Intersectional Feminism: what is it?

I am sure that every person has met at least once in their life, someone that considers themselves a feminist, but what is feminism?

This movement started out in the 19th century, thanks to the women we know as the “suffragettes”. Initially it was a Women’s Organisation fighting for their right to vote. However, over the years the movement evolved and history now divides it into four waves, with the first one being the establishment of the suffragettes.

The second wave started in the mid-20th century; it focused on issues of inequality and discrimination, but above all it encouraged women to understand how their personal lives and how they lived was reflecting the sexist structure of society.

The third wave began in the 1990’s and it argued that the second wave only emphasized the experiences of upper-class white women. In fact, it is during this phase that the concept of  intersectional feminism was born. This is a movement that focused not only on the issues of white, straight, cisgender and the upper-class women of society, but also on those who had to face more than one kind of discrimination.

The term intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw; an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and professor at UCLA school of law and Columbia school of law, in 1989.

Kimberlé Crenshaw describes ‘Intersectionality’ as “A lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”

Now, let’s imagine that every kind of discrimination is defined by two vertical lines (e.g.: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia etc.) and each individual can identify with a specific category. But, what about a black lesbian woman? So where does she belong? She fits into three different categories. Well, she is the intersection, the horizontal line that intersects the vertical ones.

The main goal of the intersectional feminist movement (The third wave) was for the movement itself, to adapt to people depending on their cultural and social background. For example feminists cannot fight for all women to get the same job opportunities as men. There are women in some parts of the world who aren’t allowed to study and therefore will probably never get the opportunity to even compete with their male peers.

Furthermore, with this new concept there aren’t “feminists things to do” as everything seems to have another side to it. For instance, a cisgender woman, may not shave as an act of rebellion towards society, but for a transgender woman (Female to Male) not shaving could be a way to accept their body as a man.

As a further matter, the establishment of Intersectional feminism urged, white, cisgender, upper-class women, who were initially fighting for their right to vote, to understand their privileged position and use it to help those women who are not considered their equals.

Intersectional feminism is still present even today in the fourth wave of the movement. This is the time where women invite men to get involved in feminism because it interests them in different ways. In particular, if white, straight, cisgender women are invited to fight for other more discriminated individuals; men are also invited to understand their own privileges. This would give the movement as a whole, a clearer and stronger voice to be heard by all, enabling them to fight for every woman in the world!

This leads us to the “He for She” association founded by the UN. Their goal is for men to fight a battle that was once believed to be a woman’s fight. 

In addition to this, men are even involved in intersectional feminism in another way.

 One of the main goals of feminism is to fight against the toxic binary concept of society, the one in which we are told what we should like and how we should behave based on our assigned sex and if for some reason we step out of these gender stereotypes or roles we are immediately reminded that we should step back.

This is a fight shared by intersectional feminism with the queer community because these both have their foundations embedded in the belief that masculine and feminine characteristics are present in every individual. To top it all off the queer community also supports the fact that gender is fluid, even considering the biological differences between man and women where it states, cause for no social differences between genders.

The two binaries we are about to delve into shouldn’t exist for different reasons, the main one is that there are more than two genders and it isn’t acceptable that these aren’t taken into consideration in our society. Another reason is that this toxic binarism is what, for instance, makes men believe that they shouldn’t show their emotions and this is exactly why men should be interested in intersectional feminism, to avoid the creation of a model of masculinity that society is forcing them to imitate. Furthermore this conception of society is what creates the belief that men are superior to women, it’s what tells us that women should cook while men should work, that women should obey their husbands because the man is the head of the house. This is basically what creates the patriarchy.

In conclusion we could say that it’s everyone’s interest, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, social class or ethnicity to think in a more ‘intersectional way’, to care about others being discriminated against, to think about people’s background and try to understand their point of view because at the end of the day, all discriminations are connected to one another. And with this I strongly believe that, it isn’t feminism if it isn’t intersectional!

 

Sources:

https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/6/explainer-intersectional-feminism-what-it-means-and-why-it-matters

https://www.unipi.it/index.php/unipieventi/event/4861-femminismo-intersezionale-e-teorie-queer

https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination

 https://www.heforshe.org/en/movement

 https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1189520.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c34aV_m6w_k

 

 

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