Why Your Feminism Needs to be More “Intersectional” (And What That Means)

The term ‘Intersectional Feminism’ was first coined by American Professor Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. You may be familiar with ‘feminism’- a movement that is committed to uplifting women, bringing about equality, and breaking down the barriers of patriarchy. Then what is ‘Intersectional’ feminism all about? Read on to find out.

What Is Intersectional Feminism?

As the term suggests, it refers to the intersection, the overlap, the merging of social identities. In a general way, feminism is about uplifting women. But what about the inequalities amongst women? Surely, a white, cis-gendered woman is more privileged, has more power and social capital than a black transgendered woman. Take another example: a brown differently-abled woman surely has less power and access to resources than a white able-bodied woman.

Of course, these hierarchies are not always this clear. There isn’t a rule book as to what characteristics make one more privileged or more oppressed by the patriarchy. But, what is to be acknowledged here is that every woman consists of an intersection of identities. She is a woman, but she is also white, she is also upper class, she is also differently abled, etc.

What does this intersectionality mean for feminism? It means that some women are more oppressed than others, some have more access to resources than others, and some enjoy more social capital than others. We need to acknowledge these differences in power within women so that we can help uplift all women. To acknowledge intersectionality, therefore, is to acknowledge that some women need to be focussed on more by the feminist movement than others.

How Can You Make Your Feminism More Intersectional?

There are a multitude of intersections that affect a woman’s social experience, including but not limited to her class, caste, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, weight, disability etc. Here are five ways you can make your feminism more intersectional:

1. Acknowledge Your Privilege

The first step is in many ways the most important: recognize your privilege. For instance, if you are a brown/colored woman, you may be more oppressed than a white woman. But, if you are upper class/caste brown woman, then you are definitely more privileged than a lower caste/class brown woman. Acknowledge both sides of the story and identify your position.

2. Use Your Privilege to Uplift Unheard Voices

Once you have acknowledged that you possess more power than others due to your class/caste/economic status etc., don’t just stop there! Use your power to make spaces where the less-privileged can make their voices heard. Don’t speak over them or for them. Instead, work towards uplifting them so that they can speak for themselves

3. Don’t judge someone for being different from you 

Intersectionality is about differences, but more importantly, it is about celebrating and supporting these differences. Acknowledge that there are women who make different choices than you- they might not be straight, they might engage in lots of casual sex or none at all, they may wear revealing clothes or hijabs- whatever the difference might be, don’t judge them for it. Feminism is about choice, so support their choices

4. Watch Your Language

Language plays a big role in making your feminism more intersectional. Following from the last point:

  • Avoid using terms like “slut” or “whore” or “prude” in a derogatory way. 
  • Avoid using ableist language i.e. terms like “retard” or “moron."
  • Avoid using derogatory comments for someone's weight
  • Respect people’s pronouns- if someone tells you their pronouns are they/them rather than she/her, don’t question them. Respect their wishes and incorporate it into your life.

5. Know Your Goal!

Lastly, remember your goal- to uplift, support, and celebrate ALL women to the best of your abilities!

 

We hope this short guide helps you be more inclusive and supportive in your feminism. Share it with your friends and family so that we can move towards a more equal, safe, and wholesome world in the future!

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