SOC205 – The Matrices of Oppression: An Introduction to Intersectionality


We’re building off of last week’s episode on sex and gender and breaking down the more complex ideas of intersectionality and feminist thought. How do you define intersectionality? What is feminist thought? And how can you apply these concepts to how you think and behave in your everyday life? (HINT: Be aware of your privileges, y’all!) We also talk about the amazing scholars– like Patricia Hill Collins, Meda Chesney-Lind, and Kimberle Crenshaw, to name a few– who have founded these important concepts. Tune in to learn more!


Find a transcription for this episode here. Big ups to Sam Yuan for transcribing this episode! We appreciate you!


Intersectionality, feminism, feminist thought, gender studies, privilege


  1. “Race, Class, Gender as Categories of Analysis and Connection” by Patricia Hill Collins (1993)
  2. Kimberle Crenshaw interview by the National Association of Independent Schools where she defines Intersectionality as: Intersectionality is a metaphor to understand how the multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and how they create obstacles that are often not understood with our conventional ways of thinking about anti-racism, feminism, or whatever social justice advocacy structures we have. Intersectionality is not a grand theory, it is rather a prism to understand various types of social problems. For example, African American girls are suspended 6 times more than white girls, and this is probably a race AND gender problem. Not just a race problem or just a gender problem. So I encourage people to think about how the conversions of race stereotypes or gender stereotypes might actually play out in the classroom, between teachers and students, students and students…and so on.”
  3. Kimberle Crenshaw TED talk on “The Urgency of Intersectionality” 
  4. Patricia Hill Collins bio on the American Sociological Association website
  5. Chesney-Lind, Meda. 2006. “Patriarchy, Crime, and Justice: Feminist Criminology in an Era of Backlash.” Feminist Criminology 1(1):6–26.  
  6. In Renzetti & Cruan’s book Women, Men and Society they write, “Patriarchy is a system of social stratification, which mean that it uses a wide array of social control policies and practices to ratify male power and to keep girls and women subordinate to men”
  7. Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation by Beth Richie (2012) 
  8. Lastly, how can you apply intersectionality in your everyday life, according to the Social Breakdown crew? Be aware of your privileges and how they may affect or be affected by the social context you are in!

3 thoughts on “SOC205 – The Matrices of Oppression: An Introduction to Intersectionality”

  1. I just started my first sociology of gender class at UVU and I was saving listening to this episode for when the semester started, so I could line it up with my textbook. Intersectionality makes a lot more sense when there’s examples thrown in immediately after, so thanks for constantly bringing up real world stuff to contextualize the theories you guys talk about!

    The “oppression olympics” is such an interesting turn of phrase…I’ve heard similar ideas in my social media feeds but talking about mental health and trauma. Sometimes people will undercut another person by saying “well, even though you’ve had anxiety, talk to me when you’ve had schizophrenia.” Is there a concept like intersectionality but for how we partition ourselves based on how we talk about mental illness? It seems as mental illness has become more of a publicly shared thing, the stigma has like…evolved a bit, now that we talk about it more. The stigma’s not gone, of course, but it’s different.

    Kind of like how sexual assault was talked about behind closed doors, and now there’s a public dialogue about it in a more rapid-fire, messy way than maybe ever before– it seems that there’s these swirling eddies of oppressive spaces online that come into contact with solidarity groups and all hell breaks loose. Like incels in the same thread as a third-wave feminist– these conversations happen way more because of technology right? Conversations that happen with topics that once were a no-go in any kind of public forum.

    Thanks for the podcast guys! I remain a huge fan.

    1. Thanks for the question, and we’re really happy you like the podcast! First, sorry for the delayed response…the SB Team has been a little busy. Now, the topic or question you bring up is an interesting one, but it is unfortunately an aspect of personal and societal (collective) response to a “problem” that is far too common. This “undercutting” you refer to happens quite a bit and the phrase or term like the “oppression Olympics” fits well here. That being said, there isn’t a specific theory that speaks to this oppression olympics rhetoric in the area of mental health/illness that is distinct from some other form of oppression olympics. However, there are different perspectives that you could draw on that either A) challenges mainstream or common sense notions of mental health/illness or B) examines how and why people make certain claims about mental health/illness that are distinct from other health conditions like cancer, diabetes, etc. (If you’re interested in A or B, let us know if you want more specifics.

      Individuals also talk differently about different “mental illnesses”. Perhaps thinking about it this way would be more helpful. We will be talking about mental illness very soon on the podcast, but for now you may want to take a look at Thomas Szasz work “The Myth of Mental Illness” and he wrote the same article but a “50 years later” version. You may also want to look at how people discuss mental illness through a social problems framework, especially Joel Best’s concept of “claims makers” or “claims making devices”. Any google search of “how to define social problems” should illicit a foundational understanding. This goes back to the sociological imagination in that individual mental illness can be seen as a personal trouble and then think of all the ways in which mental illness becomes a public issue. Seeing how others make sense of mental illness equally contributes to how individuals themselves come to make assertive, possessive or dismissive claims about mental illness.

      Hope this is helpful. And if not, bug us some more! Thanks for listening.

  2. The Myth of Mental illness is interesting, because it reminds me of the problem of “over diagnosing” or pathologizing (?) that comes up in my reading, most frequently for ADD in schools, at least that’s where I’ve heard of that argument a lot. It’s really hard trying to define a “normal” mental landscape, right? Which could make any attempts at defining dysfunction maybe a bit too all encompassing? I’ll have to read more on that.

    I’m very interested in what how claims are made about mental health/illness compared to other health issues– if you have any resources on that.

    Thank you so much for your time!

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