This past month marked the 37th anniversary of celebrating Women’s History Month in the United States. However, discussing and honoring women’s history does not end with the month of March — here are some important and relevant terms from intersectional feminist theory that may inspire you to delve deeper.


The term “intersectionality” was coined by the scholar, philosopher and lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, and has been increasingly integrated into feminist discourse. Intersectionality describes how race, class, gender and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another, or overlap, to create different complex experiences for individuals who possess these identities — it is a lens for understanding the way in which various forms of inequality not only operate together but exacerbate each other. The term became mainstream and was published in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. Since then, the concept of intersectionality has continued to gain traction in recent years, such as during the 2017 Women’s March.

The Second Shift

The second shift describes the unpaid labor performed by women within homes in addition to the paid work performed within professional life. First defined by professor Arlie Hochschild, it gives voice to a phenomenon in which working women participate in the world of paid work as their first shift, only to come home and execute a “second shift” of housework. Through her research, Hochschild illuminated the double burden faced by many working women today.

Critical race theory

Also coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, critical race theory is a theoretical framework that argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions rather than by individual or psychological factors. Previously, little criticism existed in regards to how structures of law and society could be intrinsically racist and not just distorted by racism. Critical race theory remains highly relevant in the way we think about systemic racism – even when individuals are not racist, the system will still produce racist outcomes due to its inherent nature.


Misogynoir is a relatively new term, but critical to intersectional feminism nonetheless. It was coined in 2010 by gay Black feminist and American academic Moya Bailey, who defined it as “[describing] the particular brand of hatred directed at Black women in American visual and popular culture.” Since its genesis, many Black women have adapted the term’s meaning to describe the gender and racial discrimination experienced by those existing at this intersection. Misogynoir highlights how the way we experience misogyny can differ from others due to our intersectional identities including race.


Fetishization can often fly under the radar because of its seemingly positive or affirmative nature in expressing sexual desire. However, tragedies such as the mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16 show that it is ultimately rooted in racism, objectification and disposability. Fetishization is understood to be the act of making one an object of sexual desire based on one aspect of their identity. Although “dating preferences” can seem harmless, they can reinforce extremely oppressive stereotypes about different marginalized groups, and ultimately, empower those who hold them to act upon their desires, harming those they only view as sexual objects.

Emotional labor

Defined by Hochschild in 1983, emotional labor refers to regulating or managing one’s emotional expressions as part of one’s job. Emotional labor tends to be performed in professions such as service or care work and is woman-dominated. The more modern usage of the term refers to the emotional work and support that a disproportionate amount of those socialized as women have to endure as an expectation.

Happy Women’s History Month! Although we are quickly approaching April, I implore you to use these terms as a starting point to critically assess and improve your feminism, worldview or experience. Having the knowledge to understand your experiences as well as what is happening in the world is a crucial step toward direct action to uplift yourself and others.