You may have heard the term intersectional feminism floating around, especially surrounding the recent Women’s March and other current events. But you may not know exactly what it is or how it applies to you.
Intersectionality was first coined by civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It’s basically the idea that there are a bunch of different social identities that intersect (get it?) to form a whole. So, things like race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, and/or nationality all overlap to form the social identity of a person.
In the case of feminism, the concept relates to how we think about our oppression and the oppression of others. It’s used to understand how different systems of injustice affect us, and acknowledges that misogyny and sexism don’t affect all women the same way.
It’s easy to be enthusiastic about feminism as a woman. It’s hard to recognize your experience with misogyny/sexism may be completely different from a woman who is also affected by racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and/or xenophobia.
We can’t talk about the plight of all women as one singular experience.
In order to be intersectional feminists, we need to examine all aspects our identities and other’s – and recognize where we have privilege. Why is this so important? Because we can’t talk about the plight of all women as one singular experience. Women of different races, social classes, or sexual orientations (just to name a few examples) have all experienced oppression differently.
So how does this inform the way we talk about women, feminism, and politics? Well, it starts by focusing on underrepresented perspectives. It starts by listening, educating ourselves, and promoting underrepresented views. It starts with recognizing where you have privilege, and how that privilege has allowed you to avoid certain discrimination or oppression.
I really like this article from Bustle that lists some super simple things you can adjust to make sure your feminism is intersectional and inclusive. Here’s a re-cap:
- If you have privilege, use it to elevate the voices of those who don’t.
- LISTEN. Listen to marginalized groups even if they’re criticizing a group you belong to. Don’t be the girl who says, “Not all white women.”
- Remove transphobic language from your dialogue. A pussy is not a requirement for being a woman. Leave it out of your feminist ideology.
- Also, remove ableist language! Don’t say something or someone’s bipolar, or retarded, or insane. You have literally thousands of other adjectives you can use, so use those instead.
And most importantly, educate yourself. Welcome diverse opinions. Welcome discussion. The more informed we are, the better we can be.
I hope this sheds some light on how we all can be better feminists. The most important thing is feeling empowered and empowering others to work towards improving ourselves and the world. I’d love to start a discussion – want to add something? Comment below!
(Feature illustration by @frances_cannon for Refinery29)