Feminism, as a movement, has gone through many “rebirths” and shifts in ideologies. Though the basic tenets of Feminism have remained largely unchanged- equal rights, equal power- things have certainly changed since “first wave” feminism first appeared in the United States in the 1800s!
Intersectionality is one of the hottest buzzwords circulating around women’s rights, and for good reason. Historically, feminism has often catered to only certain demographics of women with a certain set of cultural understandings and beliefs, and displays of “diversity” within the feminist movement aren’t always representative of the reality of how marginalized women are treated by feminist groups.
Intersectionality is important because without it, we can’t claim that feminism is for ALL women. The most recent issue of BUST Magazine featured a bold, inspiring cover story with Solange Knowles. She discussed her personal experience with Intersectional Feminism:
"I am a proud black feminist and womanist and I'm extremely proud of the work that's being done. I'm a feminist who wants not only to hear the term intersectionality, but actually feel it, and see the evolution of what intersectional feminism can actually achieve. I want women's rights to be equally honored, and uplifted, and heard...but I want to see us fighting the fight for all women — women of color, our LGBTQ sisters, our Muslim sisters."
We were inspired by Solange’s response, and we wanted more opinions about the meaning of Intersectional Feminism to women we respect and admire. We got in touch with three women from varying backgrounds who offered their take on what intersectional feminism means to them:
"My Mama is a strong and feisty Ewe woman who grew up with 9 brothers (not counting the half brothers) and 2 sisters. She moved from Ghana to Liberia with her young husband, only to be later abandoned by him, leaving her with two young children to nurture. She has survived war, and survived a trip to America five years ago, living on her own for years. This same mama said, "you know, men are superior to women," and meant every bit of it.
Of course I disagree wholeheartedly. I told her so. Both at home and at the office where I work with lawyers (many of them men) or on the street, superiority of men over me is something that never crosses my mind. They are privileged but I don't think them superiors.
Mama and I, our circumstances and life experience are not the same. But if you ask me to give you examples of feminists, I would undoubtedly give you our names. She is a feminist. I am a feminist. Even with our multiple stories, some contradictory. Because to me, intersectional feminism is how women survive their lot, how we make sense of the truths we have been told and some we have discovered on our own. No two are the same. And I advocate for all those stories to be heard."
“Intersectional feminism is the definition of true social justice. It means that without a shadow of a doubt you can be counted on to uphold the rights of any sister affected by oppression. Especially the rights of a sister's voice who’s isn’t as strong or heard as yours, because of her race and/or her social status. Intersectional Feminism is being able to communicate to a sister of a different race, class or age group without bias to her background--understanding that her experiences of oppression made her a feminist. For me, my gender inequality made me a feminist first, my race inequality gave me a cause to fight for, while other traumatic, discriminating experiences gave me an understanding of intersectionality. I can identify with this viewpoint because I’m an African American Woman. We may have been created equal, but we definitely are not treated equally.”
Author, Photographer, Activist
“Feminism is meaningless unless it is intersectional and wholly and fully inclusive of Muslim women (with or without the hijab), trans women, Black women, asexual women, and others who are forced to the margins of the margins. What is feminism if it is just a clenched fist of painted nails on a shirt made by women exploited in sweatshops abroad, or used as an excuse to ‘save’ hijab-wearing Muslim women in Afghanistan through war and violence? Intersectional feminism should not so much be centered around sex and sexuality (which can be incredibly exclusionary) as it should be on celebrating femininity, valuing emotional labor, transcending heteronormativity, and fighting imperialism and other forms of patriarchal violence against women.”
“To me, intersectional feminism means recognizing that I hold many privileges based on my race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ability status that other women do not. It means that any work I do for women’s rights is insufficient and incomplete if it does not recognize that women with other oppressed identities (such as those based on race, socioeconomic status, and sexual/gender identity) are more likely to experience multiple forms of violence than white women. To ignore that fact is to exacerbate the invisibility of women that feminism was meant to work against.”
We want to know, what does Intersectional Feminism mean to you?