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Intersectional Feminism is the Only Feminism

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is important to continue the action in celebrating all women of the past, present, and future. In this issue, Take Action Inc. is delving into the importance of acknowledging intersectional feminism in our advocacy for social justice work. Intersectional feminism is the only type of feminism because it celebrates and fights for women of all backgrounds and for gender equity. Keep reading to learn about the term intersectional feminism, delve into an activist spotlight, receive a book recommendation, and find resources to take action!

Defining Intersectional Feminism:

The phrase “intersectional feminism” is one that we have all heard, maybe during small talk, or when clicking through an internet activist’s Instagram story. Either way, it is what now defines modern, third-wave feminism. Given the consistent use of the phrase, it is not often explained. What is intersectional? Is it just a way to say that you’re woke? How is “intersectional feminism” different from regular feminism? What does it really mean? Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw is the Black woman that introduced the term “intersectional” when dissecting the seemingly hidden features of the multi-faced oppression that comes with being both Black and a woman, in 1989, in her essay Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. She argued that the “focus on the most privileged group members [White women and Black men] marginalizes those who are multiply-burdened and obscures claims that cannot be understood as resulting from discrete sources of discrimination.”

Dr. Crenshaw explained that “Black women are sometimes excluded from feminist theory and antiracist discourse because both are a discrete set of experiences that often does not accurately reflect the interaction of race and gender” and that “the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.”

The intersectional standpoint believes that “the entire framework that has been used as a basis for translating ‘women’s experience’ or ‘the Black experience’ into concrete policy demands must be rethought and recast.” Intersectionality is not limited to Black women, it extends to the recognition of the intersection between all marginalized identities, whether it may be the intersection of being a bisexual Asian man, a transgender lesbian Latina, or a pansexual nonbinary Black person. During an interview, Dr. Crenshaw defined “intersectionality” as “a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” because we “tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

She acknowledges that people do indeed have many parts to them, and we should view each individual as those parts together as one, versus the typical reductionist point of view that inherently neglects to see the entirety of being. Intersectionality is especially applied to feminism to create a new inclusive, hollistic view and form of approaching and acting on the advocation of women’s rights and equity. Hence, the reason why it is said that “feminism can’t be feminism without [a racial/ethnic/LGBTQgroup]” And it is true. Feminism has not always been true feminism, it has been limited by conditionalities due to race specifically, curated from the selfishness of White women who are not multiply-burdened. Intersectional feminism is a necessity. Dr. Crenshaw has continued to use intersectionality to guide her work centering on civil rights, critical race theory, and Black feminist legal theory.

Disclaimer: Dr. Crenshaw is not the first to reflect upon the idea of intersectionality, rather she is the person that was finally able to create a term to describe the unique oppressive experience of those with multiple marginalized identities

Historical Activists Spotlight: Ida B. Wells

When thinking of important figures related to women’s liberation, many think of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. While these white women have faced much oppression, merely remembering them as key contributors to the suffrage and feminist movements overlooks the vital experiences and perspectives of women of color. In order to truly understand the origins of intersectionality, it is crucial that we study the lives of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ feminists that have paved the way for activism today. Ida B. Wells is one of these powerful women.

Suffragist, journalist, and feminist Ida B. Wells was born on July 16, 1862 into slavery. Wells entered her activist career after the brutal lynching of one of her friends in 1892, where she engaged in anti-lynching activism through investigative journalism. Over the years as a journalist, Wells recorded her findings in a pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases.” Using her experience in fighting institutionalized racial violence, Wells continued her activism by focusing on the intersection of racial and gender injustice. Despite facing racism in the suffrage movement, Wells founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, dealing with issues such as women’s suffrage, and created possibly the first Black women suffrage group known as Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club. She took part in the first suffragist parade in Washington DC in 1913 as the only Black women delegate. While there is not much documentation of her work firsthand, her influential legacy lives on through the writing of her great-granddaughter Michelle Duster, author of Ida in Her Own Words: The Timeless Writings of Ida B. Wells from 1893. Her activist work helped inspire numerous Black women during the civil rights movement and echoes today as BIPOC women still lack basic civil rights.

Therefore, to truly commemorate Ida B. Wells’s incredible legacy, we must continue her work! For example, in the past 10 years alone, 25 states have placed voter restrictions that target marginalized communities, specifically BIPOC and LGBTQ+ women. We must stop this injustice through self-education and action! Read this article to learn more on how to take action.

Current Events: Health Disparities in Maternal Care

The healthcare system in the United States is a deeply flawed one: Black patients are often faced with prejudice from physicians and tend to have worse health outcomes. This racial disparity is particularly evident in maternal healthcare. Overall, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world: about 24 deaths per 100,000 live births. For Black women, the mortality rate was nearly 3 times higher than non-Hispanic White women. Even socioeconomic status and education levels do not seem to have a substantial impact on this number.

Book Review: Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

In Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall draws from her own experiences in a series of essays to address the intersectionality of feminism in recognizing those with which whom mainstream feminism left out: women of color. She addresses how meeting the basic needs of all women is inherent to feminism. She spoke at an assembly last year, and we want to highlight this work once more. Also from Kendall, "Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women's Fight for Their Rights."

Click to Read:

Organizations to Support:

  • UN Women is a United Nations organization that aims to tackle global gender and racial injustice, hoping to create a safe environment where all women can thrive.

  • National Organization for Women strives to connect intersectional feminists across the world and provide resources for people to take action to fight against sexism and work towards ensuring more women’s rights such as pay equity.

  • Asian American Feminist Collective is an intersectional feminist organization based in New York City that works to destigmatize feminism for the Asian American community while connecting AAPI activists to other intersectional organizations.

  • Young Feminists & Allies is an intersectional, intergenerational, national feminist organization that specifically focuses on the future of feminism by encouraging youth of all genders to fight for gender equity.

  • DisAbled Women's Network Canada aims to tackle injustice for all LGBTQ+ and BIPOC women while especially focusing on obtaining rights for disable women.

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