Intersectional Feminism

A lot has changed throughout the course of my journey within the feminist movement. I’m a far different feminist today than I was 2 years ago. At the age of 14, the feminism I was introduced to could be described best as “one size fits all.” It promoted the idea that us women all shared a uniform struggle; we all bled once a month and had all experienced the crippling effects of patriarchy. Over time, I began to realize the flaws in that kind of feminism. It didn’t recognize the individual struggle each woman faced; it lacked inter-sectionality. Now, a year later I know what needs to be done to improve the efficacy of the Feminist movement, and that is the integration of intersectional feminism.

Intersectional Feminism stems from the concept of intersectionality – the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression. In simpler terms, intersectional feminism means supporting women beyond the basis of gender: matters of race, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, gender identity, and class concern the feminist movement. Mainstream feminism often forgets that the struggle of each woman can be drastically changed by the intersection of another form of oppression she may face. This is why feminists must advocate for women, and all the identities that make them who they are. The importance of intersectional feminism can be displayed in the following examples: An upper-middle-class white woman is not going to have the same womanly struggle as a low-income black woman. An Israeli woman is not going to have the same womanly struggle as a Palestinian woman, or a queer woman versus a straight woman, an able-bodied woman, and a disabled woman. Some women have their cards stacked against them because of intersections of oppression they may face. So in a world with many oppressive forces, one size fits all feminism truly isn’t feasible.

One size fits all feminism has historically puts a strain on the Feminist movement. The late 20th-century Feminist movement lacked intersectionality. The second wave of feminism that occurred in the post-suffrage era had many flaws; one of them being that it wasn’t inclusive of black women and other women of color. It primarily advocated for the concerns of upper-middle-class white women. This created tension and an ambivalent relationship between white women and women of other races and classes. Many black women saw white women as just as much as their oppressors as white men. But white women struggled to see it this way. The relationship of feminism to African-American women posed great challenges for the movement. [1] Even today many women of color still do not feel that the feminism white women champion address their needs. Separatist movements like Womanism, thus have been established to address the connections between race and gender that are often ignored in the mainstream Feminist movement. Women of color often feel that issues specific to them are not being discussed, which prompts them to create their own spaces that address intersectionality.

Feminism needs to be cognizant of the individual struggle each woman faces. Of course, patriarchy screws us all and there are some similarities in our womanly struggles. But overall we are individuals and don’t have the same burdens. Some women are defined by more than just their gender, but also their various other identities. Because of this, feminists must widen their problem-solving gaze beyond the basis of gender. There is a reason Malala Yousafzai is more likely to be a victim of a hate crime because of the Hijab she wears than a woman of another faith. [2] The reason being she is more than just a woman, she is a Muslim woman. The oppression she faces as a Muslim and as a woman intersect. There is a reason that a transgender woman is far more likely to be murdered or assaulted than a cisgender woman. [3] The reason being she is more than just a woman, she is a transgender woman. The oppression she faces as a transgender person and as a woman intersect. There is a reason Nicki Minaj may get paid 64 cents in comparison to the dollar Eminem makes and the 77 cents Iggy Azalea makes. [4] The reason being she is more than just a woman, she is a black woman. The oppression that she faces as a black person and as a woman intersect. These are all cases that display the apparent need for intersectional feminism.

One size fits all feminism is the brick wall that separates all women from achieving gender equality. Feminists should begin connecting the dots between different forms of oppression and discrimination. Women with privileges like being white, wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, or heterosexual have the ability to disregard the need for intersectionality. But there is an apparent need for intersectional feminism so that we can push forward for equality. Something must be done to improve the efficacy of our movement. And I believe intersectional feminism is that thing. Feminism shouldn’t only be for the upper-middle-class white woman in Manhattan, and for the able-bodied liberal in Chicago. Feminism should be for the girl who sits in a refugee camp in war-ravaged Gaza, and for the wheelchair bound woman practicing Purdah. As feminists, we cannot allow the differing struggles woman endure to be invisible. We cannot refuse to acknowledge the intersections of oppression. Within the feminist movement there needs to be a seat at the table for women of color, disabled women, queer women, and women of all religions and classes; their voices need to be heard and their rights need to be fought for.

[1] Burkett, Elinor. “The Suffrage Movement.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.Web. 07 Apr. 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/724633/feminism/216007/The-suffrage-movement>.

[2] Ingraham, Christopher. “Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Are Still Five times More Common Today than before 9/11.”Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/11/anti-muslim-hate-crimes-are-still-five-times-more-common-today-than-before-911/>.

[3] “Stop Trans Murders – The Task Force.” The Task Force Stop Trans Murders Comments. N.p., 20 Oct. 2014.Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.thetaskforce.org/stop-trans-murders/>.

[4] “How Does Race Affect the Gender Wage Gap?” AAUW Empowering Women Since 1881 How Does Race Affect the Gender Wage Gap Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.aauw.org/2014/04/03/race-and-the-gender-wage-gap/>.

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