Intersectionality starts from the idea that people have multiple identities based on gender, ethnicity, class, skin color, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, neurodivergence, etc., identities that lead to exclusion on several criteria, interconnected in relation to different systems: education, health, work.
The concept of intersectionality has been defined by Kimberle Crenshaw, an American feminist of color and law professor at the University of California. It is worth noting that intersectionality has its roots in black women’s feminism.
Identity dimensions such as a person’s disability, age, gender, social status, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, skin color, physical appearance, religion, etc. can constitute vulnerabilities when a person is, for example, looking for a job, going to the doctor, or attending school in an area far from their home or community.
Some people may face various problems related to their financial situation, racism, homophobia and transphobia in their local area.
When we talk about vulnerability, we mean vulnerability to discrimination. People belonging to more than one minority (ethnic, religious, sexual) may suffer multiple or intersectional discrimination. Studies show that victims of discrimination are more vulnerable to structural inequalities, segregation and social exclusion. Also, for people with multiple minority identity dimensions, using discrimination criteria independently of each other can lead to the invisibilisation of a minority within a minority group and the ignoring of the negative experiences of these people.
It is worth noting that not all girls and women have the same problems. Girls and women in different categories have interlinked, intersecting problems and require specific approaches according to these problems.
Intersectionality is a useful framework through which to examine how forms of privilege and disadvantage shape women’s traumatic experiences and access to resources.
It acknowledges the social factors that contribute to gender-based violence and subsequent health. An intersectional lens can also improve how services are organized and delivered, paying attention to multiple forms of oppression and structural violence.
Trauma informed by intersectionality:
- Oppression exists in different forms (e.g. sexism, racism) and at multiple levels (e.g. institutions, policies);
- Different forms of oppression interact and shape an individual’s sense of power, resistance and well-being;
- Advantages and disadvantages in the distribution of social resources (e.g. income) affect the mental health and well-being of individuals;
- The effects of trauma accumulate over time and interact with other life experiences, impacting on health.