Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 68, Issue 11, pp 646-659

First online:

The Gendered Nature of Discriminatory Experiences by Race, Class, and Sexuality: A Comparison of Intersectionality Theory and the Subordinate Male Target Hypothesis

  • Gerry VeenstraAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of British Columbia Email author 

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Three competing theoretical approaches to social inequalities by gender, race, class, and sexuality are examined. The additive approach assumes that people possessing multiple subordinate-group identities experience the oppressions associated with them as distinct phenomena. The intersectionality-inspired approach suggests that subordinate-group identities such as non-White, lower class, and non-heterosexual interact with gender in a synergistic way, occasioning inordinately pernicious experiences of discrimination for women possessing one or more additional subordinate-group identities. The subordinate male target hypothesis (SMTH) claims that the discrimination experienced by the men of subordinate groups—primarily at the hands of men of dominant groups—is greater than that experienced by the women of the same subordinate groups. In 2009, telephone survey data was collected from 414 women and 208 men in Toronto, Canada and 521 women and 245 men in Vancouver, Canada. Negative binomial regression techniques are applied to these data to determine whether and how gender (male or female), race (White or non-White), educational attainment, household income, and sexual orientation (heterosexual or non-heterosexual), as well as two-way interactions between gender and the other variables, predict scale measures of self-reported major experiences of discrimination and self-reported chronic, routine discriminatory experiences. High levels of both kinds of discrimination reported by men in general are at odds with the additive and intersectionality-inspired perspectives which accord women the gender identity most vulnerable to discrimination. Inordinately high levels of routine discrimination reported by men with a high school diploma or less are consistent with the SMTH-inspired perspective.


Self-reported discrimination Additivity Multiplicativity Intersectionality Subordinate male target hypothesis Canada