Intersectionality is a matrix of power structures where people plot themselves and other people on the matrix to show where they sit within hierarchies of power on the basis of identity markers.
The hierarchies are power spectrums according to race, sexuality, religion, gender (which also includes gender identity) and physical ability. Class is sometimes included. The spectrum puts white people as high, and black people as low; heterosexual as high and homosexual as low; men as high and women as low (but trans people as lower); Christians as high and all other religions as low; able bodied people as high and disabled people as low.
The assumption is that the people at one end of the spectrum, according to binaries, are privileged and the people on the other end are oppressed. Intersectionality assigns feelings to those they declare to be privileged, saying they ought to feel guilt and shame, and that the oppressed ought to feel victimised. This is regardless of the lived experience of those people. It assumes that anybody who is privileged within this framework holds unconscious bias against others, regardless of their experience or actions. So, a white heterosexual man who is able bodied but has had a terrible life in poverty is told he is priviliged on the basis of the matrix, and that he should feel guilty for his privilege. Or a white man who is married to a black women and has black children is assumed to hold unconscious bias against black people because all white people are racist. Understandably, such men would be angry at this representation. A black lesbian who has had a successful and happy life would be surprised to be told she is a victim.
Intersectionality pigeon-holes people according to factors mostly beyond their control which are due to accidents of birth. It is illiberal. It denies the experience of the individual. It reinforces stereotypes. It dictates how people should feel about themselves and others. In a liberal democracy people have the right to feel however they feel, without compulsion or coercion.
Confusingly, lived experience is an element within critical social justice theory. Alongside intersectionality is the idea that a person’s lived experience holds greater value than the work of researchers or academics or experts in their field. Within critical justice theory, experts are only permitted to speak about power issues if they have lived experience.
Within the intersectionality framework the power spectrum is flipped, so that the voices of the people at the lower scale are amplified and the voices of the people at the higher scale are silenced. In order to be heard, people must identify as powerless, in order to gain power. It values oppression as a virtue, even if that oppression is not due to accidents of birth but as a selected identity (which is possibly unproven).
The term comes from the US Law academic Kimberlé Crenshaw, and applies postmodernist theory.
Within feminism this is third wave intersectional feminism. It dilutes feminism, because it fractures the basis for women's rights which is biological sex.
Universities are now teaching this as doctrine. The arguments against these theories are not taught. It is now the dominant lens for viewing social construction and morality and has spawned ideas of trigger warnings, microaggressions, safe spaces, and political correctness, which are not evidenced to have value. The proponents of the ideology do not defend their position. They have created their own canon and created their own high priests. While the moral impulse to help others is to be applauded, the structures of the application are a problem. Do we all need to know everything about each other? No. In the workplace and professional organisations it is not necessary, in fact, it is a breach of privacy. In these situations we need to simply do our work and behave professionally. Why create means to divide people into smaller and smaller categories when we could, instead, emphasise the commonalities which draw people together?
Philosopher Peter Boghossian has called Intersectionality a new religion. He quotes US Law professor and writer, Alan Dershowitz, calling it `the phoniest academic doctrine I have encountered in 53 years”.