A beginners’ guide to intersectional feminism

Written by Catriona Anderson

Intersectional feminism is a phrase that I have only started to hear in the past year. However, I have quickly come to recognise its importance and how we should all integrate it into our lives.

If you don’t know what intersectional feminism is, in brief it is an analytical framework to describe how the different aspects of a person’s identity including their social background or political background can lead to different experiences of discrimination and privilege.

This turned into intersectional feminism after the critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced it in 1989, and she explains it as “a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other”.

My personal understanding of this is that inequality is not simple. People can be oppressed for many reasons, and it is important to acknowledge this. However, it is even more important to acknowledge that a person may be oppressed for more than one reason, therefore will have to deal with a much greater inequality than many of us.

The list of reasons for people being oppressed almost feels endless. The reasons include: race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability, age, language, culture and education.

The very fact that there is such a large list of reason why someone may be oppressed kind of highlights the ludicrousness of it. It is extremely unreasonable to deem someone less significant on this basis. If we were to instead celebrate these people, I believe that in reality we would be left with a much vaster pool of talented, smart, creative people who would possibly bring change to our world in ways some may never expect.

This is why I believe it is critical to include intersectionality into feminism. If you can recognise how women are oppressed by men, you should also be able to recognise the other reasons people may be oppressed for as well.

A few key points on ways you can work on being an intersectional feminist:

  1. Know your privilege and use it to build up others
  2. Learn about other people’s experiences of oppression
  3. Stay open to the idea that you still have a lot to learn
  4. Collaborate with others to make your views collectively more diverse
  5. Never underestimate anyone

I think that feminists will be able to adjust to this new version of feminism, and many are already in the process of doing so. But if you already class yourself as a feminist, I would really urge you to make sure that you are an intersectional feminist as well.

About the author

Catriona Anderson

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