Your feminism must be intersectional to be valid
The word ‘intersectional’ has been growing into the vernacular in the lexicon of a modern feminist, and its relevance in today’s day and age is greater than ever. Globalization has made for tighter international contact and so surely, the fight for male-female equality in France will have an impact on the same fight in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia or even Colombia. With nations needing to intertwine with one another in key areas like politics and economics, it is important that the feminist movement starts embracing all women regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and social class. Intersectional feminism is much more than a new social justice warrior term, it is a necessity in our world and that should be evident. If your feminism does not acknowledge a difference in struggle for women in overlapping minorities, then your feminism needs some updating.
Intersectionality was first defined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in ‘Black Feminism’. She thoroughly explains the complex nature of the struggle of black women who face systematic oppression for both their race and their gender, as well as mentions that the struggle of being a black woman isn’t simply the sum of the discrimination by race and the discrimination by gender. The overlapping nature of identity being defined by both race and gender means that the struggle of being black is enhanced by her gender, as well as the struggle of being a woman enhanced by her race.
Crenshaw exposes three main focuses of intersectionality that affect women of color: structural, political and representational. Structural focuses on how the location and area of black women reduces the visibility of their oppression. Political examines how different laws put that visibility in danger. Representational looks at how women of color are affected by their representation or lack thereof in pop culture, which in itself becomes a form of oppression.
The concept of intersectionality was created by basing itself on a case study of race and gender. However, it can also be applied to gender and class, gender and sexual orientation, gender and religion and can expand itself to more than only two forms of oppression. Being a black lesbian means that 3 overlapping systems of oppression affect your day to day life and if you attempt to take part in movements fighting either of those struggles, you will constantly remain in the margin, with no real fight for yourself.
In the past, feminist movements have strived through the oppression of people of color. Even the renowned leader of the suffragettes, Susan B. Anthony said very clearly “[She]will cut off this right arm of [hers] before [she]will ever work or demand the ballot for the Ne*ro and not the woman.” The feminism of Anthony’s time, nicknamed ‘white feminism’ is no longer relevant in terms of mainstream culture, and women of overlapping minorities are not here for it.
There is no place in today’s society for a feminism that is not intersectional. There is no good in fighting for feminism if you are racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic.
At the end of International Women’s day on the 8th of March 2018 I asked myself a question, what can I do to ensure that my feminism doesn’t exclude any woman? And I came to a simple conclusion: Don’t stop educating yourself. Don’t stop listening to others. Don’t stop caring. So long as I keep myself informed and in the fight for women of color as well as gay, Muslim, Jewish, disabled women, I am doing what I can to help. My feminism is intersectional because it addresses racism, classism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
The scholars, the internet, but most importantly the women of the world have made it very clear: your feminism must be intersectional to be valid.
Credits for Images:
Audre Lorde; http://cispes.org/article/cispes-statement-hector-perla-and-sexualgender-violence-our-movement
All of Us or None; https://www.redbubble.com/fr/people/caitlingray1684/works/24948691-all-of-us-or-none?p=poster
Featured Image; https://www.themarysue.com/intersectional-feminism-womens-march/