
increased over the past three decades,” (Lagarde, 2014, n.p.).
• WEF’s Global Outlook report warns that inequality is undermining social stability
and “threatening security on a global scale” (World Economic Forum, 2013, p. 12a).
In Canada:
• The Conference Board of Canada (2011) reports that between the mid-1990s and
the late 2000s Canada had the fourth largest increase in income inequality. Canada
has slipped to “below the average” in measures of equality, and ranks 12th out of 17
peer countries (n.p.).
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
• One in seven Canadian children lives in poverty. Aboriginal people are the fastest
growing group in Canada, but one in four First Nations children lives in poverty. Im-
migrants and newcomers face child poverty rates more than 2.5 times higher than
the general population (Campaign 2000, 2012).
• Health inequalities in Canada are widespread and show up in numerous indicators
of health, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, disease incidence, mortality, and
injuries at every stage of the life course (Bryant et al., 2011).
• The life expectancy for First Nations people is five to seven years less than among
non-Aboriginal Canadians (Statistics Canada, 2010a; Assembly of First Nations,
Researchers, policy makers, decision makers, and activists often seek direction on how
to apply intersectionality to their work. A good starting point is to think about the key
principles, presented below, that encompass the aims and objectives of intersectional-
ity that have been previously published as constituting an intersectionality-based policy
analysis framework (IBPA) (Hankivsky et al., 2012, pp. 35-38). Taken together, however,
these principles provide a framework that can guide the ‘doing’ of intersectionality-
informed work not only in policy but also research, activism and practice.1
1 For examples of the application of these principles within policy analysis, see the case studies presented in
Hankivsky (2012a) and Hunting et al. (forthcoming). Also see Appendix B for a list of overarching questions (in-
formed by these principles) that help guide intersectionality-based policy analysis.
Intersectionality 101
Intersectionality is
the best chance for an effective diagnosis and ultimately an
effective prescription (Hancock, 2007, p. 73).
Intersecting Categories
From an intersectionality perspective, human lives cannot be reduced to single catego-
ries, and policy analysis cannot assume that any one social category is most important
for understanding people’s needs and experiences. Nor does inter sectionality promote
an additive approach – e.g., examining the collective impact of gender, ‘race,’ sexuality,
age and class – as the sum of their independent effects (e.g., gender+class+race) (Han-
cock, 2007). Instead, intersectionality conceptualizes social categories as interacting with
and co-constituting one another to create unique social locations that vary according to
time and place. These intersections and their effects are what matters in an intersec-
tional analysis (Hankivsky & Cormier, 2009).
Multi-level Analysis
Intersectionality is concerned with understanding the effects between and across vari-
ous levels in society, including macro (global and national-level institutions and policies),
meso or intermediate (provincial and regional-level institutions and policies), and micro
levels (community-level, grassroots institutions and policies as well as the individual or
‘self’). Attending to this multi-level dimension of intersectionality also requires address-
ing processes of inequity and differentiation across levels of structure, identity and
representation (Dhamoon & Hankivsky, 2011; Winker & Degele, 2011). The significance
of and relationships between these various levels of structure and social location are
not predetermined. Rather, they reveal themselves through the process of intersectional
research and discovery.
Attention to power highlights that: i) power operates at discursive and structural levels
to exclude some types of knowledge and experi ence (Foucault, 1977); ii) power shapes
subject positions and categories (e.g., ‘race’) (e.g. racialization and racism); and iii) these
processes operate together to shape experiences of privilege and penalty between
groups and within them (Collins, 2000). From an intersectional perspective, power is re-
lational. A person can simultaneously experience both power and oppression in varying
contexts, at varying times (Collins, 1990). These relations of power include experiences
of power over others, but also that of power with others (power that in volves people
working together) (Guinier & Torres, 2003). In recogniz ing the shifting intersections in
which power operates, intersectionality moves beyond what Martinez (1993) terms the
“Oppression Olympics,” which occur when groups com pete for the title of ‘most op-
pressed’ in order to gain political support, economic resourc es, and recognition. Inter-
sectionality rejects an additive model of oppression that leaves the systems that create
power differentials unchanged (Hancock, 2007). Within an intersectionality-based policy
analysis (or IBPA), the focus is not just on domination or marginalization, but on the in-
tersecting processes by which power and inequity are produced, reproduced and actively
resisted (Dhamoon, 2011).
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
One way that intersectionality pays attention to power is through reflexivity. Reflexivity
acknowledges the importance of power at the micro level of the self and our relation-
ships with others, as well as at the macro levels of society. Reflexive practice recognizes
multiple truths and a diversity of perspectives, while giving extra space to voices typi-
cally excluded from policy ‘expert’ roles (Bolzan, Heycox, & Hughes, 2001). Practicing
reflex ivity requires researchers, policy makers and stakeholders to commit to ongoing
dialogue about “tacit, personal, professional or orga nizational knowledges” and their
influences on policy (Parken, 2010, p. 85). Reflexivity can help transform policy when the
people involved bring critical self-awareness, role-awareness, interrogation of power and
privilege, and the questioning of assump tions and ‘truths’ to their work (Clark, 2012). For
example, reflexive practices should help people consider their individual connections to
colonization and facilitate questioning about policy and practices that accompanied the
colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada (Blackstock, 2005).
Time and Space
Intersectionality emphasizes the importance of time and space in any analysis. How we
experi ence and understand time and space depends on when and where we live and
interact (Warf, 2008). It is within these dimensions of time and space that different kinds
of knowledge are situated, our understandings of the world are constructed, and the so-
cial orders of mean ing are made (Saraga, 1998). Moreover, privileges and disadvantages,
including intersect ing identities and the processes that determine their value, change
over time and place (Hulko, 2009). Thus, time and space are not static, fixed or objective
dimensions and/or processes, but are fluid, changeable and experienced through our
interpretations, senses and feelings, which are, in turn, heavily conditioned by our social
position/location, among other factors (Tuan, 1977).
The Diversity of Knowledges
Intersectionality is concerned with epistemologies (theories of knowledge) and power,
and in particular, with the relationship between power and knowledge production.
In cluding the perspectives and worldviews of people who are typically marginalized or
ex cluded in the production of knowledge can disrupt forces of power that are activated
through the production of knowledge (Dhamoon, 2011). For example, the inclusion, in
policy analysis, of traditional knowledges held by colonized peoples can shift dominant
colonial or racialized discourses and can thus have decolonizing effects (Fredericks,
Adams, & Edwards, 2011). Given the focus in intersectionality-based policy analysis on
addressing inequities and power, knowledge generated through an IBPA can and should
include the perspectives and knowledges of peoples who are typically excluded in policy
analysis. IBPA expands understandings of what is typically constituted as “evidence” by
recognizing a diversity of knowledge, paradigms and theo retical perspectives, such as
knowledge generated from qualitative or quantitative research; empirical or interpre-
tive data; and Indigenous knowledges. Users of the IBPA Framework must consider how
Intersectionality 101
power favours certain knowledge traditions to the exclusion of others, and reflect on
both the way that diverse knowledges traditions are taken up in policy analysis and the
implications this uptake has for different groups of people.
Social Justice
Intersectionality strongly emphasizes social justice (Grace, 2011). Approaches to social
justice differ based in whether they focus on the redistribution of goods (Rawls, 1971) or
on social processes (Young, 1990); however, all approaches share a concern with achiev-
ing equity (Sen, 2006). Theories of social justice frequently challenge inequities at their
source and require people to question social and power relations. For example, accord-
ing to Potts and Brown (2005) social justice is about: “transforming the way resources
and relationships are produced and distributed so that all can live dignified lives in a way
that is ecologically sustainable. It is also about creating new ways of thinking and being
and not only criticizing the status quo” (p. 284). A social justice approach to health equity
has the potential to transform social structures, which is essential in addressing the root
causes of inequities (Farmer, 2005).
