Keep hearing the term “intersectional feminism,” but aren’t sure what it is? Let’s break it down. We all love feminism (yay women!), but oppression can still be present in a seemingly positive movement. Intersectionality is when different disparities overlap creating a much larger problem than just one movement can address. For example, white women experience different inequalities than women of color. This can keep overlapping with LGTBQ+ women of color or LGBTQ+ women of color in poverty who are food insecure. Thus, the term “intersectional feminism” was coined to address these people who require a larger movement than just “feminism” to actually experience change and equality.
According to Kimberle Crenshaw, the American law professor who created the term, intersectional feminism is “a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”
While feminists and different feminist movements may have positive intentions, many of the things they fight and stand for overlook those experiencing intersectionality. Therefore, they are often catering towards one demographic of oppressed women (typically white women); completely contradicting the overall ideology of feminism: equality for all, regardless of gender.
“All inequality is not created equal,” said Crenshaw, emphasizing that all women do not experience sexism and misogyny the same. Yes, all women are affected and valid in the discrimination they endure. However, some women, because of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity and many other factors experience it at an accelerated level and to a degree that cannot be fixed with a generalized solution.
Issues associated with race and poverty tend to be seen as problems to be dealt with separately from the feminist agenda. However, feminists and women alike need to recognize the role that intersectionality plays in the inequalities women face. Instead of fragmenting our fights for human rights and social justice, one all-encompassing and unifying stance will be more effective.
Different communities are battling many interconnected issues all at once and it is important for women who may not be in that position to stand with them, changing it from a “them” problem to an “us” problem.
While issues like the gender pay gap and sexist cultural stereotypes are important to address, the feminist movement can no longer center on predominantly “white women” issues. Those suffering from intersectionality will not benefit from those movements until larger issues like racial discrimination and poverty are addressed in unison with those feminist movements.
Intersectional feminism is vital for those experiencing intersectionality to actually receive change and equality. It is imperative that we become aware of the ways feminism can cater to ALL women, not just those with the privilege to bring about change.