(Opinion) Intersectional feminism

Thousands gather for the Women's March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017.

There is a specific brand of feminism called white feminism that is often used and misunderstood. White feminism has less to do with race and more to do with inclusion. By inclusion, I mean taking every woman’s needs and struggles into account. Often, people who display white feminist tendencies don’t recognize their own privilege.

Every woman faces some degree of oppression because of her gender, but it is crucial to understand that oppression can take many different forms. For example, a white woman should recognize that her race gives her a voice that can stand up for women of color. A black woman, for example, is oppressed because of her gender and race. Understanding and supporting intersectional feminism is contingent upon understanding how race, sexuality, religion and class are interrelated.

It’s important to recognize the fact that women all face various issues that can affect each of them differently. A cisgender woman does not have to deal with anti-transgender violence. A woman who isn’t a sex worker doesn’t have to deal with the stigma around it. A woman who is white doesn’t have to deal with racism.

Intersectional feminism has recently gotten more attention because of the Women’s March on Washington. The Women’s March was created to dismantle systems of oppression through social change. However, the Women’s March has faced some criticism for some of its less inclusive traditions like pink “pussyhats” and signs that focus on reproductive systems. These traditions are less inclusive because not all women have reproductive systems and not all women have vaginas. Whether you agree with the criticism of these symbols, it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Transgender women should not feel excluded in conversations and spaces that affect them. 

Feminism is about more than wearing pink and making signs. Although symbols of activism are important, the symbols we use should represent the diverse range of issues that we face as women. If your definition of feminism does not include women of color, transgender women, disabled women and sex workers, then it’s not real feminism. Feminism is about intersectionality and supporting all women no matter how different we are from one another. Women’s rights are human rights, and we should be fighting for the rights of all women, not just some.