Feminism is a movement that aims to support women of all colors, religions, and orientations. Some women face multiple aspects of oppression — making a “one-size-fits-all” view of feminism deficient and counter-productive.
It all starts with intersectionality: a term coined by American professor of race and gender issues Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.
Intersectionality acknowledges the different types of oppression women face, which is often influenced by race, class, ability and orientation.
Intersectionality is often overlooked in the feminist community. Some feminists even completely ignore the concepts of intersectional feminism, believing that the cisgendered (not transgender), white, middle-class, able-bodied mold is one that all women can fit.
“There are still some feminists that forget to include trans women and people of color,” junior Talia Victoria said.
But by ignoring intersectionality, not much progress concerning women’s rights and equality can be made.
“It’s important to clarify that the term was used to capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law,” Crenshaw said in the online journal “NewStatesman.”
In a lecture she delivered at the London School of Economics, Crenshaw discussed the case of Degraffenreid vs General Motors, when five black women sued GM on the grounds of race and gender discrimination.
“The particular challenge in the law was one that was grounded in the fact that anti-discrimination law looks at race and gender separately,” Crenshaw said. “The consequence of that is when African American women or any other women of color experience either compound or overlapping discrimination, the law initially just was not there to come to their defense.”
Without intersectionality, women of color are often excluded from the women’s rights movements. Even during the early feminist movements, the exclusion of women of color occurred in order to get the support of a wider audience. The National American Woman Suffrage Association purposefully aimed to exclude African-American women with the hopes of gaining the approval of those with common racist beliefs.
“I think feminists have the right concept, but I don’t necessarily think it applies to all races and ethnicities yet,” junior Robert Wroten said.
While feminism may thrive in media, intersectional feminism has yet to gain momentum. In 2011, the magazine “Vanity Fair” issued a “Young Hollywood” edition meant to represent the up-and-coming actresses of the year. However, it only featured white, thin actresses.
Likewise, issues of “Elle” and “Covergirl” meant to empower women instead included pictures of actresses Gabourey Sidibe and Sofia Vergara with their complexions noticeably altered to be much lighter.
Movements against domestic and sexual violence are prevalent in the feminist community. Yet according to the website “SPARKSummit,” for every white woman who reports her rape, at least 15 black women’s assaults go unreported. Native American women are also one of the most vulnerable groups for sexual assault, but they are rarely mentioned.
A common discussion in women’s rights groups is the topic of the wage gap. The wage gap is often publicized with the fact that for every dollar a man makes, a woman only makes 77 cents. However, the truth is that for every dollar a white man makes, a white woman makes 77 cents. The numbers vary according to race, according to the American Association of University Women, with African American women earning only 69 cents for every white man’s dollar, and Latina women only earning 60 cents.
“I feel like all women are one community and that we should all help each other,” senior Alanah Davis said.
Feminism is inherently a movement that aims to fight for the rights of all women. However, not all women can assimilate to a single type of feminism — which is why intersectionality is such a vital factor in the women’s rights movement.