In the past few years feminism has gained more publicity, but I have a problem with people who call themselves feminists yet only speak out about the kind of struggles that certain types of women go through.
I am a young, black, straight, cisgendered, able bodied woman living in the western world. Though I’ve had to deal with sexism and a little bit of racism, in general I am very privileged but there are a lot of other women out there who don’t have the same privileges as me.
There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t see or hear a women talking about free the nipple but I don’t see as many talking about the struggles that women in non-western countries have to go through such as barriers to education, lack of human rights and child marriages.
Recently I have became more aware of the discussion surrounding intersectionality. I have been guilty of being a self-centred feminist in the past and I identified with the aspects of feminism that suited me best.
Intersectional feminism recognises that certain groups of people have multi-layered issues that they have to deal with. As a cisgendered woman I haven’t had to deal with some of the harassment that trans women go through or the prejudices that Muslim women face, as I am a Christian in a predominantly Christian country.
Privilege is given to us by society if we fit the norm in some way or another and we can either use it for our own benefit, or use it to lift up those who have less than us by rejecting that, which is where allies come in. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned since becoming an intersectional feminist:
Join Tumblr, read some articles on intersectionality, make an active effort to speak to women who face different prejudices to you and listen. It’s easy to get defensive or just make assumptions about the struggles that other people face but it’s important to hear it from an original source. To be an ally and an intersectional feminist you must realise that other people have to deal with things that wouldn’t even cross your mind and the best way to do that is to speak to those people. The internet makes it so easy to strike up a conversation with somebody and there are so many articles on the end of a two second Google search that can help widen your knowledge and make you more aware of issues that may not affect you directly.
Understand your privilege
I realise that this can be uncomfortable because it’s not like anybody asked to be born with certain privileges, but it’s important to realise it’s not all about you. When you’re born into a certain environment with certain characteristics (for example being born white and middle class) you will be treated a certain way. As soon as you come to terms with the fact that you have more advantages than other people, you can use your privilege to help other women who don’t have these advantages.
Don’t just say you’re an intersectional feminist – act on it!
Feminism is “in fashion” right now and it seems that a lot of people will call themselves feminists or claim to want to make the lives of all women better. Unfortunately, words are often meaningless if they aren’t accompanied by some sort of action. It doesn’t have to be anything big – even just educating a friend or family member on why that slightly racist comment or generalised statement was not okay is a step in the right direction. It’s one thing to say that you care about women’s rights but it is another to actually act to improve the lives of all women.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde
Feminism is for everyone and I can’t wait to live in a world where we no longer have to call ourselves intersectional feminists because being inclusive of everyone is the standard. I’ll leave you with these two brilliant resources that I found very helpful:
– My favourite video to explain intersectionality…