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Kimberlé Crenshaw

Human Rights Lawyer, Legal Scholar, Activist, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

Jorie Dugan, Legal Advisor, celebrates Kimberlé Crenshaw as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.

It’s impossible to imagine the women’s rights movement as it is today without Kimberlé Crenshaw. In 1989, she coined the term “intersectionality,” helping to shape the evolution of the feminist and women’s rights movement. 

Over more than 30 years, Kimberlé’s work and scholarship has encouraged advocacy, laws, and policies to consider and address overlapping and compounding dynamics of discrimination across lines of gender, race, and class, for example. These efforts are critical to ensuring that feminism truly uplifts everyone. 

To me, Kimberlé applies the type of lens that I believe is necessary for the women’s rights movement—and I personally try to incorporate into my own feminist advocacy. Discrimination and inequality are not one-issue experiences for most people, so we must adapt our ways of advocating for women’s rights to comprehensively address the lived realities of a wide range of diverse women. 

Kimberlé’s work has encouraged critical conversations. She has helped many in the women’s rights movement to realize that focusing on or prioritizing one singular issue or point of discrimination often leaves the most marginalized—such as women of color (with the compounding identities of race and gender) or women of color with disabilities (with the compounding barriers posed by race, gender, and abledness)— left in a gap where they continue to face oppression and violations of their rights. Kimberlé has helped to reconceive the advocacy structure to address and combat these intersections together, not separately. 

Kimberlé’s thought leadership has shaped how I do my work as well as the commitments I have made along with my colleagues. At Equality Now, we aspire to be a truly anti-racist, intersectional, feminist organization that actively challenges racism and all forms of discrimination in our own organizational culture and through our work. 

We believe that discrimination based on sex and gender is inextricably linked with other factors that affect women, such as race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health status, age, class, caste, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In my role as global legal advisor, I provide legal analysis and recommendations on a wide range of women’s rights issues using not only a human rights and international law framework but an intersectional feminist one as well. 

I am grateful for Kimberlé because she reminds us that “All inequality is not created equal” and “The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture.”

A headshot of Kimberlé Crenshaw

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