Lately I’ve been noticing that feminism is being gradually (albeit very slowly) accepted by more and more people. I applaud that. In my ideal world, we’re all feminists, tolerant of each other and fighting for the rights of marginalized people.
However, feminism is complicated. There are many misconceptions that surround the label and there are even more misconceptions as to who benefits or who should benefit from feminism.
On International Women’s Day, which occurred last month, I came across a quote that I believe is the solution to every misjudgement of feminism: “Feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.”
Intersectional feminism is a critical theory that all systems of oppression (sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc.) are interconnected. Quite simply, each of these issues shouldn’t be examined separately from another.
The type of feminism that people tend to initially adopt or see is a mainstream, “one-size-fits-all” type of feminism that benefits only white, upper middle-class, educated and cisgendered women. It’s a type of feminism that gives out a laundry list of standards that exclude masses of people — which isn’t what feminism is about in the first place.
Feminism isn’t just about burning your bra or reclaiming the word “b*tch.” Feminism should reach all kinds of people who face all kinds of issues — we should support that Muslim woman who wants to wear her hijab, that trans man who is going through transitioning, that little Asian-American girl who grows up watching stereotyped portrayals of her own people in the media, that non-binary person who doesn’t feel the need to conform to gender roles — how can we empower all groups of marginalized people if we can’t even acknowledge the “—isms” and phobias that they face?
For example, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all women have or will have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. However, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the murder rate for LGBTQ is now at its highest — 87 percent of those affected were people of color, and transgender people are 28 percent more likely to experience violence than others.
These statistics should bolster the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity in feminism. By saying things such as “race doesn’t matter” or “isn’t important” in issues such as these completely erases others’ identities.
Women of color, transgender, non-binary and disabled people don’t face the same types of struggles and discrimination that white, cisgender women face — so why should we continue to ignore their struggles and try to force them into one type of feminism?
It’s easy to not recognize other people’s struggles if we’re not being directly affected by them. Self-proclaimed feminists, a solution is this: recognize your privilege and figure out how to use that to become a good ally. Don’t denounce issues of race, sexism, ableism and more because it doesn’t affect you. Listen to the grievances of oppressed groups and don’t try to skew the conversation to make it about you. Don’t get angry if someone corrects you or points out your privilege.
Feminism shouldn’t exclude anyone — that defeats the whole purpose of the movement.