Post-modern social work philosophy and ethics are guided by intersectional theory which promotes thinking about multiple identities and how systems of oppression are interconnected through ethnicity, class, and gender… etc which are experienced simultaneously, not ‘one at a time (Mullaly, 2009). The theory holds that each person holds different degrees of oppression and privilege based on our relative positioning along axes of interlocking systems of oppression. Where each of us lies in relation to the center and the margin —our social location—is determined by our identities, which are necessarily intersectional (Hulko, 2004).
Our social location refers to the relative amount of privilege and oppression that individuals possess on the basis of specific identity constructs, such as race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, and faith” (Hulko, 2009, p. 5). Differences in class, in social and economic power, in educational opportunity and achievement, in health and physical well-being, are the expression and result of institutionalized inequalities in opportunity and socialization through the narrative of the dominant ideology. Such differences perpetuate and increase the social imbalances in power and thereby serve to maintain all forms of oppression (Mullay,2009).
Intersectional theory informs social workers on how to build professional helping relationships. Rooted first through the concept of empathy, or living in someone else’s shoes, intersectional theories guide social works to understand our shared experience with a client, drive a mutual need to collaborate, while addressing collective problems that have created these issues. Empathy leads to us to work in solidarity with clients towards liberation from oppressive structures (Mullaly, 2009). When we recover the buried memories of our socialization, to share our stories and heal the hurts imposed by the conditioning, to act in the present in a humane and caring manner, to rebuild our human connections and to change our world (Sherover-Marcuse, 2015.)