An Introduction to Intersectional Feminism

You’ve probably heard the term “intersectional feminism” thrown around on social media or in various feminist writing lately. If you’re clueless about what intersectionality means, or if you’re a baby feminist wanting to learn more about this community then this is the guide for you! I will be going over everything related to intersectionality, starting with the beginning, and moving on to today. Hopefully you will learn the history of intersectional feminism, understand why it’s needed, and even learn how to be an intersectional feminist yourself (if you want to, of course… but you should really want to).

1. THE BEGINNING

Let’s start at the basics; the definition.

intersectionality

Intersectionality was a term coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights activist, leading scholar of critical race theory, and professor.

Although the term was created in 1989, the concept of intersectionality has been around since the late 60s-early 70s due to the start of the “multi-racial feminist movement.” Women of color during this time challenged the meaning of feminism by bringing forward the idea that gender isn’t the only impacting factor in a woman’s life. These WOC* felt like outcasts in both the civil rights movement, and the feminism movement. They were told that feminism is for gender issues, and that racial topics belonged in the civil rights movement (these feminists cared about gender not race). However, as women their issues seemed unimportant to the civil rights movement (the civil rights activists cared about race not gender), and they didn’t seem to have a role there either. This beginning of intersectionality gave WOC a voice in both race and gender issues.

kimberle crenshaw

2. ITS IMPORTANCE

So, why is it so important? Why are so many people changing the label from “feminist” to “intersectional feminist?” Why should your feminism include different issues, such as race?

This is a feminism for you, a feminism for me, a feminism for all of us. As we all know, feminism is about raising woman up to be equal to men. Women in other classes or race have it harder than the average middle-class, white woman. For us to achieve gender equality we need to focus on these issues as well. There isn’t one image that represents every feminist. Feminism includes a huge variety of people in different shapes, sizes, and colors with different classes, religions, identities, and lives in general. Everybody has different experiences with feminism, and as sad as it is, there are lots of WOC who don’t feel accepted in this movement. “White feminism” is a term that was created to illustrate privileged feminists who only care about the aspects of this movement that concern them. This type of feminism is widely seen throughout the media from talented celebrities, such as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, who have huge platforms and fan bases. It’s probably the feminism you were first introduced to, and the feminism you’re most familiar with. Sadly, it isn’t that easy. We cannot begin to make a difference in women’s rights if we exclude entire groups of people. We cannot ignore problems that people in the world are facing, just because they aren’t problems for us as well.

Something that is widely talked about in the feminism community is the gender pay gap (and for good reason), but we never talk about the role race plays in the pay gap. For every dollar a man makes, a white woman makes 79 cents. For every dollar a man makes, a black woman makes 62 cents. For every dollar a man makes, a Native American woman makes 59 cents. And lastly, for every dollar a man makes, a Latina/Hispanic woman makes 54 cents. This is more than a gender issue. Feminists everywhere are changing their label, and changing their mindsets, to make feminism more accessible and inclusive for everyone. Nobody should feel excluded from a movement that preaches equality and acceptance.

jkh

3. HOW YOU CAN BE AN INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST

Becoming an intersectional feminist is simple:

  • Change the label. (Or just change your mindset. You don’t need to actively call yourself an intersectional feminist every time you explain your beliefs. Practicing it is enough.)
  • Include others in your feminism. (People of color, people of all classes, LGBTQIA+, plus-sized women, people of different religions, everyone.)
  • Educate yourself and others. (This guide doesn’t have every single thing you need to know. It’s just the basics. It’s important to educate yourself, learn more, and come to your own conclusions. And try to educate others when the opportunity arises.)
  • Try your best to actively be a part of this community. (I promise we’re not as vicious as we may seem.)

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be an intersectional feminist, or label yourself as one. You don’t even have to call yourself a feminist. If it was up to me everyone would be calling themselves intersectional feminists, but it’s not up to me. This is your choice and your life, and I respect that. I cannot tell you what to do, and I’m not trying to. I just want to share the basics of intersectionality and hopefully help someone out there who wants to learn about it. If for some reason you don’t feel comfortable calling yourself a feminist of any kind, then that is up to you, but I hope you reconsider, because feminists just want the world to be a better place for everyone.

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Please continue this discussion in the comments! If you have any questions or anything to add, I would love to hear it.

 

*WOC – women of color

Lauren Pineiro

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