Intersectional Invisibility: The Distinctive Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiple Subordinate-Group Identities

Abstract

The hypothesis that possessing multiple subordinate-group identities renders a person “invisible” relative to those with a single subordinate-group identity is developed. We propose that androcentric, ethnocentric, and heterocentric ideologies will cause people who have multiple subordinate-group identities to be defined as non-prototypical members of their respective identity groups. Because people with multiple subordinate-group identities (e.g., ethnic minority woman) do not fit the prototypes of their respective identity groups (e.g., ethnic minorities, women), they will experience what we have termed “intersectional invisibility.” In this article, our model of intersectional invisibility is developed and evidence from historical narratives, cultural representations, interest-group politics, and anti-discrimination legal frameworks is used to illustrate its utility. Implications for social psychological theory and research are discussed.

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Acknowledgment

We extend thanks to Jack Dovidio, Steven Mock, Ruth Ditlmann, and Anna Christina Lopez for their valuable comments on drafts of this article.

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Correspondence to Valerie Purdie-Vaughns.

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Purdie-Vaughns, V., Eibach, R.P. Intersectional Invisibility: The Distinctive Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiple Subordinate-Group Identities. Sex Roles 59, 377–391 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9424-4

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Keywords

  • Intersectionality
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Multiple identities
  • Double jeopardy
  • Social dominance theory