There is no such thing as a single–issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. (Audre Lorde)
In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other.
Crenshaw mentioned that the intersectionality experience within black women is more powerful than the sum of their race and sex, and that any observations that do not take intersectionality into consideration cannot accurately address the manner in which black women are subordinated.
The theory suggests that – and seeks to examine how – various biological, social and cultural categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, caste, age, nationality and other sectarian axes of identification interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels.
The theory proposes that we should think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with the others to fully understand one’s identity.
Intersectionality holds that the classical concepts of oppression within society – such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and belief-based bigotry – do not act independently of each other.
Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate which create systems of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.
Intersectionality is an important paradigm in academic scholarship and broader contexts such as social justice work or demography, but difficulties arise due to the complex nature of making “multidimensional conceptualizations” that explain the way socially constructed categories of differentiation interact to create a social hierarchy.
For example, it argues against a singular experience of an identity.
Rather than trying to understand men’s health solely through the lens of gender, it is necessary to consider other social categories such as class, ability, nation or race, to have a fuller comprehension of the range of men’s health concerns.
The theory of intersectionality also suggests that seemingly discrete forms and expressions of oppression are shaped by one another (mutually co-constitutive).
Thus, to fully understand the racialization of oppressed groups, one must investigate the ways racializing structures, social processes and social representations (or ideas purporting to represent groups and group members in society) are shaped by gender, class, sexuality, etc.
While the theory began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within American society, today the analysis is potentially applied to all categories (including statuses usually seen as dominant when seen as standalone statuses).
On intersectionality and speciesism, Pattrice states that:
“Animals live, suffer, and die in circumstances shaped by human activities.
Those human activities are always entangled in social, historical, economic, and cultural processes that are patterned not only by speciesism but also by factors like racism and sexism.
Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” as a way of understanding and speaking about the complex and compounding interactions between different forms of oppression.
In the same way that surveyors need trigonometry and engineers need calculus, activists need intersectionality as a conceptual tool.
Without this tool, it is impossible to accurately assess the problem to be solved and difficult to design effective strategies.
The interactions among race, sex, and class oppression were the initial focus of intersectional investigation.
We have since come to understand how these interact with other factors, such as disability or nationality.
More recently, we’ve slowly come to see how these intersecting biases both enable and are compounded by human pollution and exploitation of the enviroment.
And now we face the urgent task of including non-human animals in our intersectional analyses.
Social and environmental justice activists must come to understand how speciesism is foundational to intra-species oppression, setting the terms of and helping to maintain the many ways that people exploit each other and the earth.
At the same time, animal advocates must come to understand that every act of abuse or injustice against animals occurs within social and material circumstances that cannot be adequately addressed without an understanding of intersectionality.
Extended to include speciesism and exploitation of animals among the oppressive ideologies and practices it surveys, intersectionality offers both animal and social/environmental justice activists a deeper and more complete understanding of the systems in which the problems on which they work (and they themselves) are enmeshed and, therefore, increases the likelihood of conceiving and implementing truly effective strategies.
As a bonus, this extended understanding of intersectionality opens up avenues for co-operation and collaboration across movements.
If you want to dismantle a structure, the thing to do is knock out the joints.
So, activists who want to make the most impact will look for ways to work at the intersections, ideally doing so in ways that make tangible progress on a specific problem while at the same time helping to undermine the structure of the intersecting system of oppressions.”
pattrice jones is co-founder of VINE Sanctuary
“It seems increasingly clear that what we may regard as the original vision of veganism has been lost.
On the other hand, that vision, formed in the 1940s onwards, was incomplete and somewhat confusing due to understandable definition issues and the way The Vegan Society was formed.
Essentially The Vegan Society came into existence due to a rejection of its vision by vegetarians, and we can see that vegan co-founder Donald Watson was critical of vegetarianism from the start.
He and others had recognised that vegetarianism was, at best, a half-way house – but it really makes no sense even by its own principles of not wanting to live without killing other animals.
The Vegan Society was formed in the 1940s and there was immediate pressure to show that a human being could actually survive by not consuming animal produce.
I believe that this pressure resulted in a lot of writing about health matters and less on “the vision thing.”
There was also the small complication known as World War II.
So, we have hints, statements, sentences, in writings from the 1940s and 1950s that alert us to that vision.
Rather than thinking expansively about veganism, modern vegans and, tragically, modern vegan societies (including TAVS), seem content to look narrowly at what veganism is, or what it could be – or should be.
There is a current and, to me, very depressing emphasis on health and diet but even when vegans do talk about ethics, they seem to suggest that veganism is limited almost exclusively to human relations with other sentient beings.
That, I suggest, is to badly misread the past history of the vegan movement, and the deeper far-reaching aspiration of the founders of it.
Indeed, I think we are often guilty of betraying the early vegan pioneers.
Even though they were caught up in early concerns about health, they did sometimes explain veganism to be a grand overarching view about the future of humanity; about our relations with other sentient beings, of course, but also about how we live on the planet, and how we could live peacefully with each other.
They talk about peace and “peace aims,” about human evolution, and they hinted that veganism could be central to a radical view of humanity.
With global climate change brewing to be such an issue, to continue what they began is even more vital.
We have to campaign for veganism in ways that make clear its vision of non-violence, of peace, and of justice for all sentient beings.
I believe that the early pioneers of the vegan movement thought in ways that we would now call “intersectional.”
Veganism, to them, was part and parcel of humanitarian aims.
Humanitarianism has been described as “irresistible compassion” and “fellow-feeling,” and is generally associated with concern about human rights and human welfare.
I think they would be disappointed by the current vegan societies; the emphasis on human health, celebrity, and the endless pot lucks and “vegan cupcakes.”
The earliest vegan pioneers talked, albeit often in vague terms, about veganism being connected to the moral evolution of humanity.
They seemed convinced that veganism in some way was concerned, not only to peace and justice, but to human fulfillment, if only we would stop oppressing others.
Some points early vegan pioneer Leslie Cross (1914-1979) makes are strikingly similar to David Nibert’s domestication thesis, that the “domestication” of other sentient beings is directly associated with human-on-human violence and oppression.”
(source: Dr Roger Yates)