Closely tied to the social justice principle of intersectionality, equity is concerned with
fairness. As expressed by Braveman and Gruskin (2003), equity in public policy exists
when social systems are designed to equalize outcomes between more and less advan-
taged groups. The term equity is not to be confused with equality. For example, where
inequality may refer to any measurable difference in outcomes of interest, inequities ex-
ist where those differences are unfair or unjust. This principle should be familiar to many
people who work on policy; sex and gender based analysis (SGBA), which asks analysts
to consider policy through a gender equity lens, is commonly applied to many areas of
Canadian policy (Hankivsky et al., 2012). The IBPA Framework extends this practice by
prompting analysts to consider policy issues through an intersectional lens, looking not
only at gen der equity, but also at the impacts of the intersections of multiple positions
of privilege and oppression.
Finally, resistance and resilience have recently been added as key principles of intersec-
tionality-based analyses (see Hunting et al., forthcoming):
Resistance and Resilience
Though not principles within IBPA, consideration of resistance and resilience is integral
to intersectionality because these can disrupt power and oppression. Even from so-
called ‘marginalized’ spaces and locations, oppressive values, norms and practices can
be challenged. One mechanism of resistance from subordinated groups has been to use
collective actions to destabilize domi nant ideologies. Conversely, policies and discourses
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
that label groups of people as inherently marginalized or vulnerable undermine the real-
ity that there are no ‘pure victims or oppressors’ (Collins 1990; Dhamoon & Hankivsky
2011). Categorical policy approaches obscure similarities between groups and their
shared relationships to power. It also prevents coalitional work by reinforcing concep-
tions of difference based upon specific categories.
Unlike other approaches, intersectionality is uniquely positioned to interrogate and un-
derstand human differences (in addition to understanding similarities across groups that
can be overlooked).
In the following table, Ange-Marie Hancock (2013, p. 268) summarizes three approaches
– unitary, multiple and intersectional - in order to show how intersectionality provides a
more advanced way of analyzing difference.
• The unitary approach focuses on one primary marker of difference as sufficient for
explaining a social problem.
• The multiple approach considers more than one explanatory factor, but does so in
an additive way, paying little attention to relationships and interactions between
such factors.
• The intersectionality approach explicitly focuses on the relationships between fac-
tors and mutually constructed processes that create difference. As the examples at
the end of this primer demonstrate, this allows for the generation of new and argu-
ably more accurate information about any kind of problem or issue.
Unitary Approach Multiple Approach Intersectional Approach
Number of Relevant
Categories/Processes One More than one More than one
Posited Relationship Between
Categories/Processes None
and conceptually distinguish-
able relationships
Relationships are open
empirical questions
to be determined
of Each Category
Static at individual
or institutional level
Static at individual
or institutional level
Dynamic interaction
between individual
and institutional factors
Case Makeup
of Category/Class Uniform Uniform
Diverse; members often
differ in politically
significant ways
Approach to Intersectionality Lip service
or dismissal
Intersectionality as
testable explanation
Intersectionality as
research design
Intersectionality 101
Three Empirical Approaches to Conceptualizing
Categories of Difference
As illustrated in the table below, intersectionality also extends existing frameworks that
attempt to identify and respond to differences in research, policy and practice.
Just as important as understanding what intersectionality is, and the principles that
can inform an ‘intersectionality-informed stance,’ (Bowleg 2012, p. 1270) is to demon-
strate what intersectionality does. In the appendices of this primer, there are resources
for those seeking to begin the process of understanding how to think about and apply
intersectionality in research (Appendix A), policy (Appendix B), activism (Appendix C) and
education (Appendix D). The examples below briefly describe the potential of intersec-
tionality to transform three important issues of policy.
In comparison to women’s health, the men’s health field is in nascent stages of devel-
opment but has made considerable progress in the last decade. Men’s health is now of
great interest and concern to health policy makers and practitioners. Reflecting this, and
in response to the need for increased attention and research capacity in the area of boys’
and men’s health, a recent major funding initiative was launched by the Institute for
Gender and Health (within the Canadian Institutes of Health Research). Outside of Can-
ada, Ireland (2009) and Australia (2010) have developed national men’s health policies to
highlight the need for a specific focus on men as service users with particular needs, and
for improving the health of all males. In addition, organizations such as the European
Men’s Health Forum ( and the Men’s Health Caucus in the US (menshealthcau-
Sex & Gender
Based Analysis
Gender Based
Health Impact
Intersectionality Based Policy Analysis
Prioritizes sex and
gender; does not
question primacy
of sex and/or gen-
der differences
Emphasizes fac-
tors beyond gen-
der in an interac-
tive way; does not
challenge primacy
of gender
Grounded in social
determinants of
health; lack of at-
tention to: values,
experiences and
expertise of policy
actors, interrelat-
ed nature of social
resistance and
resilience, voice
and participation
of those who are
affected by policy
Emphasizes that people belong to more than
one social category at the same time, focuses
on interactions of different social locations,
systems and processes, investigates rather
than assumes the significance of any specific
combination of factors
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD are calling for better attention to men’s health within research and policy.
The growth of men’s health challenges firmly entrenched notions that gender disad-
vantage in health affects only or primarily women. To date, however, research into boys’
and men’s health has been critiqued for being largely focused on comparisons with
women and how women fare better in terms of many health outcomes, including life
expectancy (European Commission, 2011; Courtney, 2011). Meanwhile, not surprisingly,
an important gap still exists in explaining differences among men (Watkins & Griffith,
2013; Hankivsky, 2012b).
There is growing recognition that gender, race, class, sexuality, life stage and cultural ex-
pectations provide an important context for understanding men’s daily lives and health
(Griffith et al., 2013; Griffith, 2012; also see Grace, 2014, Hunting, 2014, and Rouhani,
2014 for detailed case studies examining the intersectionality of boys’ and men’s health).
Intersectionality-informed men’s research can:
• advance the understanding of how gender expressions and meanings are co-con-
stituted by other social locations (e.g., age, sexuality, ethnicity, geography, histori-
cal and policy contexts, etc.) and can differ across men. As Hearn (2006) explains,
“Different men can have complex, even contradictory, relations to gender equality
and other (in)equalities...” Researchers looking at men’s health in Canada are increas-
ingly advocating for more nuanced conceptions of gender, arguing that it is shaped
by other factors, such as country of origin, ethnicity, and lifecourse (e.g., Evans et al.,
2011; Zanchetta et al., 2010).
‘Maleness,’ or being of the male gender, does not necessarily confer the same privi-
leges and disadvantages in the same ways across men. For instance, African American
men experience forms of oppression that differ from what non-racialized White men
experience due to gendered racism. Gender and race are inextricable when consider-
ing particular forms of discrimination – such as racial profiling – experience dispro-
portionately by racialized black men. Binary notions of privilege and disadvantage
experienced by groups cannot capture this complexity (Mutua, 2013).
• debunk false assumptions of gender-based difference by showing how women
sometimes share similar experiences of advantage and disadvantage with men
across social categories.
Cole (2009) argues that attending to commonalities across groups reveals false ideas
of between-group differences and allows complexities of social phenomena to sur-
face. She cites Dworkin’s (2005) study, which notes that much discourse surrounding
the heterosexual transmission of HIV depicts women as vulnerable and at risk from
men. This is shaped by gendered assumptions that women are sexually oppressed
and passive, whereas men are sexually invulnerable and dominating. This ‘women-
Intersectionality 101
at-risk framing’ overlooks variations in power and patriarchal privilege among men
(e.g., heterosexual men can experience sexual violence, engage in sex work, or expe-
rience inequities associated with social locations, such as race and class). The study
underscores the fact intersecting locations and experiences put individuals at risk of
HIV infection, rather than individual identity categories (such as gender). With this
expanded idea of risk, similarities between groups (e.g., heterosexual women, and
men who have sex with men) can come into the discussion. Cole argues that high-
lighting such similarities can create “fertile sites of intervention or mobilizing to lobby
for prevention and treatment resources” (p. 176).
• reveal within-group differences among men and boys, and how these can be more
significant than those between men and women.
