The Importance of Intersectionality in Feminism

Hey hey! It’s March- and if you’ve been around for a year or two you’ll know that it’s a big month for OCSU. It means that our annual International Women’s Day event is around the corner! March 8th to be specific. 

Every year on March 8th the globe comes together in celebration of women. The theme this year is Embrace Equity. writes:

“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.” 

The goal of feminism is to have gender equality for all. This year’s theme speaks to a vital aspect of the feminist movement, intersectionality. In 1989 black activist and lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the word “Intersectionality” and defined it as such:

“Intersectionality is a metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and create obstacles that often are not understood among conventional ways of thinking.”

In layman’s terms, Crenshaw  pointed out that while everyone has struggles, there are groups of people who may face additional challenges and barriers to meet the same “Base-line” level of success that others do not face, making their struggle that much more difficult than others. An intersectional approach shows the way that people’s social identities can overlap, creating compounding experiences of discrimination. We’ve put together a visual for you! 

An important piece to consider when applying intersectionality to women’s rights, or any social issue, is to consider the history surrounding it. Contexts like systemic discriminations and violence against women are added burdens on top of the complicated world we live in. Pile those on top of larger pervasive issues like sexism, racism, poverty, and homophobia and transphobia, and one can see how these can all intersect and create the oppressive societal issues that feminism is fighting to undo. 

The issue is, all of these systemic problems can also be enacted on women by other women. It doesn’t all come from men. True gender equality cannot exist if women are still upholding racist ideals, transphobia, or classist beliefs. When women act upon these harmful values (ie: white supremacism) they are taking feminism backwards, not forwards. Let’s not forget that many important pieces to feminism started in black communities such as the #MeToo movement, which was created by Tarana Burke

Too often folks take defensive stances when they are challenged with ideas that challenge their view of the world. That’s why so many men try to dismiss the feminist movement (and also why they only ask about Men’s Day when we talk about Women’s Day), and why so many women find it difficult to accept that the movement needs to be more inclusive. The goal of International Women’s Day is to celebrate women and to further gender equality for all.

For all. 

That includes those who are facing additional barriers and systemic oppression. That doesn’t make one person’s individual struggle invalid, but we invite you to consider how others have a little more on their plate than some born with more privilege, and that’s okay. We’re not in the Struggle Olympics. There’s room for everyone’s experience but remember:

If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s not feminism. 

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s all #EmbraceEquity