Recently, I had a friend come up to me and tell me that he’s not a feminist. That he doesn’t believe in feminism. That he thinks that the gender pay gap is a myth. And that he doesn’t believe rape culture exists. He said that feminism is all about man-hating and putting the woman above the man. There’s one thing you need to know about me, I’m a passionate person. I’m passionate about my beliefs. I’m passionate about Christianity, I’m passionate about intersectional feminism. And I often get overly emotional when talking about my beliefs. When he said that, I felt personally attacked and I became overly emotional. It isn’t a good thing because the first step to dismantling systematic oppression is to create dialogue that would help educate people. I shutdown and I became super defensive. Then, I had a friend remind me that people start to understand what intersectionality is when we start talking to them about it, when we start listening to why they don’t believe in intersectionality or the feminist movement. They start to open up when we talk to them about it, when we explain why intersectionality is important, and why feminism isn’t a bad word.
I’m an intersectional feminist. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. You may have heard the word “intersectional” flung around nonchalantly before, or you might not have even heard of the term until now. What is it? Why is it? Who’s it for? And why am I one? I know it can be a daunting and confusing term, so let me break it down for you and explain why I am an intersectional feminist.
What is it? Intersectionality and Feminism.
Intersectionality was a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Who is she? Kimberlé Crenshaw is a black American woman who’s a leading scholar in critical race theory. She is a professor at Columbia Law where she specialises in race and gender issues. In short, she is a badass.
She coined the term intersectionality in 1989 and it means that people who experience oppression, domination or discrimination experience it in varying degrees in terms of their intersecting identities. Okay, I know it sounds super complicated but really it’s not. Simply put, intersectionality means that people are made up of different identities (i.e. their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) that “intersect” (or occur at the same time). A black woman isn’t black first and then a woman second, she’s both black and a woman at the same time. Her identities, being black and being a woman, intersect.
Is feminism to demean men and make women superior? No. That’s the misconception because of the word “FEMinism”. Feminism fights for the equality of men and women. Why call it feminism and not egalitarianism, equalism, or humanism? Well, I’m going to borrow the words of Tuba Sajjad in her blog aptly titled Why Feminism Can’t Be Replaced By Equalism or Humanism: “First of all, the history of egalitarianism and humanism shows that women were basically left out of these campaigns. People did not understand that humanism means all people, men and women. In fact, even black people were left out. And in some extreme cases, non-landowning white men were excluded too.”
Feminism started because women felt their voices weren’t being heard, and they were correct. It was called feminism because men were never oppressed to the same extent women were. And just because people associate the word “Feminism” to a misconstrued definition and become afraid of the word, does not mean it’s a bad word. Feminism is still very relevant today. Why? Because people are still being raped. Because to do something “like a girl” is still considered an insult. Because the United States of America just elected a man that was caught on tape admitting to sexual assault by grabbing women’s pussies. Feminism is needed as long as there are people out there who think it’s not needed anymore.
Why Intersectional Feminism? Because white feminism is not…
So what does intersectional feminism mean? This is a loaded question. To fully understand what intersectional feminism is, you have to know that feminism, historically, wasn’t a perfect movement. It has been by white women, for white women. This means that on issues like suffrage, it was often an occurrence that white women would put down men and women of colour for their cause. Susan B. Anthony, for example, prioritised white women’s right to vote over black men. This type of feminism is called white feminism. White feminism is to prioritise the experience of white women over people of colour or people with less privileges. White feminism excludes the voices and experiences of people of colour, lower-class women, and the LGBTQ+ community among others. Intersectional feminism became what it is because white feminism silenced the voices of the less privileged and minorities. White feminism favoured white, middle-class, educated women. It favoured the bourgeoisie and excluded everyone else. Intersectional feminism is all inclusive, it gives equal platform to people of colour and other minorities. Intersectionality fights racism, sexism, islamophobia, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and many more. It fights domestic violence both for men and women who are victims. It destroys toxic masculinity (the type of masculinity that shames men for showing emotions and tells them to view women as sex objects). It helps all rape victims and never blames them. It says that until all of us are free from oppression, none of us are free.
Who’s it for? Everyone.
So who’s intersectional feminism for? It’s for everyone. Intersectional feminism is for everyone: men, women, non-binary folks. It is for Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, and Atheists. It is for white people, Asians, Black people, Brown People, First-Nationers. It is for the abled and the disabled. It is for EVERYONE. This is intersectional feminism, it includes everyone. And it says that unless your feminism is intersectional, unless it fights for those who cannot fight, and gives voice to those who do not have one, it isn’t feminism. The only feminism acceptable is intersectional feminism.
Why am I one?
Because it is the right thing to do. I wasn’t always a feminist. I wasn’t always intersectional. I read up on feminism, and white feminism, and intersectionality, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. I read and I studied and I learned. I’m an intersectional feminist because I want to live in a world where oppression does not exist. I want to live in a world where racism has been abolished. I want to live in a world were a woman can become the president of the most powerful country in the world and not hear rhetoric that says she’s “too emotional to be a leader”. I’m an intersectional feminist because I want people of colour to know that their colour is important, that their skin is their culture and that it is deeper than any coloniser can destroy. I’m an intersectional feminist because I want to see the land of First-Nationers respected. I’m an intersectional feminist because it makes sense to be one.
Feminism is about equality but, historically, it hasn’t always been about equality. It excluded people of colour, the lower-classes, and other minorities. That’s why Intersectional feminism became a movement. Intersectional feminism fights for everyone’s equal rights. It says that unless we’re all free, none of us are free. Also, there’s more to learn about intersectional feminism. I suggest you read the works of Kimberlé Crenshaw. She is a total badass.