Hyde’s (2014) discussion of gender differences and similarities highlights intersection-
ality as the way forward to better understand how gender influences behaviour and
experience. She argues that broad-based statements of gender differences – such as
males purported being better at math – often ignore how ethnicity and other social
locations intersect with these differences. A meta-analysis of research on gender dif-
ferences in mathematics performance found that this advantage was not present for
Blacks, Hispanics, or Asian Americans. To truly conceptualize advantage and disadvan-
tage thus requires an intersectional understanding of gender.
• demonstrate the existence of diverse expressions of masculinities that are shaped by
culture and subcultures (and shift over the lifecourse). Intersectionality can also
show how these diverse expressions affect how differentially situated men in a
variety of jurisdictions respond differently to health and health care issues and prob-
lems (Watkins & Griffith, 2013; Smith et al., 2009).
Evans et al. (2011) discuss how masculinity intersects with other social determi-
nants of health differently during youth, middle age and the older years. Specifically,
they demonstrate how masculinity is defined and experienced differently across the
lifecourse, as experiences related to socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, sexuality,
ability, geography, community, education, and employment change. This makes men
vulnerable and resilient to poor health in different ways as they age. In overlook-
ing the shifting and intersectional nature of masculinity, important conditions that
shape inequity can be overlooked and remain unaddressed.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
Internationally, there is growing concern with healthy weight and the problem of obe-
sity. Nearly 1.5 billion adults were overweight in 2008, and, of these, half a billion were
clinically obese – almost double the rates of 1980 (Swinburn et al., 2011). In Canada,
obesity rates have tripled since 1985, and expectations are that about 21 percent of
Canadian adults will be obese by 2019 (Twells et al. 2014). The annual cost of obesity
to the health care system is estimated as between $4.6-$7.1 billion dollars. In the U.S.,
studies have estimated that 42 percent of the adult population will be obese by 2030
(Finkelstein et al., 2012). Similar numbers are predicted for the UK, where researchers
predict that up to 48% of men and 43% of women could be obese by that year (Wang et
al., 2011).
Obesity threatens to have a great impact on public health worldwide, but the mecha-
nisms of its increase in prevalence and its consequences are far less well understood in
policy terms (King, 2011). The complexity of obesity has led researchers to pay attention
to social context (Frisco et al., 2012) when studying the problem, to using broad ecologi-
cal research approaches (Rutter, 2011), and undertaking multi-sectoral policy interven-
tions (Dietz, 2011). This is especially interesting given the tendency for public health poli-
cies to emphasize individual lifestyle choices, which can obscure the broader contexts
shaping weight.
Some studies have examined important factors in terms of obesity and weight gain
over time. These have included regional considerations and environmental factors, as
well as the impact of sex, gender, race, age, culture, and socio-economic status (Burke
et al., 1996; Twells et al., 2014; He et al., 2014; Du et al., 2013; Basterra-Gortari et al.,
2011; Baltrus et al., 2005; Clarke et al., 2009; Mujahid et al., 2005; Swinburn et al., 2011).
A shortcoming of such studies is that they either focus on one important factor (e.g., re-
gional differences), or they use an additive approach to examine differential experiences
of obesity (e.g., regional differences + gender + age), missing the opportunity to consider,
for example, how different categories interact to shape inequities in weight change and
or obesity.
Emerging research demonstrates the importance of capturing these interactions:
• Martin and Lippert (2012) have demonstrated that mothers experiencing food inse-
curity are more likely than child-free men and women and food insecure fathers to be
overweight or obese and to gain more weight. The risks are greater for single mothers
relative to mothers in married or cohabiting relationships. The researchers argue that
obesity offers a physical expression of the vulnerabilities that arise from the intersec-
tion of gendered childcare expectations and poverty.
• In a 2011 U.S. study, results revealed complex interactive effects of gender, race, socio-
economic position and age. Researchers showed that among individuals aged 25–39
and 45–54, low-educated and low-income black women experienced the greatest in-
crease in BMI, while high-educated and high-income white men experienced the least
BMI increase (Ailshire & House, 2011).
Intersectionality 101
• Correll (2010) has critiqued obesity scholarship for obscuring connections between
gender, poverty, and obesity. He argues that this shortcoming leads to important
policy failures (in the current Food Stamps program and Temporary Aid to Needy Fami-
lies (TANF) program in the US). Instead of improving the status quo, such programs
contribute to obesity-inducing food insecurity, temporal poverty, and unhealthy food
Climate change has become a central policy problem in both developed and develop-
ing countries. At the same time, it is typically understood that global warming is largely
caused by the consumption patterns and lifestyle choices of the world’s most affluent
nations and populations (IEA, 2011). The greatest brunt of climate change is thus experi-
enced by the world’s most vulnerable and poor (Parks & Roberts, 2006).
To date, most studies and political initiatives that are concerned with capturing the
differential effects of climate change on populations tend to focus on one single vari-
able (e.g., gender, place, ethnicity, socio-economic status) (e.g., Lambrou & Paina, 2006;
Hulme, 2008; Nielson & Reenberg, 2010; Stern, 2007; WHO, 2011). Critiquing one such
approach – gender analysis – Carr and Thompson (2014) observe that it is predicated
on a construction of gender as binary (men vs. women). This not only leads to simplistic
comparisons and homogenization of ‘men’ and ‘women,’ but also overlooks “significant
differences with regard to knowledge, resources, and power within gender groups that
shape development and adaptation outcomes”in relation to climate change (Carr &
Thompson, 2014, p. 186). Such a focus obscures the fact that gender takes meaning from
its intersection with other identities, roles and responsibilities
In reality, the situation is far more complex. From an intersectionality perspective, what
makes people vulnerable to climate change, or, alternatively how they experience adap-
tation and mitigation strategies is the result of multiple factors and processes that are
linked together within systems of power (Osborne, 2013; Arora-Jonsson, 2011). Especially
important are political and societal institutions that shape and regulate transportation,
energy and consumption (Kaijser & Kornsell, 2013).
For example:
• Devastation of New Orleans caused by Katrina involved various intersecting forms of
marginality (Tuana, 2008): marginalized people were less likely to be able to evacuate
and to afford to live somewhere else, and had poorer prospects if they were displaced.
From an intersectionality lens, Katrina made visible how climate change impacts can
interact with social structures (Tuana, 2008).
• Weber and Hilfinger-Messias (2012) demonstrated how macro- and micro-level power
relations of gender, race, and class affected the lives, work, and well-being of post-
Katrina frontline recovery workers along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. According to the
researchers, using an intersectionality framework to conduct their study broadened
their understanding of 1) risks to recovery-worker health and well-being, including 17
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
work stress and burnout, and 2) the role of macro-level social inequalities in producing
and maintaining health disparities and inequities.
• Dzah’s examination of climate change in Ghana (2011) revealed that simplistic
comparisons of men vs. women are not adequate for understanding who is impacted
and how. Instead, gender, age, ethnicity, marital status and life stage affect levels of
vulnerability and adaptive capacity.
• In her analysis of flooding in Bangladesh, Sultana (2010) showed that women are not
a homogenous group with regards to their experience of floods. Intersectional rela-
tions to class, caste, religion and age all affect women’s resources, rights and respon-
sibilities. For instance, she found that poorer agrarian women are particularly vulner-
able to floods and natural disasters, as they often experience intersecting factors that
limit their access to resources and recovery. Nor were men homogenous; their experi-
ences were also influenced by class, religion, and educational status.
Not only does intersectionality leads to multi-level analysis of intersecting factors,
processes and structures impacting climate change experiences, but its principles lead
to questions regarding how climate change problems are framed and understood.
Specifically, intersectionality provides critical insights into how institutional practices
and norms (and the power dynamics within these) shape knowledge and norms used by
researchers. By asking questions such as, “What type of knowledge is privileged in dealing
with climate change? [and] How is the understanding of what is legitimate knowledge re-
lated to social categories and to power relations?” intersectionality-informed analysis can
bring to the fore alternative knowledge on climate change and, in turn, improved climate
change strategies (Kaijser & Kronsell, 2013, p. 6).
