By Rachel Kish
Feminism is becoming especially prominent in today’s society. You can ask pretty much anyone what it means and they’ll tell you either: a) it’s a movement about equality, or b) it’s a movement about making women matter more than men. (Hint: the answer is a.) However, even some of your celebrity favorites like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Lena Dunham are guilty of one of the most problematic wrongdoings in the world of feminism—they’ve all been dubbed “white feminists,” according to an article on “Thought Catalog,” as they’re not intersectional.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, civil rights advocate and scholar, coined the term “intersectionality” (or intersectionality theory) in 1989; Crenshaw defines intersectionality as, “The idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.” Overlapping social identities tend to contribute to specific types of oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual. With that definition in mind, intersectional feminism is feminism that supports the needs and values of women in respect to all of their social identities (because people can have more than one).
Now, you may be wondering why intersectional feminism is important if plain old regular feminism is still “good.” Well, here’s the thing—it really isn’t. The entire point of feminism is that it fights against the oppression of women, but how can it fight oppression if it isn’t fighting all kinds of oppression? The answer is simple; it can’t. In order for feminism to be successful in changing the lives of women everywhere, it has to be supportive of all women everywhere, not just a few kinds of women in some places.
Feminism needs to include women of color, women with disabilities, women who practice different religions, and women who are queer. Feminists need to care about women who are of low socioeconomic class, women who are transgender, and women who have mental health disorders. Most of us can’t understand from a personal level what it’s like to be a woman who possesses every one of those identities. What matters most is that we support the women who do know what it’s like and that we fight for their equality, too.
Featured image: Carlow students Bri Griffith and Erika Kellerman photographed at the Women’s March on Washington in D.C. on January 21, 2017.