Lady business: Intersectionality

Statistically, I use the word “intersectionality” at least six times a week. I can say that because there is no way the fact checkers can prove me wrong and, also, because it lets me introduce you to my absolute favorite thing about feminism. You might be able to tell that I have a lot of favorite things about feminism, because it is my truest of loves and also is the only thing that keeps me warm at night, but intersectionality has always been number one in my heart.

It is basically defined (and you should go do some reading yourself because I’m a fallible human and the Internet is your friend) as the intersection of different marginalized groups and the systems which create their marginalization, but I like to define it a little more simply: everybody matters. With intersectional feminism specifically, we might narrow that down a little and say: every woman matters. Every single one of them. You, especially. You matter a lot. Also, that sweater is a great color for you.

(Men, of course, also matter in feminism because fighting patriarchy opens up a whole new world with less standards for gender performance and also starts to dismantle a system that clearly involves and influences everyone, but men in feminism is a different discussion for a different time. For the sake of this article, we are mostly talking about ladies. You really do matter, though, dude. I like your new haircut.)

Of course, it’s not just the fact that you matter. It’s every part of you. Intersectional feminism exists in response to a complicated and frustrating system of privilege and oppression that operates on multiple levels regarding gender, gender identity, race, sexuality, disabilities, class and all kinds of other things.

Acknowledging the various parts of our identities and how they interact within that system allows us to get a richer picture of what exactly we are fighting for.

After all, women are not just impacted by misogyny, and feminism cannot work for anyone but the most privileged if it doesn’t seek to change every part of a flawed society. If feminists aren’t also talking about racism, heterosexism, transphobia and everything else, then they aren’t seeing the bigger picture. After all, not only do queer women face heterosexism on top of misogyny, but their relation to misogyny is also altered because of those experiences.

Similarly, women of color have different experiences with misogyny because of the intersection of race and gender. If feminism exclusively prioritizes a homogenous view of what oppression actually is, then we’re not getting anywhere.

As one of my favorite feminists Flavia Dzodan says, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!”

Feminism has not been great about this in the past or even right now. Most mainstream feminist movements have always been largely focused on middle class white women and have received a lot of criticism for that, as well as for racism and classism and other -isms within the movement. In fact, many women of color and other women of marginalized groups choose not to identify as feminists because they cannot find a place within feminism where their voices can be heard. That’s why a focus on intersectionality in feminism and other anti-oppression movements basically means that the goal is for every voice to be necessary, valid and part of the bigger picture.

We have still got a long, long way to go, but isn’t the idea kind of great? If the existence of things like intersectionality doesn’t make you just feel alive, I guess we are on two totally different wavelengths. If feminist theory is not what gets you up in the morning, then let’s have coffee and I will explain the word “kyriarchy” and absolutely ruin your social life because apparently a lot of people don’t want to sit down and think about interconnected systems of power in their spare time. Whatever, potential ruined dates and everyone I went to high school with. I don’t need you. I’ve got a lot of bell hooks to read, anyway.

Seriously, though, just say the word “intersectionality” out loud a couple of times and think about everything that it could mean, because it kind of means everything. It means a better feminism. It means every part of us is relevant in a larger fight to fix the world that we live in, and that the issues that come with these parts of our identities are important and worth fighting for.

We’re worth fighting for.

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