Within policy settings, this type of inquiry may allow decision makers to better deter-
mine how dominant norms and lifestyles may be contributing to the problem of climate
change. For instance, a policy maker’s own social position can make them reluctant to
challenge high-consumption lifestyle norms that permeate richer Northern societies
because they themselves may be complicit with this kind of lifestyle (Kaijser & Kronsell,
2013). Thus, in interrogating broader structures of power and privilege intersectionality
allows for social justice concerns to be addressed. Transformative questions arise, such
as: What should be the norm in the context of climate issues and the power structures
that shape them?
An intersectionality-informed analysis allows for a different understanding of the true
challenges of climate change, including the fact that effective intervention will require a
fundamental restructuring of power structures that currently contribute to environmen-
tal destruction.
Intersectionality 101
As this primer shows, intersectionality offers a unique framework for analyzing prob-
lems within diversity and inequity. While the Intersectionality 101 primer has used
brief examples to demonstrate the value added of intersectionality, it was written, and
should be read in conjunction with the other primers in this series (see Hunting, 2014,
Rouhani, 2014, and Grace, 2014). These provide further guidance and demonstrate the
potential for intersectionality-informed qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods
research. Taken together, the primers in this series contribute to the ongoing exploration
of how interectionality can be used to better understand and address the complexity of
inequities and strive for social justice.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
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Intersectionality 101
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Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
Hankivsky (2012, pp. 1715-1716) has developed a broad set of questions intended to
guide intersectional researchers throughout the research process. The questions take
into account the fact that each line of inquiry will have different relevance to qualitative,
quantitative and mixed-methods research designs:
• Who is being studied? Who is being compared to whom? Why? (Lorber, 2006)
• Who is the research for and does it advance the needs of those under study? (Han-
kivsky et al., 2010)
• Is the research framed within the current cultural, political, economic, societal, and/
or situational context, and where possible, does it reflect self-identified needs of af-
fected communities? (Hankivsky and Cormier, 2009)
• Which categories are relevant or not directly relevant? Why? (Winker and Degele,
• What is the presumed makeup of each category? (Hancock, 2007)
• Is the sample representative of the experiences of diverse groups of people for
whom the issue under study is relevant? (Hankivsky and Cormier, 2009)
• Is the tool of inquiry suited to collecting micro or macro data, or a combination of
both? (Hankivsky and Cormier, 2009)
• How will interactions between salient categories be captured by the proposed data
coding strategy?
• How will interactions at individual levels of experience be linked to social institu-
tions and broader structures and processes of power?
• What issues of domination/exploitation and resistance/agency are addressed by the
research? (Hankivsky and Cormier, 2009)
• How will human commonalities and differences be recognized without resorting
to essentialism, false universalism, or obliviousness to historical and contemporary
patterns of inequality? (Cole, 2008)
From: Hankivsky, O. (2012). Women’s health, men’s health and gender and health: Impli-
cations of intersectionality. Social Science and Medicine, 74(11), 1712-1720.
Intersectionality 101
What knowledge, values, and experiences do you bring to this
area of policy analysis?
2. What is the policy ‘problem’ under consideration?
3. How have representations of the ‘problem’ come about?
How are groups differentially affected by this representation of
the ‘problem’?
5. What are the current policy responses to the ‘problem’?
6. What inequities actually exist in relation to the problem?
7. Where and how can interventions be made to improve the problem?
8. What are feasible short, medium and long-term solutions?
9. How will proposed policy responses reduce inequities?
10. How will implementation and uptake be assured?
11. How will you know if inequities have been reduced?
How has the process of engaging in an intersectionality-based policy analysis transformed:
your thinking about relations and structures of power and inequity
the ways in which you and others engage in the work of policy development, implementation
and evaluation
broader conceptualizations, relations and effects of power asymmetry in the everyday world
From: Hankivsky, O., Grace, D., Hunting, G., Ferlatte, O., Clark, N., Fridkin, A., ... & Lavio-
lette, T. (2012a). Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis. In O. Hankivsky (Ed.), An Intersec-
tionality-Based Policy Analysis Framework (pp. 33-45). Vancouver, BC: Institute for Inter-
sectionality Research & Policy, Simon Fraser University.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
How to evaluate your services/programs/projects
Any sort of planning process around services, programs and projects should involve an
evaluation. If an organization is applying an intersectional approach, there has to be a
way to figure out how the approach is working in order to determine whether anything
needs to be changed. Evaluations do not need to be very complicated. In fact, “[…] evalu-
ation is simply a tool that helps you understand if you are on track and achieving results
that will move you towards your vision” (Frank & Smith, 1999, p. 97).
There are four basic questions that organizations can explore with respect to an evaluation:
1. What worked and why?
You may want to ask program participants what they thought worked and why so that
your initiative can be informed from the bottom up.
2. What did not work and why?
Having program participants provide feedback can help ensure that the next initiative is
more accessible.
3. What could have been done differently?
You may want to reflect on whether your approach increased inclusiveness. Does your
approach need re-thinking at all?
4. What adjustments and changes are required now?
You may want to consider how any needed changes could further an intersectional ap-
If evaluations have been well thought out and incorporate feedback from program par-
ticipants, they may provide a means to continue programs or develop new ones. Often
funding agencies want to know organizations’ past achievements in order to determine
whether or not to support new projects.
Here are some things you may want to consider with respect to evaluating your pro-
• You may want to keep track of who is and who is not accessing your services. If you
haven’t been able to reach certain populations or communities, try to reflect on why
that may be the case.
• In order to value the contributions of the community(ies) you are serving, you may
want to have participants fill out program evaluations.
• Participants could have a role in creating the evaluation process.
• Remember that evaluations are not just about numbers and quotas.
Intersectionality 101
From: Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW). (2009). Ev-
eryone Belongs: A Toolkit for Applying Intersectionality (pp. 21-22). Author: Joanne Simp-
son. May 2009. Available from:
Questions are from: Frank, F. & Smith, A. (1999). The Community Development Hand-
book: A Tool to Build Community Capacity (pp. 71-72). Ottawa: Human Resources Devel-
opment Canada. Available from:
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
Lynn Weber, Director
Women’s Studies Program
Professor of Sociology
Women’s Studies Program
201 Flinn Hall
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
803 777-4007
Concept Areas
Power dynamics in the classroom; Relationships of personal identity/background to
structural systems of inequality; Critical reflection on social hierarchies in the classroom
and in the society; Promoting respectful dialogue
Type of Exercise
Class Discussion; Pedagogical Pondering
Brief Description
To promote an environment that challenges race, class, gender, sexuality and other social
inequalities and that facilitates learning about them, I introduce classroom discussion
guidelines on the first day of all of my classes. By asking students to consider the ways
these hierarchies may play out in their own lives ‐ and thus in the class ‐ I explicitly call
on students to begin thinking about these hierarchies not as abstract notions or deficits
that shape others’ lives, but rather as social relations of power and control that variously
shape all of our interactions in every setting.
• In my classes, I try to foster an environment where we experience social justice:
All students are shown respect.
• Race, class, gender and other power dynamics do not inhibit learning.
• All students participate in the class and think critically by learning to appreciate
multiple realities and perspectives and the ways that they are shaped by differences
of power and privilege.
Intersectionality 101
In the early 1980’s, to help achieve this climate, I developed a set of what I then called
“Ground Rules” to guide classroom discussion. And I have used them in all of my classes
since: sociology of gender; social statistics; seminar in race, class, gender and sexuality;
seminar in women’s studies; and sociology of race and ethnic relations. To be discussed
on the first day of class, the guidelines ask students to make several assumptions and
commitments for the purposes of the class:
• Acknowledge that racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and other institutionalized
forms of oppression exist and that we all have misinformation about groups as a
• Approach this class — and the misinformation we all have — not by blaming others
but by taking responsibility for learning about other groups and combating misinfor-
mation, and for treating each other with respect.
• Acknowledge that people in the class and the groups we study are always doing the
best they can.
