The Importance Of Intersectionality In Feminism


The feminism movement is all about bringing about equality for everyone. It isn't a one dimensional thing which should only fight for the rights and recognition of human beings who fit into a certain box. Feminism ought to be intersectional and, if it isn't, it isn't wanted.
There's a toxic ideology that exists which perpetuates the idea that feminism only concerns cis gendered, white, able bodied, slim, heterosexual, reasonably-well-off financially, women. No one ever says this out loud, of course, however, it's evident through the acts we commit as activists. The banners, the speeches, the merchandise, the ways in which we define feminism to other people... these all exclude other people who face daily struggles when it comes to equality and deserve to be seen and uplifted by the feminist movement. For example, at marches, women parade around with signs with uteruses drawn onto them and wearing pussy hats, thus, excluding trans women or individuals who do not feel their body parts have any association with their gender.

With street marches constantly taking place and social media users utilising their platforms to speak about social issues in a way that's never been done before, the feminist movement is still undeniably prominent. The world's population, and particularly youngsters, are more educated, more aware and more passionate about fighting for change and shaping an equal future. However, the word 'equal' has multiple meanings and probably means something different to each member of the feminist movement. Different feminists strive for different things due to their own personal experiences with inequality. Different people face different fights and have different goals. This means that not everyones goals are recognised, perhaps because they are part of a minority. Therefore, it is more important than ever that, whilst the voices of this movement are getting increasingly louder as the world becomes increasingly more unjust, we uplift all people who face inequality and ensure our feminism is inclusive of everyone. Quite frankly, if feminism doesn't stand for everyone, then who does it stand for? Who is it really benefitting? Who really wins if everyone doesn't win? Feminism isn't feminism unless it's intersectional.

By definition, intersectional feminism is, "the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities, such as race, class, religion, and sexual orientation, impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination," according to USA Today. Therefore, it should help everyone, especially those who are most disadvantaged and unable to be heard by themselves. Women, (and anyone who feels that their connection to womanhood is important to them and their identity) part of marginalised communities often rely on the platforms given to women with privilege to spread their message. For example, black women may rely on the platforms of white women and gay women may rely on the platforms of straight women. This isn't about privileged women speaking on behalf of minority groups, of course, but it is about women who society are more inclined to listen to, using their power to shine the spotlight on these communities. It's about amplifying what they have to say and directing society to the right places. White women will never be able to speak about racism in the way that black women can and cis women will never be able to speak about transphobia in the way that trans women can. What they can do, though, is include those who can speak about their experiences with these things in their activism. Whilst women generally face inequality in the form of sexism and whilst white women, cis women, straight women, etc. do face oppression, (and every form of oppression is valid and worthy of dismantling) no fight is more important than another. It is vital to dismantle all oppressive institutions and ensure marginalised women do not have to battle alone.

The conversation surrounding intersectional feminism was largely generated by 'white feminism,' which is advocacy for gender equality that ignores the unique experiences of women of colour. This type of feminism is incredibly harmful and does nothing to bring about equality, instead, it perpetuates racist beliefs and is ignorance from white women who never have had to think about the experiences of women of colour. By excluding women of colour and other marginalised groups, instead of making a feminist movement that works for everybody, we're making a movement that prioritises and privileges certain perspectives over others. Instead of combatting ostracisation, we're adding to it. This also causes further harm to these oppressed groups and leaves them wondering, if a movement that stands for equality doesn't have my back, then who does? Feminism is about trying to annihilate oppression, not the opposite.

It is incredibly disheartening to see a feminist movement exclude such valid members of society, many of whom have done incredible things themselves and their ancestors have brought about so much change and deserve to have their work continued.
Women of colour are earning a lot less than what white men make, disabled women are struggling to find employment, trans women are being raped and suicide rates amongst young trans people are high, poor women do not have access to the healthcare they deserve, lesbian and bisexual women face daily struggles with homophobia, bierasure and ignorance, fat women are not being represented in the media and, finally, mentally ill women are not receiving the correct support. All of these issues are very much feminist issues and they cannot be ignored.

Women of colour deserve to be paid equal to their male counterparts and not have their work taken for granted. They deserve to be credited for their art, they deserve to receive recognition for their contributions towards feminism and not to be ostracised because of their skin colour.

Disabled women deserve equal opportunities at employment and to not be ridiculed for having a disability. They deserve to have their disabilities understood and to never be defined by them.

Trans individuals deserve to feel accepted into society rather than as if they don't belong. They deserve to be seen as the identity that they are, to feel safe, to not feel pressured to conform to gender norms and to have their community recognised as the influential one it was in bringing about gender equality.

Poor women deserve access to safe healthcare and abortions, they deserve access to education so they can learn in the same way that higher class women can and they deserve to have people in politics who care about them, not just the rich.

Lesbian, bisexual and other women of LGBTQ+ sexual orientations deserve to not live in fear of prejudice, they deserve to not be stereotyped or defined by their sexuality. They deserve to not face discrimination in everyday life for something as beautiful as who they love.

Fat women deserve to not be fat shamed but to feel empowered and strong in their own bodies. They deserve to see themselves up on billboards and on magazine covers and to be able to live freely without others passing judgement on their lifestyle choices.

Mentally ill women deserve to receive help and support they require before it is too late. They deserve spaces to talk in which they feel comfortable and to have the stigma surrounding their mental illnesses annihilated.

Making feminism intersectional isn't about oppressing cis, heterosexual, white women. Asking them to make their language and their activism inclusive isn't an attempt to take away from the struggles that they face, quite the opposite, actually. You see, when feminism works for everybody, it works properly. When feminism only works for a few, it isn't really feminism. Feminism that favours specific groups does nothing positive to bring about equality but instead ensures equality will never be reached as marginalised communities are left to fight on their own. As Bell Hooks said, "feminism is for everybody," and that means regardless of their gender, sexual orientation skin colour, religion, ability or disability, body size or physical appearance... If your feminism isn't fat positive, anti racist, trans* inclusive, pro choice, challenging ablish and against classism, then who is it even for?

We do not have the luxury of time or the option of waiting. We cannot afford to build social movements that are not intersectional. 

Love, Emily.

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