By Bonnie Thorton Dill, Professor and Chair of the Women's Studies Department and Program and Director of the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity at the University of Maryland
AS A BLACK SCHOLAR WRITING ABOUT WOMEN’S issues in the late 1970s, I joined others in arguing that women’s studies needed to incorporate a more complex approach to understanding women’s lives. My colleagues and I contended that the gender analyses of that period were too often derived from the experiences of White middle-class women, and ignored the oft-untold stories of women of color and those without economic privilege. We wanted feminist theory to incorporate the notion of difference, beginning with race, ethnicity, class and culture.
Today, one of the first things students learn in women’s studies classes is how to look at women’s lives through these multiple lenses. The concept of intersectionality has been a key factor in this transition. Intersectionality has brought the distinctive knowledge and perspectives of previously ignored groups of women into general discussion and awareness, and has shown how the experience of gender differs by race, class and other dimensions of inequality.
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