To begin from this set of assumptions is a challenge because we all have multiple experi-
ences with inequality and beliefs about groups that might contradict these assump-
tions. Nonetheless, it is in attempting to make these assumptions for purposes of the
class that we may become aware of some of our own preconceptions about inequalities
and thus be in a better position to discuss them. In short, our reactions to the guidelines
and the discussion that they generate may provide us with the best opportunity to un-
cover, to understand, and perhaps to challenge the ways that social inequalities play out
in our own lives and in the society around us. The classroom environment I attempt to
create using these guidelines is consistent with the content I seek to convey — about the
nature of powerful, pervasive, and persistent systems of race, class, gender, and sexual-
ity hierarchies (for a detailed discussion of the conceptual framework I use, see Weber,
1998, 2001; Weber and Dillaway, 2002).
Although I had begun using them in my classes, I first distributed these guidelines, as I
now refer to them, to faculty colleagues in a handout at a 1984 session on “Promoting
Positive Race, Class, and Gender Dynamics in the Classroom” at the annual curriculum
transformation workshop sponsored by the Center for Research on Women (CROW) at
the University of Memphis. Each year as the CROW’s national curriculum workshops
grew in size and visibility, I continued to conduct sessions on classroom dynamics and to
distribute the guidelines. Faculty and students from across the country and a wide spec-
trum of schools – from community colleges to research universities – began to use these
guidelines and their own adaptations of them (cf. McKinney and Gershick 1999). The
guidelines were also used in research working groups, were adapted for use with first
through third grades, and were used as a model for empowering Social Work students
(Raske, 1999). In short, they took on a life of their own, becoming a kind of underground
document that swept across the country — sometimes with my name attached, other
times not.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
As the neoconservative backlash against multiculturalism and attempts to address race,
class, and gender in university curricula reached full bloom in the late 1980’s, people
were both increasingly interested in how to deal in respectful and effective ways with
these issues in the classroom and increasingly coming under attack for doing so. In
1990, because the guidelines had become so widespread that people wanted a refer-
ence to legitimate their use of them and to learn about how I had been using them, I
published these guidelines in a Women’s Studies Quarterly article (Weber Cannon, 1990).
The guidelines presented below are slightly modified from the ones published in 1990.
Quite the opposite of the argument leveled by conservative critics of classroom guide-
lines (e.g., Bartlett, 2002; Sommers, 1995) — that such rules stifle discussion, dialogue,
and academic freedom, I have found that we all benefit from working with these as-
sumptions in our classes. Over twenty years of using them, only a handful of students
have dropped my classes because they felt uncomfortable with the guidelines, primar-
ily because the students were unable to commit to working under the assumption
that “people are always doing the best that they can.” Students have learned to judge
themselves harshly (e.g., “I could have worked harder on that paper, done better in that
course.”), to judge others similarly, and to see those judgments as the end point of criti-
cal social analysis. By this logic, once you find individuals or groups to blame for their
social location (e.g., place in the hierarchies of income, education, wealth, occupation,
health), there is no need to think about the social ranking process any further. You have
your explanation: they brought it on themselves. This logic denies both the presence
of different starting points for individuals and social groups and the nature of social
structures that systematically and powerfully operate to advantage some individuals
and groups while harming others. It is the dominant ideological stance that is employed
to “justify” — that is, to normalize and to sanction — hierarchical systems of race, class,
gender, sexuality and other forms of oppression. When we allow this kind of logic to
hold sway in our classes, we can never reach the point of even beginning to see or to un-
derstand the systemic, pervasive, persistent and powerful nature of race, class, gender,
and sexuality systems.
So instead of shutting down discussion, I have found that using these guidelines for
classroom discussion enables the conversation to open up for all students, but especially
for students from oppressed groups — students of color, women, working class, and
gay and lesbian students. I believe this change occurs primarily because the guidelines
acknowledge the historical fact and current reality that society at large as well as our
classrooms have been sites of oppression where people have been silenced, denied, and
mistreated because of their location in race, class, gender, and sexuality hierarchies.
Students from more privileged backgrounds are also sometimes relieved that the frame-
work not only does not hold them personally responsible for broad systems of oppres-
sion that have persisted for decades but also encourages them to take personal respon-
sibility for their current speech and actions.
Intersectionality 101
Still, some students may have difficulty making these commitments. I remind them
that they are merely asked to commit to these guidelines for this class and that they may
learn much about themselves by paying close attention to what is happening — in the
class, in the readings — when they feel they cannot make or continue with a particular
assumption. In such a case, I encourage them to speak about their concerns.
I use these guidelines in conjunction with a set of other teaching techniques designed to
elicit maximal participation in multiple venues from all of the students in a class:
• Classroom introductions — where students get to know each other beyond stereo-
typical images by introducing themselves in many ways to their classmates telling:
their racial/ethnic background, their scholarly areas of interest, their skills and knowl-
edge that would be especially useful to their classmates when working together,
their work/family histories
• Journals — where they are asked to reflect on the dynamics as well as the substance
of the class (ungraded)
• Group projects — where they work together to produce a group project and receive
group as well as individual evaluations
• Peer evaluations — where they work on each other’s writing based on peer editing
techniques which are taught in class
• Small group discussions — where they analyze the material and where the group
composition is changed frequently
When these techniques are used in conjunction with the guidelines, my classrooms have
often been places where there is a high level of participation, where my students get
to know each other well, and where multiple realities are revealed in respectful and en-
lightening ways. The guidelines are not, however, a panacea but only a framework that
facilitates communication across difference. I still must be vigilant and use my power to
structure the class and to intervene in ways that help us to achieve these goals.
One final note on politics and guidelines. The current political climate is one in which
some conservative, dominant culture, political forces on college campuses and beyond
actively work to discourage open and honest discussion and scholarly engagement
about race, ethnicity, class, gender, nation and other systemic structures of inequal-
ity. They do so by shifting attention from these structures and the groups that have
historically suffered unfair treatment within them and to “conservative” students who
are portrayed as “victims” of liberal faculty who are a “grave threat to freedom and
conscience” because they demand “ideological orthodoxy…on pain of lowered grade
(correspondence from Alan Kors, President, Foundation for Independent Rights in Educa-
tion (FIRE) to President Andrew Sorensen, University of South Carolina, regarding my use
of these guidelines). In 2002, I, and the guidelines I developed, became a target of FIRE
for allegedly doing just that. I knew that the furor they created was not about what was
going on in my classes because I was never contacted by anyone from the organization.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
The student who sent my guidelines to the FIRE organization (a fact I did not learn until
after grades were submitted) never voiced a single complaint about these issues during
the semester and received an A in the class ‐ a grade which is not typically seen as either
“lower” or “painful.” I was not even the sole teacher in the class ‐ it was team taught by
three professors.
Yet, as the letter from Alan Kors went on to say, “We will be raising these questions as
publicly as possible.” And they did ‐ in conservative media organizations such as the
Washington Times and The O’Reilly Factor, and anywhere else that would give them
attention including The Chronicle of Higher Education. While the misrepresentation of
these guidelines and my work was difficult to endure, the outcome was a solid affirma-
tion of the validity of this work and of a faculty’s right ‐ even encouragement ‐ to do it.
The ASA Council unanimously passed the following resolution:
The ASA Council wishes to affirm the academic freedom of all faculty to develop
strategies or guidelines to encourage open and civil classroom debate. We sup-
port the discussion and dialogue of controversial issues that are inherent to the
study of inequality and other core subjects.
Myra Marx Ferree, writing for Sociologists for Women and Society (SWS)’s Committee
on Academic Freedom, in a letter to USC administrators and to FIRE stated:
These sorts of guidelines for discussion seem to accord very well with the ideals
of a liberal arts education and to prevent intimidation by others in the course
of discussion… We urge you to affirm the positive value of the cooperative and
unthreatening climate that Prof. Weber seeks to create in her classroom, and to
support the variety of ways, including the guidelines she has developed, that
individual faculty use to realize this important goal.
President Andrew Sorensen, University of South Carolina, wrote to FIRE,
As designed and utilized, the Guidelines do not violate University policy, AAUP
policies on the rights of students, or the United States Constitution.
The FIRE organization has ceased its efforts to have me change these guidelines or to
stop using them.
