A few of my recent posts have talked about intersectionality – the connections that bind different concepts and perspectives together by showing how they inseparably overlap and link together — in different aspects of my life. I’ve also talked about how much I value intersectionality and believe that it is necessary, in every part of my lifestyle.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, Intersectionality refers to “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”
In my 8th blogpost, posted on the 22nd of March, 2015, “Social Justice: What Feminism means to me”, I wrote that “I think that feminism is useless without intersectionality”. I’ve made it very clear, especially in the past few posts, that without considering the ways that multiple ideas, points-of-view, and, in some cases, ideologies, affect issues, I’m not getting ‘the big picture’ and I’m missing pieces of the metaphorical – or literal – puzzle.
I take this very seriously when I think about social justice and Feminism – I frequently use these two terms interchangeably because, to me, they describe extremely similar issues, function in a similar way, and are implicitly bound together.
To me, a Feminist social justice advocate strives to upend the ways that patriarchal structures empower a few and disempower most, through a complicated and intersectional system that places certain types of individuals (straight, white, western, cisgender, upper-class, able-bodied, young men) at the top and ranks individuals according to problematic values based on sexuality, race, nationality, culture, gender, class, ability, and age. In the past, Feminism has frequently focussed on the ways that women are disempowered by sex, but, now, this is changing, as more and more straight, white, western, cisgender, able-bodied, young feminists start to see that they cannot only view feminism through their own lenses and they must use an intersectional approach to view issues of disempowerment from the perspective of someone who is another sexuality, race, culture, nationality, gender, ability, and age – or any combination of these.
Feminism isn’t only for white middle class women. We’re empowered in many ways that are easy to ignore (race and class, for a start), and when we only focus on the ways which we are disempowered, we don’t consider multiple perspectives.
If we truly care about equity, we have to consider ‘the big picture’ that I mentioned before. Just because I don’t experience systemic racism (a system which disempowers based on race) doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I don’t experience ableism because I don’t have a disability or mental health issue, but that doesn’t mean that ableist barriers aren’t faced by many people all over the world every day.
Do I need to go on?
Intersectionality enables us to try to take a step back, listen to diverse opinions, consider multiple perspectives, look at the connections between systems of disempowerment, and think about ways to unite and battle oppression together.
We all should be standing up against all of the different systems that come together to create and support patriarchal ideology.
We’re capable of so much more. It’s 2016. We need solidarity, not further division.
I think we need intersectionality and diversity.
Without them, what kind of people are we going to be?
- The kind that don’t become informed about social justice, human rights, and political issues?
- The kind that stand back as a bystander and let others suffer as a result of oppression?
- The kind that make value-judgements about people based on difference?
- The kind that just accept what they’re told and never ask questions?
- The kind that attack others in the street because of difference?
- The kind that value nationalism over cultural diversity?
- The kind that never try to educate themselves?
I sincerely hope that, every time I am tempted to be one of those kinds of people, I will take a step back, remember to ‘think outside the box’ that I live in.
While I’m definitely not perfect, and have certainly made some of these mistakes in the past, and likely will still continue to make them at times in the future, I hope that I will always keep intersectionality at the forefront of my mind and strive to be the most critically-aware intersectional feminist that I can be. I have to listen to other perspectives.
Intersectionality has the potential to make great changes.
Shouldn’t we all try to be intersectional?
Well, readers and/or fellow feminists, what do you think? Do you think that intersectionality can improve Feminism further? Can it help us to be more open-minded and aware? Can it help us grow and change as people and social justice advocates? Drop me a line in the comments, I love a chat!
If you enjoyed this wee post on social justice, feminism, and intersectionality, check out some similar older ones: “Social Justice: What Feminism means to me” and/or “Social Justice: Is teaching English making me more entitled?”.
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