One critical component of effective feminist action is intersectionality. What does this mean? Originally coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, acting intersectionally means that we acknowledge and honor that one's feminism – one's beliefs in the advancement of the equal social, political, and economic rights of all individuals, regardless of sex or gender – cannot and should not be separated from one's race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, immigration status, religion, abilities/disabilities, etc. We are complex beings, with multiple levels of identity, living in a society with multiple inequities, so the reality is that many of us are navigating multiple systems of oppression and discrimination at the same time.
Basically, being an intersectional feminist means believing in two truths: 1) there is no such thing as one universal feminism and 2) people experience the world differently based on their own identity and this will absolutely affect, influence, and sometimes challenge their feminism.
Here's an example of the former: the gender wage gap. You've probably heard that women in the United States make less money than men; it's often expressed as women earning $0.77 or $0.80 for every $1 earned by a man. However, this tells an incomplete story. According to the National Women's Law Center, women of color earn significantly less money than white men: African American women earn $0.63 for every dollar earned by a white man while Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earn $0.59 and Latinas earn only $0.54. What's more, lesbian women often make less than men, women with disabilities earn less than their male colleagues, and transgender women make less after they transition. So when we talk about the gender wage gap, we can't talk about it using one universal number or outcome because, as you can see here, the other identities we carry within each of us will make a big difference in how we experience it.
Now, here's an example of the second element of intersectional feminism: race and gender. While we at Feminists Act! firmly believe that everyone who fights for gender equality should be equally invested in fighting for racial equality, the reality is that the experience of participating in the civil rights movement will be different for women of color than it will be for white women. There are even frequently times when social movements are at odds: for example, it happened with the suffragist movement in the 1800s when the right to vote was granted to African American men but not to women; this decision splintered not only the suffragist movement itself but also severed a long-standing alliance with the abolitionist movement. So what can we learn from this? Don't ask people to choose allegiances between aspects of who they are. And don't assume to know how others might feel about something just because you share one or more common identities. Each of us is unique and carries with us a diverse range of perspectives, characteristics, and experiences. In intersectional feminism, there is room for all and everyone.
In short, here at Feminists Act!, we practice the philosophy espoused by Flavia Dzodan: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”
Looking to learn more about the many types of feminist intersectionality and how you might better practice it? Here are a few articles and resources for some of the specific lenses through which folks approach their own intersectional principles and action:
Religion and Feminism
- "15 Christian Women Get Real About the Role of Women in the Church" by Carol Kuruvilla (Huffington Post)
- Christian Feminism Today
- "If You Want to Know About Muslim Women's Rights, Ask Muslim Women" by Susan Carland (The Guardian)
- "I'm a Christian Feminist, Because Jesus Loves Women, and We Should, Too" by Char Adams (Bustle)
- "Indonesian Muslim Women Engage With Feminism" by Dina Afrianty (The Conversation)
- "Jewish Feminist Leaders" by Dr. Judith Rosenbaum (My Jewish Learning)
- Muslim Women Beyond the Stereotypes - Islamic Networks Group (ING)
- National Council of Jewish Women
- Women's Rights - Muslims for Progressive Values
- "Yes, I'm a Muslim AND a Feminist!" by Latifa Saber (MVSLIM)