Assigned Readings and Necessary Materials
No assigned readings or materials. I include the citations to publications about the
guidelines (including this article) on the guidelines handout, put them on reserve, and
ask students if they would be interested in reading and discussing these as a group. I
also discuss the political controversy that has periodically arisen over the guidelines. If
they express an interest in discussing it further, I have them read the Chronicle article,
the ASA resolution (and Footnotes article), letters from the conservative organization
(FIRE) that initiated the most recent controversy, and letters of support from SWS, the
President of the University of South Carolina, some students, and others. For copies of
these letters, email me at
Intersectionality 101
Reading References
American Sociological Association. March, 2003. “ASA Council Supports Sociologist Weber.Footnotes.
Bartlett, Thomas. September 27, 2002. “Guidelines for Discussion, or Thought Control?
Rules for Classroom Discourse, Popular in Women’s Studies, Set off a Controversy.” Chronicle of Higher Educa-
tion 49(5): A5.
Cannon, Lynn Weber. 1990. “Fostering Positive Race, Class, and Gender Dynamics in the Classroom.”
Women’s Studies Quarterly (1&2): 126-134.
McKinney, Kathleen and Tom Gershick. 1999. “Teaching and Learning About Controversial Topics.” Teaching
Workshop, Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, Ill.
Raske. 1999. “Using Feminist Classroom Rules to Model Empowerment for Social Work Students.” Journal of
Teaching in Social Work 19(1/2):197-209.
Sommers, Christina Hoff. 1995. Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. New York: Touch-
stone/Simon & Schuster.
Weber, Lynn. 1998. “A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.” Psychol-
ogy of Women Quarterly 22: 13-32.
__ ___ 2001. Understanding Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality: A Conceptual Framework. New York: McGraw-
Weber, Lynn and Heather Dillaway. 2002. Understanding Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality: Case Studies. New
York: McGraw-Hill.
Olena H an ki vs ky, PhD
Instructions for Students
To be discussed on the first day of class, the guidelines ask all students to make several
assumptions for purposes of the class.
1. Acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional-
ized forms of oppression exist.1
2. Acknowledge that one mechanism of institutionalized racism, classism, sexism,
heterosexism, etc., is that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our
own group and about members of other groups. This is true for everyone, regardless
of our group(s).
3. Agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned
but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned
4. Assume that people both the people we study — and the members of the class,
always do the best they can.
5. Actively pursue information about our own groups and those of others.
6. Share information about our groups with other members of the class and never
demean, devalue, or in any way “put down” people for their experiences.
7. Agree to combat actively the myths and stereotypes about our own groups and
other groups so that we can break down the walls that prohibit group cooperation
and group gain.
8. Create a safe atmosphere for open discussion. If you wish to make comments that
you do not want repeated outside the classroom, you can preface your remarks with
a request that the class agree not to repeat the remarks.
1Many other institutionalized forms of oppression could be listed here. A more complete
list might include age, ethnicity, disability, gender, race, class, religion, color, national ori-
gin, sexual orientation, and physical appearance. The major focus is on the four oppres-
sions listed; however, analogies can fairly easily be made to other forms.
NOTE: These guidelines were developed by Lynn Weber, and published in Women’s Stud-
ies Quarterly 18 (Spring/Summer 1990):126-134. A discussion and revised version was
published in “Empowering Students Through Classroom Discussion Guidelines,” in Mary-
beth C. Stalp and Julie Childers, eds., Teaching Sociological Concepts and the Sociology of
Gender, Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association Teaching Resources Center,
2000, and 2005 (2nd Edition).
Intersectionality 101
... Since the policy transition to 'a participation society' in 2015, which focuses on self-reliance of citizens and their social networks, the number of informal caregivers in the [country omitted for blind review] has risen to 5.5 million in 2019 (Boer and Plaisier 2020, p.7). Caregiving often occurs within larger care networks that involves collaboration with different professionals. Such collaboration is complex, multi-faceted and dynamic (Hengelaar et al. 2018), with another layer of complexity added by aspects of diversity which play a role in underlying expectations, values and norms, assumptions and behaviors regarding the provided care (Hankivsky, 2014). ...
... To understand professionals' perspectives within diverse care networks, it is essential to gain insight in how their perspectives are framed and shaped by aspects of diversity, their intersections, as well as situational and contextual factors. Intersectionality refers to the interactions between dimensions of diversity in individual lives, social practices, institutional arrangements, cultural ideologies and the outcomes of these interactions in terms of power and social inequities (Hankivsky, 2014), allowing for a nuanced and a more comprehensive understanding of experiences. This study uses an innovative approach by not solely focusing on cultural aspects or differences but by going a step further and explore the in uence of intersecting aspects of diversity in the context of care networks (Bowleg, 2021). ...
... In this study an intersectionality informed qualitative design was used (Hankivsky, 2014;Hunting, 2014), between 2019 and 2021. Sampling was done purposively, to create a sample which allows thinking beyond existing categories of difference (Hunting 2014, p.8), resulting in the inclusion of seventeen different professionals. ...
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Aim The provision of informal care occurs within larger care networks that involves collaboration with different professionals. This study aims to explore professionals’ perspectives on and experiences in collaboration with caregivers with a migration background in care networks around care recipients with acquired brain injury. Methodology An intersectionality informed qualitative design was used, between 2019 and 2021, with informal conversations (N = 12) and semi-structured interviews (N = 17), to gain insight in how professionals’ perspectives are framed and shaped by aspects of diversity, as well as situational and contextual factors. Two critical friends were involved in either the thematic or the secondary intersectionality informed analysis which was substantiated by a participatory analysis in a community of practice. Results We identified four interrelated themes: (a) “The difficult Other” in which professionals reflected on caregivers and care-recipients with a migration background causing ‘difficulties’; (b) “The dependent Other” refers to professionals’ realization that ‘difficulties’ are intensified by the context in which care takes place; (c) in “The uncomfortable self” professionals describe how feelings of insecurities evoked by the Other are associated with an inability to act ‘professionally’, and; (d) “The reflexive self” shows how some professionals reflect on their own identities and identify their blind spots in collaboration within a care network. Conclusion These interrelated themes offer an explanation of evidenced health inequalities in diverse networks and a pathway to unsettle the Self-Other binary. We conclude there is a need for educational curricula and professionals to invest in the integration of such reflexive practices to ensure health equalities for all. Impact The integration of reflexive practices in healthcare curricula is needed as diversity responsive care requires a critical investigation of oneself as professional. Public Contribution Caregivers, patients with acquired brain injury and different healthcare professionals were involved in the study design and interpretation of the data.
... Thus, the study draws on the framework of gender responsive 'intersectionality', a concept that delves into the complexities of the various factors and processes that shape life experiences (Hankivsky, 2014). According to Hankivsky, 'intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (e.g., 'race'/ ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ ability, migration status, religion). ...
... 2). The concept of intersectionality includes the principles of social justice and equity, recognition of diverse knowledges, importance of time and space and its dynamism in analysing the intersecting categories, multi-level analysis to unearth how power relations are shaped, and the importance of the process of enquiry with reflexivity (Hankivsky, 2014;Ryan and El Ayadi, 2020). This approach is also highlighted in the statement by the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR) known as the 'Feminist Covid-19 Policy' signed by women and collectives of over 100 countries from the Global South and the North, highlighting the importance of a gendered intersectional approach to address various socio-economic inequalities and forms of violence against women and girls exacerbated during Covid-19 1 . ...
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The initial phases of Covid-19 in India proved to be devastating, particularly for people living in the urban slums amid a high density of population and poor access to public infrastructure. Slum inhabitants are also mainly engaged in low-paid, precarious forms of work, with little or no social security or protection against loss of income and jobs. The study, ‘Locating the Processes of Non-state Relief Work during the Covid-19 Lockdown in Delhi’, uses a gender-responsive intersectional framework to highlight the critical role played by communities and civil society in four slum areas of Delhi, in order to reduce human suffering during the Covid-19 lockdown. The study is also an effort to understand the various gendered and intersectional vulnerabilities that came to the fore, the mechanisms of relief work and care that were undertaken through local collective action, as well as the collaborations and networks that were locally built to respond to the crisis. Further, the study is centred on the concepts of social reproduction and care and aims to understand the critical role played by communities in extending care within the institutional framework represented by the ‘Care Diamond’. Thus, the study draws lessons from the experiences of local slum communities in responding to the care crisis during the lockdown and aims to throw light on the wider structural inequalities in society. The findings from the study respond to the policy needs of both the government and civil society in terms of averting a care crisis and/or addressing such a scenario. The study uses the qualitative case study methodology for an in-depth empirical inquiry of four slum communities in Delhi, viz., Yamuna Khadar, Sanjay Camp, Seelampur, and Bawana JJ colony. These area case studies were constructed by conducting semi-structured in-depth interviews with key actors in the respective areas between December 2020 and June 2021.
