Seeing gender equality in relation to other social categories such as race, class, disability, sexual orientation and age is slowly gaining ground in Norway. This perspective, called intersectionality, has its roots in black feminism, reflecting both racial and gendered systems of oppression. Intersectionality is still more common as a theoretical approach within research than in policy processes, but has been adopted as an important perspective in Norwegian equality policy.
The aim of an intersectional approach is to make visible not only similarities and differences between the sexes, but also to recognize how the diversity that stems from other social categories affects us in different ways. Knowledge generated from an intersectional analysis can be used to make tools better tailored to implementing gender equality policies.
The Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Act promotes equality. It reads: «Discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, leave in connection with childbirth or adoption, care responsibilities, ethnicity, religion, belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age or combinations of these factors is prohibited.» The intersectional perspective is expressed by emphasizing the possible combination of factors.
The use of an intersectional lens when investigating gender equality issues, race issues, sexuality issues etc. is only beginning in Norway. Traditionally, phenomena are addressed through a single lens.
Oppression within a society based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, class, and other markers of difference do not act independently of one another. In contrast, these forms of oppression interrelate, and create opportunities and barriers for individuals depending on which intersection of forms of oppression the individual experiences.
An intersectional perspective reminds us that it is not enough to identify what the situation is for women and men in general, but it is also necessary to know that their race, sexual orientation, or age affects their situation. Women and men in Norway are also black or white, belong to an ethnic minority or majority, have different levels of education and incomes; some are refugees, elderly, lesbian, disabled, and some are discriminated against on several grounds.