MY GROWTH TOWARDS INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM
Written by Cher Valentine
I was introduced to feminism and more real world issues at what I consider a late age, however since being introduced I have made it my duty to ensure that people know what feminism is and understand what I'm fighting for. In a world where our president is sexist and homophobic, it is more important now, maybe more than ever before, that as many people as possible fight for the rights of those who are being oppressed.
Feminism as defined by the dictionary is the fight for equality between men and women. A definition that, to some, may seem discriminatory against men and a term that is sometimes seen as controversial due to the fact that it fights fire with fire. A feminism that involves race and gender. A feminism that only fights for women who are able, cisgendered, and white. Feminism put that way is what feminists like myself, Rowan Blanchard, Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg, Ash Sarkar, and Laverne Cox would call White Feminism™. It excludes those that also need our help, such as the transgender, gender binary, LGBTQ+, working class, and international communities.
Feminists like the ones I mentioned before practice intersectionality. Intersectionality was first coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in her 1989 essay “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex.” It is defined as, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Affecting our way of life in how we choose to communicate with others and how our environment interacts with us, it has been branched as a subsection of feminism deemed intersectional feminism; meaning that it is inclusive of people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities and socioeconomic statuses.
Intersectional feminism is not just a new wave of feminism, it is growth. It is proof that as we learn and grow we realize that there is more to fight for than just the stereotypical woman's rights; a reminder that we must fight for the rights of all people who are being oppressed. We must fight for the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and for the mentally and physically disabled. The improvement in gender and racial equality, while exceptional, cannot simply be enough. When straight, cisgender white women are still the face of feminism, we know that there is more to be done. When the targets in America still have separate sections for boys and girls, we know that there is more to be done. When young girls are told that they can't play football and young boys are told they shouldn't be ballerinas, I know that there is so much work to be done. Women of color still make less than white women. Indigenous women still face violence from the state/colonization. Intersectional feminist are still fighting for those women. Intersectional feminist still have so much work to be done.
Intersectionality is an entire package that wraps everything together and makes it whole. It is impossible to say that feminism is about fighting for women if it only includes a certain group of people and is exclusive of those who also struggle due to other forms of inequality, simply because they don’t fit into a certain mold. One-dimensional feminism will never account for change. In order to attain equal rights, it is important that it is inclusive for all people, not just the ones that are similar to ourselves.
Even Susan B. Anthony, who is considered one of the faces of first wave feminism, was quoted saying, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” Anthony is hailed as a feminist icon, but she only cared for the rights of women that looked like her — women who were white. An intersectional feminist can and will fight for equality for all; no matter what. Fight for the rights and safety of all people, because as people we deserve to have rights and to not be treated differently based on who we are and who we choose to be.
As Rowan Blanchard, the 16 year old feminist icon, perfectly states; the definition of feminism is not a fight between men and women but it is "undoing patriarchal structures against marginalized people — structures that fight against people of color, that fight against women, that fight against disabled people, that fight against LGBTQ." And as we fight for the rights of all people on earth, feminism grows. We continue to learn and find more ways to be inclusive with our feminism. We teach and grow with the feminist movement allowing more people to follow. Our rights will not be swept aside or minimized to just gender equality; we will fight equity in all communities and make our voices heard. As Assata Shakur said, “In the long run, the people are our only appeal. The only ones who can free us are ourselves.”