“Shibani defines herself as the birth-child of literature and psychology. A writer and a recent graduate, she loves engaging with abstract psychological concepts in her head. Ironically, she is passionate about pursuing higher studies to understand the empirical sub-domain of community psychology. It’s difficult to catch hold of her since she’s mostly away with coffee and comfort music.”
THE LINK BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY & INTERSECTIONALITY
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”-Audre Lorde
As concerned and empathetic humans, we find it disturbing to know that a countless number of women face gender-based violence. However, our knowledge must not end here. In order to really deal with the issue, we must accept that there are some sections of females who face much more horrifying offenses than others. It is crucial to think about the different shades of social identities that merge with gender identity to produce murky and usually ignored contexts for some groups. In Indian society, the most powerful examples would be of an economically disadvantaged intersex individual and a female belonging to a lower caste. It is a need of the hour to pay serious attention to these intersections within one’s identity and understand how it affects us.
Kimberle Crenshaw gave birth to the term “Intersectionality” in 1989. Her literary work on demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex ended up engendering lasting discourses for generations of women. Originally a theoretical concept, ‘intersectionality’ proposes that the cumulative effect of a person’s various social identities can lead to unique forms of injustice. These social identities can be racial, ethnic, sexual, socioeconomic and likewise. Their intersection at the individual or micro-level gets reflected at the macro-level systems of oppression and privilege (Bowleg, 2012). Therefore, the overarching aim of adopting an intersectional perspective is to promote socio-political equity.
The emphasis on context is essential. Rather than simply recognizing the marginalization of persons with diverse and many times fringed identities, intersectionality also focuses on the societal context in which such identities come together. The characteristics which are looked down upon in one context might be esteemed in another. This makes intersectionality a broad framework (Tang, 2020). However, it should be understood that intersectionality is an essential lens which helps to explore systemic complexities; it is not a solution.
The science of mind and behaviour is not one of the lesser-known domains anymore. This is not surprising since the world needs to recognize the reaches of mental health now more than ever. Initially, psychology was simply known to comprise the study of mind and behaviour. It used to take an individual approach to identities and continued to gaze deeper within client personalities. However, in time it became unavoidably evident that people’s consciousness does not exist in a vacuum. Most actions are responses to the environment. Therefore, an individual’s environment holds a lot of significance. Its social and systemic nature interact to create unique experiences for people. This is precisely why psychology cannot ignore the concept of intersectionality.
Psychology & Intersectionality
Social psychology has always focused on the prejudices and discrimination faced by groups within a society. Now, it must broaden its view to take into account the oppression of certain intersectional identities, which stand overlooked merely because they don’t fit in the broader categories. Fortunately, the field has begun to progress towards this. Practitioners are increasingly adopting more complex frameworks to better understand the intersecting social identities of clients. This further helps to identify the direct or indirect influence some intersectional standings have on wellbeing.
A recent field called Community Psychology places great emphasis on the context in which an individual is put. This domain has a special link to intersectionality because it doesn’t only acknowledge the context, but also highlights how each context can prove to be different for different individuals. For instance, intersectionality was first proposed to bring out how the feminist reforms taking place in the West were only empowering the white women and not the black. This is where psychology has rightfully expanded from the counselor’s clinic, straight into policymaking. Psychology is becoming more preventive in its approach, but it can only prevent a mental health epidemic as long as it continues to explore and comprehend diverse communities, and the intersections within the identities of its members.
- Bowleg, L. (2012). The Problem With the PhraseWomen and Minorities: Intersectionality—an Important Theoretical Framework for Public Health. American Journal Of Public Health, 102(7), 1267-1273. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2012.300750
- Tang, J. (2020). Intersectionality in psychology | APS. Psychology.org.au. Retrieved 18 September 2020, from https://www.psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2020/April-May-Issue-2/Intersectionality-in-psychology.
- Crenshaw, Kimberle (1989) “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article Available at: http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclf/vol1989/iss1/8