Because all people experience oppression and privilege in a variety of ways within a variety of different complex systems wherein a given person can be oppressed in one area while being privileged in another, and given that these systems interact in complex ways so that race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, etc., cannot be disentangled from one another, there exists no universal experience of oppression. For example, a person's identity with respect to race will influence their experience of what it means to be a particular gender. Therefore, intersectionality is not just about recognizing all various forms of oppression, but involves also the challenging task of uncovering the complex and myriad ways that these oppressions interrelate and bringing these intersections into the fore of public discourse.
Intersectional analysis is especially important because of the fact that society is held together by legacies of imperialism, colonization, white-supremacy, patriarchy, and a host of other institutionalized and internalized oppressions. When certain areas of injustice and oppression are emphasized over and above others, the emphasized oppression will continue to thrive in ways that are unseen by the dominant group engaged in the struggle. This has been clearly illustrated within the feminist movement which was historically led by middle-class, white women and which constructed femininity in a singular fashion that ignored the experiences and struggles of women of color. Because oppressions work together in multiplicative ways and reinforce one another, they cannot be dismantled when confronted on their own, but must be engaged together in every space they permeate.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella. Indecent Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics. London: Routledge, 2000. Print. Indecent Theology brings liberation theology up to date by introducing the radical critical approaches of gender, postcolonial, and queer theory. Grounded in actual examples from Latin America, Marcella Althaus-Reid's highly provocative, but immaculately researched book reworks three distinct areas of theology—sexual, political and systematic. It exposes the connections between theology, sexuality and politics, whilst initiating a dramatic sexual rereading of systematic theology. The book challenges, with a perceptive understanding of the postcolonial condition, both feminist theologians who dwell on gender and sexuality without talking about economics, and liberation theologians who dismiss women’s and queer concerns as side-tracking from the “real” issues of liberation to address the blind spots in their analysis.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches. Crossing Press, 1984. Print. While this book was published three decades ago, the essays and speeches it contains are more relevant than ever for the work of undoing oppression. With great courage, authenticity and wisdom, Lorde explores the intersections of sexism and racism, and the way these forms of oppression have affected radicalized women. She also examines the ways in which age, class and heterosexual privilege work together with sexism and racism, leaving no stone unturned. Her essay on "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," is unlike anything written before or since, and should be essential reading for everyone engaged in the work of challenging oppression. Lorde also writes clearly and forcefully about the risks and obstacles to bringing about change in communities that are stuck within the very structures they are attempting to transform.