"What's Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality Anyway?"

"What's Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality Anyway?"

Sometimes, conceptualizing feminist terms can be difficult! I read an article called, "Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality: Tools to Dismantle the Master's House" by Trina Grillo which spoke volumes to me and helped me understand some unfamiliar concepts.

Trina Grillo uncovers how we can use anti-essentialism and intersectionality to advance feminist movements forward. She says in order to make sure we are moving forward rather than backwards, we can use anti-essentialism and intersectionality. Intersectionality demonstrates that a woman's identity stands at the intersection of many factors, such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth. It focuses more on how people think of you and the discrepancies between that and how you think of yourself. Essentialism is the notion that there is a single woman's experience that has a clear, constant meaning for everyone in that group. Anti-essentialism refutes that. Each factor that contributes to your composition, such as race, class, and gender, helps to create a more different individual. However, race and class can never be subtracted from one's identity. Not all white women are the same- not all Black women are the same. Not all Black-poor women are the same. We have multiple voices and multiple experiences and therefore, we should not be grouped into one category.

Grillo explains that there are three lessons you can learn from the anti-essentialism and intersectionality critiques. Lesson One teaches us to carefully look at what's in front of our eyes and to remember that everything isn't just biologically based: it is historically and socially modeled as well. We must appreciate the concept of the multi-racial experience. At the same time, we must not take away from the solidarity of racial groups by not identifying with a particular group. Lesson Two stresses that we shouldn't play the "who has been more oppressed" card and instead should try to understand the complex ways that race, gender, and other factors come together. Lesson Three states that we must be careful about essentializing the experience of persons in the group to which we belong.

It is extremely crucial to understand that women have very different experiences. We should take into account the many factors that contribute to our being and then use that to proliferate the women's movement further. Find the commonality amongst our differences, instead of focusing on how we are all different. Learn to focus on the bigger picture.

Link: http://faculty.law.miami.edu/zfenton/documents/TrinaGrillo.pdf