... That is why critics of "ethnic matching" emphasize that researchers should continuously be aware that their positionality is never fixed. In other words, as argued by Crenshaw (1989Crenshaw ( , 1991 and other intersectionality scholars (e.g., Davis, 2011;Hankivsky, 2014;Phoenix, 2006), all individuals are shaped by the intersections of different social categories (e.g., ethnicity, gender, class, age, and religion). So, rather than focusing on a single social category, researcher positionality should be understood as intersectional (Soedirgo & Glas, 2020). ...
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What are obstacles and facilitators to shared care in families with a migration background caring for individuals with dementia? This dissertation aims to answer this question through analyses of family caregivers’ views and experiences of their care-role and of (formal and informal) care-sharing. An important part of this question is also answered through an analysis of practitioners’ views and experiences. In doing so, this dissertation points towards the importance of understanding dementia care in families with a migration background as a gendered, moral, and multifaceted experience that requires context-dependent formal care-guidance. Through a reflexive analysis of the author’s positionality within the conducted research, this dissertation also provides insights for future research in cross-cultural settings. Thus, by shedding light on three very different but interrelated points of view (i.e., family caregivers, practitioners, and the researcher), the presented findings offer a unique outlook for practice, policy, and research.
... Furthermore, the concept of intersectionality has directed attention to the differential situation of young women as compared to older women, or young men as compared to older men. Intersectionality denotes that imbalances are never the result of one social factor only (for instance gender), but are the result of interactions between various social factors such as gender, age, religion and class (Hankivsky 2014). Issues of youth equity have therefore gained increased prominence in agricultural development. ...
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Abstract/Description In many parts of the world, there is a clear need for investment in agriculture to counteract low yields and food insecurity. Focusing only on short-term production gains, however, through technologies such as improved seeds, irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides, increases risks to the environment and human health. Assessing the sustainability of agricultural intensification must go beyond simply finding economical ways to preserve agriculture’s natural resource base and reduce environmental harm from agriculture. The process of sustainable agricultural intensification (SAI) has to also be inclusive and move towards social equity if it is to be truly sustainable. There are many tools for assessing agriculture through an environmental or economic lens, but relatively few that use social criteria. This leaves a gap as more SAI projects and investments aim to achieve equitable benefits across gender and age lines. This guide provides decision-makers with data collection tools to assess gender and youth inequities associated with changes during SAI. These tools were developed and refined following workshops, field work and interviews with decisionmakers in Ghana and Malawi. In agricultural research, important social data often comes from large-scale household surveys that need significant investment of time and money. This guide focused on non-survey data collection tools, many of which originate from participatory learning and action, for two reasons: participatory tools encourage reflection by participants to increase stakeholder equity, and they are often better matched to the resource requirements and time constraints of those involved. Tools are presented based on their ability to provide information about three identified risks to equity from the SAI process: (i) unequal increases in workload, (ii) unequal access to and use of agricultural resources and (iii) inequitable impacts from changes in technologies and markets. For each tool, an overview explains how the tool relates to SAI. Then, the steps needed to facilitate use are presented, followed by special considerations for effective implementation. The guide supports decision-makers in choosing appropriate data collection tools and in effectively using the information. To make the choice of tool easier, information is provided on affordability, timeliness and human resource requirements for each. Also considered is each tool’s ability to assess potential technologies ex ante, so decision-makers can adapt them before implementation to better foster gender and youth equity. Finally, a number of examples of decision-making tools are presented with how to use the data collected to inform more inclusive SAI. The goal is to enhance the capacity of decision-makers to make a robust analysis of the distribution of benefits and burdens resulting from SAI investments. Decision-makers are encouraged to apply the tools within a community-driven gender transformative process that aims to change the norms that perpetuate social inequities, by simultaneously influencing household, community, market and political domains.
... Intersectionality highlights how inequalities associated with individual social stratifiers (eg, gender, class, age) do not exist in isolation from each other but instead interact dynamically. [60][61][62] Amid calls for a more prominent role of intersectionality research in global health, 60 61 scholarship that touches on intersectionality and vaccines predominantly focuses on HPV 63 64 or COVID-19 65 vaccines and highlights the role of intersectionality in all aspects of the vaccine delivery continuum. One principle frequently emphasised in intersectionality research is leveraging, describing how groups who have a combination of advantages and disadvantages can leverage their advantages to secure entitlements 66 67 -a finding reflected in our data related to vaccine decision-making. ...
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Introduction Targeted vaccination promotion efforts aimed at building vaccine confidence require an in-depth understanding of how and by whom decisions about vaccinating children are made. While several studies have highlighted how parents interact with other stakeholders when discussing childhood vaccination, less is known about the way in which vaccination uptake is negotiated within households. Methods We conducted 44 in-depth interviews with caregivers of children under five in the Philippines who had delayed or refused vaccination. Interviews were conducted between August 2020 and March 2021 and were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated into English. Notions of intra-household vaccination bargaining emerged early during systematic debriefings and were probed more pointedly throughout data collection. Results Parents as well as paternal and maternal families proved to be dominant stakeholders in intra-household bargaining for childhood vaccination. Although bargaining among these stakeholders was based on engrained, gender-based power imbalances, disadvantaged stakeholders could draw on a range of interrelated sources of bargaining power to nevertheless shape decision-making. Sources of bargaining power included, in descending order of their relevance for vaccination, (1) physical presence at the household (at the time of vaccination decision-making), (2) interest in the topic of vaccination and conviction of one’s own position, (3) previous vaccination and caregiving experience, and (4) access to household resources (including finances). The degree to which each household member could draw on these sources of bargaining power varied considerably over time and across households. Conclusion Our findings highlight how bargaining due to intra-household disagreement coins decisions regarding childhood vaccination. Considering the risks for public health associated with vaccine hesitancy globally, we advocate for acknowledging intra-household dynamics in research and practice, such as by purposefully targeting household members with decision-making capacity in vaccination promotion efforts, aligning promotion efforts with available bargaining capacity or further empowering those convinced of vaccination.
... In practice, this entailed community leadership and continual conversation with community representatives to facilitate attending to these issues appropriately in study conduct and data interpretation, as well as focusing knowledge translation on achieving social change. Our conceptualization of marginalization was also informed by intersectionality theory, which posits that experiences are shaped by intersections of different social locations (e.g., gender, ethnicity, class, age, disability, sexual orientation), involving power structures, processes of oppression and privilege, and sociohistorical contexts (Bowleg, 2012;Grace, 2014;Hankivsky, 2014;Hunting, 2014;Katz, Hardy, Firestone, Lofters, & Morton-Ninomiya, 2019). Intersectionality-informed qualitative research is highly compatible with the transformative framework and community-based research, especially among stigmatized and socially excluded groups, because all these approaches emphasize the need to attend to power and other issues of context and complexity. ...
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Unaffordable housing is a growing crisis in Canada, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet perspectives of people living outdoors in encampments have primarily gone unheard. We conducted qualitative interviews with encampment residents to explore how mutual support occurred within the social context of encampments. We found that mutually supportive interactions helped residents meet basic survival needs, as well as health and social needs, and reduced common health and safety risks related to homelessness. The homelessness sector should acknowledge that encampment residents form their own positive communities, and ensure policies and services do not isolate people from these beneficial social connections.
