Diversity strides this past year have yet again continued to increase, following a trend of the public wanting to create a more representative and empowering world. Whether you point to Zendaya for becoming the youngest Black woman to win an Emmy for the best lead actress in a drama series or Raphael Warnock earning the title of Georgia’s first black US Senator, the progress is slow but impactful nevertheless.
With inclusivity becoming a clear value in social communities as well as March being Women’s History Month, it would be fitting to comment on intersectional feminism and how diversity impacts what it means to be a feminist in 2021.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERSECTIONALITY
As stated in an article by USA Today, “If feminism is advocating for women’s rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities — including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation — impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.” The purpose of highlighting the need for diversity within the feminist movement is to value the massive contributions of underprivileged communities, who are often otherwise silenced, and to focus on the unique challenges faced by women whose personhood is shaped by their other identities.
Intersectionality is necessary to become a well-rounded feminist because the ways in which women are discriminated against varies on the level of their forced physical or identity-based vulnerability. Women’s rights can only fully develop and be all-inclusive if we listen to the stories of all feminists.
THE DIFFERENT BRANCHES OF FEMINISM
Intersectional Feminism not only focuses on valuing the contributions of diverse women, it also highlights the benefits of a diverse movement. In what has been labeled the ‘Branches of Feminism,’ activists are acknowledging the varying ideologies held by those who consider themselves feminists.
Feminism is a diversified social movement, not only on a social level but also on a political level. Ecofeminists believe that women are similar to the environment in that they are both exploited as a means for masculine domination. To be equal to men, feminists must protect the environment from male-led domination. This is a unique perspective when compared to the common Liberal Feminist who believes the only way to reach equality is through political and legal reform.
However, some argue feminism should not continue the development of branches that divide the movement. In her YouTube video “yOu’rE PitTinG wOmeN aGAinST oTher WomEn,” content creator Madisyn Brown comments that “It seems like feminism is such a complicated movement at this point. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard, ‘Well, feminism means something different for everybody’ — why? Why is it different for everybody? Shouldn’t we, like, all agree on, like, at least one thing that we can be like, ‘Hey this is something that we don’t want or this is something that we want and we’re gonna fight for it and call it a day.’ Why is feminism a different thing for everybody? I don’t think that’s really helpful because then we’re all fighting for different things… and I’m like alright, well, this doesn’t seem right here because we can’t get anywhere if we don’t agree. There’s all these different definitions and versions of feminism [that] it seems like feminism is so convoluted nowadays and it’s hard to agree upon anything.”
To an extent, Brown brings up some excellent points. If feminism is a social movement, why isn’t there a more concrete agenda? What she fails to acknowledge is the complexity of sexism in our society and how each woman is affected differently by this prejudice. The women’s rights movement is so ‘convoluted’ because women fall into different classes, races, ethnicities, and communities; a person will relate to a branch of feminism that most closely mirrors their beliefs and environment. Intersectional Feminism is inclusive of both the branches of feminism and the social constructs that influence each person’s identity.
FEMINISM IN 2021
In the past decade, feminism has seen its fair share of highs and lows, and the movement has greatly evolved due to the strong divides which further develop the ‘Branches of Feminism.’ Although this divide has been thought to weaken the movement, it has actually broadened feminists’ understanding of equality and the role that intersectionality plays in dismantling sexism and gender-based prejudice.
“Today, intersectionality encompasses more than just the intersections of race and gender,” explains the International Women’s Development Agency, “It’s now widely used to illustrate the interplay between any kinds of discrimination, whether it’s based on gender, race, age, class, socioeconomic status, physical or mental ability, gender or sexual identity, religion, or ethnicity.” Our intersectionality is directly dependent on our ability to evolve the women’s rights movement by listening to the needs of diverse women and evolving our views of feminism to help fellow women be heard.
This month, focus your feminism on a disadvantaged group of women. Learn about issues centered specifically around them and how you can possibly use your privilege and voice to bring attention to their needs, contributions, and value as women and people.