Feminism and Intersectionality

Yesterday, I wrote about Patricia Arquette’s speech. Afterwards, I looked to see what others were saying about the subject on WordPress. (Instead of youtube comments which are just painful).

What concerns I saw most of was intersectionality.

 I thought I wrote about this at another time, but I can’t seem to find the post. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Either way, I’m revisiting the conversation under the subject of her speech.

Intersectionality comes up as incorrect, but it is a word.

It’s a word that adds a whole new factor to the feminist conversation.

Intersectionality is defined by Wikipedia as “the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.”

It means that you do not fit into one of the latter categories because of one piece of your being.

You can be black and be the president.

You can be a woman and have a successful business.

You can be poor and rise up to the middle class by the time you’re twenty-five.

There are success stories and those are awesome, but they typically do not contain much intersectionality.

When I hear the “I’m not a feminist because my aunt owns her own business and got it by myself,” I usually ask ‘how?’

Not in the way of it’s a statistical improbability, but in the way of what type of family did she come from? What was her educational background? What race is she? What religion does she practice? Where is she geographically located? Was she born in the United States?

These are all contributing factors to having success or to not having success. This is why you hear white guys complaining that women aren’t oppressed because she makes a lot of money and he doesn’t. Typically, intersectionality isn’t being used. (Or there’s just an assumption of needing a hand-out.)

Intersectionality also adds to the problems of defining oneself as a feminist. Typically, a person who believes in intersectionality and feminism has a hard time in those waters.

I support equal rights whether that be gender, sexuality, race, or religion.

I name myself a feminist first because I’m defined as a woman.

I have a lot more bits of myself that are in a more ‘dominant’ role. I’m white. I’m in a heterosexual relationship. I’m a Christian. I came from a family that was lower middle class (maybe even lower), but I received a good education and have graduated from college.

I’m less oppressed than I am in a dominating class.

This is where people become angry about so-called ‘first world feminism.’ Women in the United States seem to be whining when most of them have a lot more than other countries.

I’m going to talk more about comparisons in a later post, but just because you have successes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support those who don’t.

I don’t think it’s fair that women are typically seen as more passive, a follower, in need of less money, and are shoved to caretaker jobs that are not paid well.

This doesn’t mean I do not support other causes and in many cases, I almost support them more, it’s just that I can speak for women. I can connect with other women more than I can in any other activist group because I am a woman.

Feminism gets tricky in here. This doesn’t mean all women have to be white and middle class. This is actually a problem. It’s hard to find a space if you’re a woman and don’t fit into these parameters and it sucks.

If you’re black and say you support feminism, what does that mean? Does that mean you think your rights as a person of the black community is less than your rights as a woman?

No!

What it means is that terminology is hard and our society is based on categorizing. We want somebody to define themselves as one thing. We hate intersectionality as a whole because it’s the interplay of many categories and some that cannot be seen immediately.

IT ENRAGES US.

So keep doing it.

I define myself as a feminist. But in my case, that includes equal rights entirely. I will go on a march with anybody, but I will make sure to speak up for my experiences and make sure those who do not get their voices heard are able to speak up for themselves.

Do I wish that Arquette had thrown out that intersectionality word?

Yes.

Do I understand that she was in a limited time frame and might not have had the time to do it?

Once again, yes.

There are strides that we still need to take and we should never start criticizing because there’s always more work to be done. I hope that other people see that she left out a critical part, but are also happy that she said something. Maybe it wasn’t everything, but steps in the right direction will make a change.

We can hope that another celebrity will jump on this and add more to the conversation.