Thursday, August 25, 2016
What is Intersectional Feminism?
A year ago, I had no idea what intersectionality was. And perhaps some of you reading have heard the word but are fuzzy on its meaning, or are finding yourself faced with a completely new concept. Not to worry! I'm here to educate you and help you become an even better member of the feminist community.
To get us started off, feminism is commonly defined as the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Simply, it's about privilege. Men in this world hold the most privilege of the genders, and feminism has been historically about advocating for women specifically to gain the same rights and privilege as men.
Here's the thing: gender is not the only factor that determines one's privilege. This is where intersectionality comes into play. Intersectional feminism is about recognizing that some people have more than one factor that determines their privilege in society. There are many factors besides gender that can hold a person down in our society, including (but not limited to) race, sexuality, economic status, place in the world, ability, etc.
For example, a white woman in America is more privileged than a black woman, because of the systematic racism in our society. This does not devalue the problems the white woman might face. It just means that the black woman has more odds stacked against her, and that because of how our society functions, the white woman happens to have more privilege than her.
Intersectional feminism aims to recognize and include women who are oppressed because of more than just their gender. As an intersectional feminist, it is my job to recognize the privilege I possess as a white, able-bodied, middle-class American and use that privilege to help uplift the women--and people of all genders--who are struggling beneath multiple layers of oppression.
Equality of the genders cannot be truly achieved until issues of racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, etc are resolved, because until women who are facing these issues firsthand are free from these types of oppression, they will still be faced with barriers that make it impossible to achieve equality to those not facing the same issues.
It would be irresponsible of me to ignore my privilege and fight only for women facing my specific set of oppressions. I would be shirking my duty to fight for all women, no matter where they stand in society.
I bring up intersectional feminism in the context of my old post, because at that time in my life I had never heard of intersectionality, and was not thinking in that mindset. While working on that project and writing that post, I was coming from a place of privilege, something that shows through in my writing and research. For example, I said that women earn 78 cents to a man's dollar. What I neglected to mention--or even realize--was that number represents what a white woman makes to a white man's dollar. A black woman makes 65 cents to a white man's dollar. A hispanic woman makes 58 cents. In fact, a black man only makes 73 cents to a white man's dollar. This is a perfect example of how I, as a white woman, have privilege in society. Not all women are born onto equal playing fields. And as an intersectional feminist, I am fighting to level the playing fields of all women.
If you didn't know what intersectional feminism was before this, thank you for reading, and I hope you've come away with a new perspective on feminism and your role in this movement. If you did know about intersectionality, think of this as a "correction" of my previous post. Either way, keep fighting for gender equality and don't forget to check your privilege.