For decades, feminism has been labeled as a dirty word. No one wanted to associate as a stereotypical “man-hating” woman. Now that feminism is starting to be recognized by its actual definition—gender equality—it is making its way into mainstream media. Many people, including celebrities, are self-proclaiming feminists. While it’s great society is taking a step forward in the right direction, many people have become a reflection of “white feminism.”
What Is “White Feminism?”
“White feminism” is a set of beliefs promoting gender equality that leave out issues that specifically affect women of minority including race, sexuality, class, and disability. It is used as a “one size fits all” method for feminism in which white middle-class women are used as the mold.
What Is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality focuses on the intersection of people’s identities. Intersectional feminism takes a look how women of different backgrounds face discrimination.
The feminist movement has focused primarily on middle-class white women. A movement for women cannot truly be affective without addressing the needs and issues of all women. Thus, feminism isn’t really feminism without intersectionality.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 25-50% of women face gender-based violence in their lifetime. However, when citing a statistic without exploring how different backgrounds play a role in the outcome, it hides or “brushes over” the various layers of oppression.
For example, bisexual women and women of color are more likely to experience violence oppose to women who are white and heterosexual.
In retrospect, all women are at risk to experience gender-based violence, however some women are far more at risk depending on their race, sexual orientation, and background.
Practicing Intersectional Feminism
Becoming aware of intersectional feminism requires self-reflection on your own privileges and looking at feminism from a more inclusive lens. It may be easy to base feminism off of yourself and the challenges that you face, thus take a step back and examine your thoughts. What privileges do you hold? What does your privilege prevent you from experiencing? On feminist issues where you hold privilege, it’s crucial to listen to those who lack privilege. It’s important to hear the stories and raise the voices of those who have been marginalized.
Though intersectional feminism is not a new concept, there is no such thing as perfection. It can be difficult to understand intersectional feminism because you will be challenged to view various issues from multiple perspectives and lifestyles. You must be willing to learn from your mistakes and open yourself to a wide-range of viewpoints.
A great way to incorporate intersectional feminism into your everyday life is by being aware of the meaning of the term and educating your friends and family through word of mouth and social media. If you notice someone you love partaking in “white feminism,” correct them in a polite way and let them know there are options to practice feminism in a more inclusive way.
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