Intersectionality and feminism

When I wrote about whether or not I class myself as a feminist, a blogger commented saying that feminism needed intersectionality or it wasn’t feminism at all. I agree with this commenter’s sentiment.

I vaguely knew what intersectionality was, but I wasn’t 100% sure. For those who, like me, aren’t fully in the know about intersectionality,  The Telegraph UK puts it:

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by American professor Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. The concept already existed but she put a name to it. The textbook definition states:

“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees or intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class ability and ethnicity”. 

In other words, certain groups of women have multilayered facets in life that they have to deal with. There is no one – size – fits – all type of feminism. For example, I [the columnist] am a black woman and as a result I face both racism and sexism as I navigate around everyday life.

Even though the concept of intersectionality in feminism has been around for decades, it only seems to have made it into mainstream debate in the past year or so. And yet, still so many people are confused by what it means or what it stands for.

There’s more to the article, but you get the idea. Reading through the article and thinking about the recent comment on my last post here, I’ve come to the conclusion that people who call themselves “feminists” – and feminist publications – need to be more inclusive on all fronts. Like I’ve said before, struggles from women of colour, such as domestic violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been talked about, but I fear only as an afterthought and very, very rarely.

 

The triviality of modern – day Western “feminism” is making Millennials run away from the issue. Like I wrote about at the time, former Indigenous Adviser to Tony Abbott, Warren Mundine condemned Australian feminists to being largely silent on the violence epidemic in ATSI communities. Columnist for the “Herald Sun, Rita Panahi has condemned Australian feminists for being trivial and largely ignoring the suffering of women under Islamic State rule in Iraq and Syria.

If feminism is all about intersectionality and caring for the rights of ALL women, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, class, etc, then, I’ve got to ask, does Australia in particular and maybe the West as a whole, have a feminist movement at all? Can what we have in the west be classed as “feminism”? There does seem to be a lot of whitewashing of so – called “feminism” for sure, with sporadic voices from people of colour sprinkled in. Surely we can do better than that! I stand by my last post, there has been good work and advocacy done by self – described feminists. But there is definitely room for improvement. And, there does need to be more voices – like the columnist at Daily Mail UK that I linked above – from women of colour talking about their own experiences or both racism and sexism and feminists working together to stamp that out.

 

I know I keep referring to the same sources and the same names. Maybe I’m missing something. Do you know of any feminists who do intersectionality and including women of colour really well and often or is the lack of intersectionality a problem across the board? Let me know what you think in the comments.