Photo by Liora K Photography
"Feminists believe that men and women should have the same opportunities. If you are a feminist you believe in equal rights as a whole. That's not a concept you can really shoot down." -- Lena Dunham
I’m a bit of a feminist freak. In my “what’s the meaning of feminism?” conquest, the results have always been ramblings of gender equality between men and women. But a question that throws me off of my feminist path every time is this: Isn’t there more to being a feminist than gender equality?
In Hollywood there is a huge market for feminism; we see celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Emma Watson (don’t get me wrong, I admire them) making countless comments about the gender gap. These women are changing society’s mind in an intuitive way by exposing the (still) immense disadvantage that women face today. But I often think that this conventional form of feminism is yelling into a cave that doesn’t echo back to everyone.
Where do the women of colour fit into this feminist puzzle? How are we including our LGBTQ+ communities in the feminism discussion? Where are the single moms who work three jobs to provide for their kids? Who has spoken for the victims of sexual assault, for the young girls, or for the girls who don’t conform to society’s rigorous female mould? Most of society is under the influence of white feminism -- that is to say feminism established by white women looking to close the gender gap. There have been so many accomplishments for the straight white woman, such as winning the right to vote and being able to choose any profession they desire. But as the visibly white women climb up the gender gap ladder, they leave the majority of the female population to scratch at the lowest rung.
When we create a platform for, and hand over the stage to the unseen women, society shifts.
In a recent Ted Talk I watched (a guilty pleasure of mine), a resilient, passionate feminist by the name Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered a moving but catalytic talk to encourage every person of all walks of life that, “We Should All Be Feminists.” What Chimamanda, and so many other girls are preaching today, is that feminism can’t function unless we first expose and address the imbalance of equality between individual women. The key to uniting and empowering all women is walking around us every day: intersectionality.
Intersectional feminism includes all women, men, and humans of all different backgrounds. It recognizes that there isn’t one general feminism that people have to conform to, but multiple feminisms which are defined differently by each person. When women are supported by intersectional feminism, they get to explore issues not mentioned by white feminism (also called the fight for gender equality). Intersectional feminism allows equal opportunities for the whole spectrum of women, from education to representation in media to job opportunities.
While white feminism will always exist, it isn’t any less important -- in fact, the prominent, visible women in society can use their platforms to hand over the mic to less privileged women. All we can do is be continually conscious of our choices and our presence to ensure we’re benefitting all women everywhere! My intersectional feminism is pretty simple: it’s the inclusion of people of all backgrounds to support and speak for women.