The Importance of Intersectional Feminism

With the recent drama surrounding the Women’s March, there has been pushback against intersectional feminism – the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and varying degrees of intensity, according to its founder, Kimberlé Crenshaw. People claim that it separates communities, causing an “us versus them” dynamic in otherwise stable communities. However, intersectional feminism is essential to ensure everyone feels essential and heard in large groups. As feminists, we need to recognize that not everyone is facing the same issues, and some are facing multiple at a time – like gender inequality and racism.

 

History

When feminism first became popular in the late 1840s and 1850s, it was extremely white-washed. Feminists largely supported the abolition movement, but most of them were merely concerned because they believed women would gain their rights after the abolition of slavery. They wanted the ability to work and vote, but their concerns didn’t represent the full range of women in America. For example, black women were not able to vote despite their sex, and they were already “employed”. In response, the second wave of feminism led to the birth of branches of feminism like Womanism, or black feminism, and radical feminism, which called for a complete reconstruction of society. The result was a disjointed movement that had the same primary goals but differed in the details, which led to tension between fellow feminists.

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is lavender.” – Alice Walker

 

Today

Although the term initially only focused on race, third-wave intersectionality has added identity to the mix. Trans women, for example, may not have the same concerns as cis-women, and that’s okay. Today’s feminism has made it a goal to include everyone who identifies as female and non-binary. Intersectionality isn’t about separating feminists into groups to make them feel like the “other,” instead it is about recognizing everyone’s unique situation and validating their experience. It isn’t about who is right, or who has the more pressing issue, or who is entitled to what. There is strength in numbers, and if we can all validate each other’s concerns, then we may be able to find a compromise and make progress for the feminist movement.