It's Intersectional, or it's not Feminism
Author: Alexandra Crosnoe ’23, The Hockaday School ’23
Edited by: Julia Katzman, The Hockaday School ‘22
Intersectional. You’ve probably seen this word on an Instagram graphic or heard it in conversation, usually followed by “feminism.” Described by USA Today as the “latest feminist buzzword,” this term recently skyrocketed from womxn’s studies journals and keynote conferences to part of common vernacular for activists and changed the definition of a feminist. So, how does a single word encapsulate the new feminist agenda?
In 1989, professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in her journal, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Merriam-Webster defines intersectionality as, “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or group.” For example, take a White womxn and a Black womxn. While both are oppressed because of their gender, society views the White womxn as higher because of her race, while the Black womxn carries the burden of oppression for both her gender and race. These oppressions that the Black womxn faces cannot be separated; they are intersectional, so the activism that dismantles the oppressive system must be, too. This term, popularized in the late 2010s, now defines true, 21st century feminism: feminism in which every womxn’s full identity is considered.
Today, it’s as important as ever to actively be an intersectional feminist. As the Black Lives Matter movement progresses, it is high time for non-POC feminists to recognize their privilege and understand that Black womxn face a different form of prejudice. Black womxn need intersectional feminism to fight the systemic oppression that results from the additional discrimination they face not only because of their gender, but because of their race, and white feminists must use their privilege to advocate. As Crenshaw once said, “All inequality is not created equal.”
Without a doubt, we, as feminists, must distance ourselves from the “white feminist” movement, which only represents a single combination of identities: the cisgender, straight, white woman. Feminism can no longer represent the “one size fits all” ideal, because the truth is, every womxn in this movement encounters unique injustices by society. Without recognizing race, sexuality, size, and status, it’s impossible to make change for anyone who experiences additional oppression to their gender, or in other words, anyone other than the cisgender, straight white womxn. Intersectional feminism is the only way to fight for equity for all womxn. It’s intersectional, or it’s not feminism.
graphic by: Emily Santos, The Hockaday School '23