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The Importance of Diversity in Feminism

Sunday March 8th marked International Women’s Day, a day where the accomplishments of prominent women were celebrated, and the struggle for gender and social equality were highlighted. Women’s recognition was trending all over social media, and numerous sites and organizations such as I f*cking love science,  Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, The Representation Project, and many others, highlighted the contributions of women across time and countries in fields such as science, engineering, art, and social justice.

The various posts and recognitions during International Women’s Day highlighted how the movement for gender equality has done so much, yet has such a long way to go. Among the many issues within the movement for gender equality, perhaps one of the most important and challenging in the twenty first century is the recognition of the complex and enormous diversity within the feminist movements, and giving underrepresented and marginalized members within the feminist community the attention they deserve.  

The reality is that gender discrimination works in complex ways, and affects women differently. Feminist Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to refer to the way people experience multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) at the same time. Organizations such as Everyday Feminism stress how important it is to view feminism as intersectional, and many women are critical of feminism because, while they may agree with many of the overall goals and objectives of the feminist movement, they recognize that many times feminists fail to take intersectionality into consideration. Several feminists feel that the contributions of African American/Hispanic/Asian/ and other women of racial and ethnic minorities are tossed aside and the way racial inequality and gender inequality intersect for many women is often ignored.

The criticism that Beyoncé and Nikki Minaj faced for declaring themselves feminists (criticism directed at them by OTHER feminists) the current ignorance surrounding the work of women in historical  movements such as the Gay Rights Movement and the Civil Rights movement, and the overall lack of representation of women of color in the media and STEM fields indicate just how much attention we need to start paying to diversity within the feminist movement.

As a Latina, I get frustrated with mainstream feminism. While I love it, I didn’t always feel like Latina women were represented that well. Growing up, I never knew how much Latina women contributed to the feminist movement. When I heard “feminist” I immediately thought of Susan B. Anthony rather than Felisa Rincon de Gautier or Julia de Burgos. I never learned of the powerful contributions of racially diverse women in immigration, labor rights, poverty alleviation, and racial equality.

While feminist icons like and Gloria Steinem are fantastic, it’s a shame that we forget the legacy of the many racially diverse and LGBT women who were not only contributors but pillars of the feminist movement, women who brought a valuable range of experiences, perspectives, and critical issues to the feminist movement.

It is important, in fact crucial that we consider the importance of diversity. That we listen to other narratives and give underrepresented women a greater voice within the movement. That we recognize that when it comes to racial, gender, and social equality, it is a movement that everyone partakes in where everyone should be recognized. 

 

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I'm a junior in Pasquerilla East Hall and am majoring in PLS and Political Science. I hail from Bayamon, Puerto Rico and as a result I wholeheartedly believe that depictions of Hell should involve snow instead of heat. In my free time I write, watch shows like Doctor Who/Steven Universe, read as many articles from EveryDay Feminism as humanly possible, and binge Nostalgia Chick on youtube.
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