The onset of menarche is associated with physical maturity and the ability to marry and reproduce. However, a culture of silence surrounds menarche in the Indian community. It is a common belief among the Indian community that menstruation is associated with taboos and restrictions on work, sex, food, and bathing, and these taboos are associated closely with discrimination women face in their own gender and ethnic group. Using qualitative interviews and drawing on case studies of three urban Indian women who were patients of endometriosis, our study uses an intersectional framework to explore the experiences of Malaysian Indian women who cope with endometriosis. These Malaysian Indian women were influenced by an interplay of gender, racial and religious taboos. Their relationships with friends and family members were characterised by a deep sense of silence and isolation. Finally, we highlight an important intervention, which is the use of social media to connect with women facing a similar condition and to disseminate information on the condition, thereby lessening women’s sense of shame and isolation.KeywordsIntersectionalityIndianWomenEndometriosisCultureHealth
Over the past four decades, researchers have used different theoretical and methodological approaches to study social inequalities in health, so the aim of this study is to analyze the main approaches to studying social and socio-economic inequalities in health: materialist (based on income), psychosocial (based on social inequalities), cultural and behavioral (based on health / lifestyle behaviors) and intersectional (used to identify social inequalities in health among many social groups appear at the intersection between different identities of the individual). There are also the fundamental cause theory, in which SES and social class are defined as the "fundamental cause" of health, disease, disability and death, and the life-course theory covering all the models that explain health inequalities within research of social inequalities in health. Social inequalities in health are understood as differences in health between social groups based on such social determinants as gender, age, income, level of education, occupation, employment / unemployment, marital status, presence of children in the family, living conditions, place of residence, etc., which are reproducing over the time. Social inequalities in health are unjust, so in civilized societies governments tackling social inequalities in health. Health equity means that everyone should be able to reach their full potential in health. Health equity is not the same as health equality, because those who have greater needs but fewer resources need more support to equalize opportunities. Empirical studies, including those conducted in Ukraine, have shown the relationship between different social and economic determinants and health inequalities and have confirmed the existence of social inequalities in health among different socio-economic and demographic groups.
While intersectionality is burgeoning in much scholarship, few childhood researchers employ it. This chapter considers ways in which intersectionality can contribute to research understandings of childhood and children’s lives. It argues that intersectionality enables a holistic perspective on children’s lives, facilitating analysis of how they are positioned and treated, the ways in which their multiple social positioning is (re)produced and how they negotiate this. The paper considers how bringing together theorisations of intersectionality, racialisation, subjectification and interpellation helps to illuminate how global histories and dynamics are always part of children’s everyday positioning.
Technical Report
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The world is facing a rapid transition away from coal-based energy due to climate change. While many regions and countries are set to benefit economically and environmentally from the transition in the end, coal workers and their communities will experience immediate adverse outcomes economically such as job losses, socially such as disruption of current gender roles and relations, and culturally such as loss of traditional customs and status. Based on both qualitative and quantitative evidence gathered from around the world where coal mines have shut down, this report shows how and why transition will affect men and women differently. It argues that women are particularly vulnerable to the potential negative effects of a transition away from coal. Above all, it offers an intersectionality informed analytical and assessment framework that governments, civil society organizations, and global development institutions can employ to achieve a just transition to a gender transformed and decarbonized world.
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To better understand injustice in our cities, and to understand how vulnerability to impacts of climate change is constructed, scholars have noted that we need to incorporate multiple factors that shape identity and power in our analyses, including race, class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. Less widely acknowledged is the intersectionality of these factors; that specific combinations of factors shape their own social position and thus affect experiences of power, oppression and vulnerability. To address emerging issues like climate change, it is vital to find a way to understand and approach multiple, intersecting axes of identity that shape how impacts will be distributed and experienced. This article introduces intersectionality, a concept for understanding multiple, co-constituting axes of difference and identity, and kyriarchy, a theory of power that describes the power structures intersectionality produces, and offers researchers a fresh way of approaching the interactions of power in planning research and practice.
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Background: The prevalence of obesity has increased over the past 3 decades, with a disproportionate growth in excessive weight categories (body mass index [BMI] 35.0-39.9 and BMI ≥ 40.0). The objective of this paper is to present the data for the past and current prevalence of adult obesity in Canada, together with future estimates. Methods: We calculated BMIs for adults aged 18 years and older who were not in long-term care using data from Canadian health surveys administered between 1985 and 2011. Calculation of the BMIs was based on self-reported heights and weights. The weight categories were as follows: normal (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (25.0-29.9), obese class I (30.0-34.9), obese class II (35.0-39.9) and obese class III (≥ 40.0). Outcome measures were prevalence of adult obesity according to BMI categories, nationally and provincially. We used regression analysis models to predict future prevalence of adult obesity up to 2019. Results: Between 1985 and 2011, the prevalence of adult obesity in Canada increased from 6.1% to 18.3%. Furthermore, since 1985, the prevalence of obesity in classes I, II and III increased from 5.1% to 13.1%, from 0.8% to 3.6%, and from 0.3% to 1.6%, respectively. Taking into account regional variations, we predict that, by 2019, the prevalence of obesity in classes I, II and III will increase to 14.8%, 4.4% and 2.0%, respectively, and that half of the Canadian provinces will have more overweight or obese adults than normal-weight adults. Interpretation: We found significant increases in the excessive weight categories of obesity, with continued increases predicted for all provinces up to 2019. Provincial variations in obesity prevalence were also significant. To address these projected increases and any subsequent burden on the health care system, a concerted effort must be made by the provinces to focus on the prevention, management and treatment of obesity in Canada.
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Investigations of the interconnectedness of climate change with human societies require profound analysis of relations among humans and between humans and nature, and the integration of insights from various academic fields. An intersectional approach, developed within critical feminist theory, is advantageous. An intersectional analysis of climate change illuminates how different individuals and groups relate differently to climate change, due to their situatedness in power structures based on context-specific and dynamic social categorisations. Intersectionality sketches out a pathway that stays clear of traps of essentialisation, enabling solidarity and agency across and beyond social categories. It can illustrate how power structures and categorisations may be reinforced, but also challenged and renegotiated, in realities of climate change. We engage with intersectionality as a tool for critical thinking, and provide a set of questions that may serve as sensitisers for intersectional analyses on climate change.
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An Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis Framework There is growing recognition that governments should be evaluated by their ability to deliver and implement policy that can correct power imbalances and address differential and distributional health impacts including avoidable, inequitable and unjust differences in the health of diverse groups of people. An intersectionality-based policy analysis (IBPA) Framework has been developed to improve upon current Health Impact Asessment (HIAs) tools and frameworks. This volume provides an overview of the IBPA Framework and brings together scholars who have developed and applied this innovative policy analy- sis approach to complex health issues in and beyond British Columbia, Canada. The collection demonstrates the ways in which IBPA may be used by diverse policy actors who seek to tackle health inequities when making health and health-relat- ed decisions at the level of policy and programming.
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In men's health research, an important gap exists in how we explain differences in health among men. Though scholarly contributions to men's health disparities are growing, there continues to be a lack of discourse around concrete solutions that can be applied to reducing or eliminating differences in health outcomes between groups of men. This is the first special issue dedicated to describing strategies for addressing men's health disparities globally and across racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Collectively, these papers represent a range of efforts to not simply explain men's health disparities, but to describe interventions or findings in such a way that they inform strategies to reduce or eliminate men's health disparities. This body of work uses a variety of research methods, captures global, social and economic developmental issues, and provides practical solutions that can be implemented by various stakeholders at various levels.
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We used a new conceptual framework that integrates tenets from health economics, social epidemiology, and health behavior to analyze the impact of socioeconomic forces on the temporal changes in the socioeconomic status (SES) gap in childhood overweight and obesity in China. In data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey for 1991 to 2006, we found increased prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity across all SES groups, but a greater increase among higher-SES children, especially after 1997, when income inequality dramatically increased. Our findings suggest that for China, the increasing SES gap in purchasing power for obesogenic goods, associated with rising income inequality, played a prominent role in the country's increasing SES gap in childhood obesity and overweight. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 14, 2013: e1-e9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301669).