What do you think of when you hear the word feminism? Some picture the Suffragettes of 1917. Others imagine middle-aged white women in Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits. Many think of bra-burning women with hairy legs and underarms. While each of these ideas were the perfect picture of feminism at various points in history, they haven’t represented feminism as a whole for several decades. Many don’t realize that people of all races, gender identities, and sexual preferences can be feminists. This is where intersectional feminism comes in.
Intersectional feminists collect information from all ethnicities, races, classes, religions, gender identities, and sexualities. They realize that not every woman’s experiences are the same. Instead, we must come together and learn from each other’s perspectives. Historically, women of color, the working class and women of certain religions have been left out of the feminist movement. In the mid-1980s, the inequality within the feminist movement was finally acknowledged.
Since then, feminists have discussed how each woman experiences both feminism and sexism differently. They realize that, for example, a black woman’s experiences are different from a white woman’s experiences, or that the sexism a blue collar woman faces is often different from the sexism a white collar woman sees. They have also welcomed the LGBTQ+ community into the fold, because they no longer focus on equal rights just for women. Because intersectional feminism is all about inclusivity, men have also been welcomed into the movement. Many men believe in gender equality, as seen with the #HeForShe movement.
Intersectional feminists do not simply fight against what they consider to be misogynistic systems. Instead, they now focus on a woman’s right to decide what is right for herself. Intersectional feminists are more aware of cultural beliefs, and no longer try to impose their own beliefs on others. One example of this is the argument about Muslim veils and concealing garments, as several countries have banned these coverings from their government buildings. Some feminists say that these veils further oppress Muslim women. However, Muslim feminists believe that this attire prevents men from objectifying them, thus actually liberating them. While an intersectional feminist may not agree with this viewpoint, he, she or they would believe in a Muslim woman’s right to choose for herself.
Intersectional feminists believe that while you may not personally agree with a woman’s choices or beliefs, it is important to believe in her right to make those choices for herself. They claim that no one should have the right to tell a woman what she should do with her own body, what types of jobs she should have, what she should wear, or what her role in the family should be. They acknowledge that no two women have identical experiences, and they strive to combat the different ways that all women face sexism in their lives.
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