Intersectionality relates to the observation that power structures based on categories such as gender, race, sexuality, functionality and class interact with each other in various ways and create inequalities, discrimination and oppression (see also heteronormativity, racialisation). One single power structure cannot be understood in isolation from other power structures. The term was coined in a discussion on how social movements tend to not recognise the conditions for people who fall between the categories. One example is how both a white feminist movement and a black antiracist movement risk missing the conditions faced in particular by racialised women (see also feminism(s), whiteness). Discrimination based on race and discrimination based on gender often co-occur and are difficult to separate. Today intersectionality is used as a theoretical point of departure and methodological aid within research, activism and practical work of change.
Thinking of power structures as integrated, i.e. avoiding analysing gender in isolation from other categories, presupposes a willingness to become surprised. It is not an easy task due to the non-existence of simple formulas and conclusive knowledge. Instead, intersectional feminist analysis is based on a complexity where social relations, and in particular power relations, are produced and reproduced in a complicated fashion. ‘Immigrant woman’ and ‘workwoman’ are examples of constructed female identities for which not only sexism but also racism and class oppression need to be analysed in order to understand the importance of power structures for people’s opportunities in life.