Word of the week: intersectionality
Intersectionality is: the theory of how different types of discrimination interact. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (READ HER WORK IF YOU HAVEN’T!) to describe the ways women of color have been marginalized in society and to describe how different facets of ones identity (race, gender, class, etc.) interact and affect how one experiences being a woman.
Now, you’re sitting in your Intro to Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course. You’re excited because you’re a black girl or a woman of color or just appreciate black feminist discourse. You’re fired up and ready to discuss intersectionality, your womanhood, and how frustrating it is to be a woman of color in a world that only acknowledges mainstream, white feminist discourse. Then, oh but then, your professor spends FIVE MINUTES outlining and lecturing on Crenshaw. You’re astounded of course because how can she skip over something so crucial to your experience as a human being, your experience as a woman.
Never fear, The Reign is here.
I don’t quite know why mainstream feminism doesn’t often make room for women of color. Womanhood is not monolithic and a movement cannot be successful unless all stakeholders are accounted for. As hard as it might be for white feminists to discuss intersectionality and layers of oppression, it has to be done because your sisters with a bit more melanin are fighting similar, but different things than you are. For white women it’s getting paid the same amount as men. For women of color it’s getting paid the same as white women and then the same as men. For white women, it’s often being able to take time away from work to spend with one’s family. For women of color, it’s the opportunity to not have to work multiple jobs in order to support ones family. For white women it’s the chance to give their kids a great childhood, send them off to college, and end up with a better life. For women of color, especially black women, it’s for their kids to not lose their innocence too soon- for their kids to live long enough to even get to apply to college.
Similar but different struggles, all tied to being a woman.
Women of color should not have to wait for white women to “get theirs” before getting anything themselves.
I’m not sure where the following quote comes from, but one of my friends recently posted it to Twitter and I think it fits well here. Women need each other. We need to be partners in the struggle. We all deserve space in this movement. The sheer fact that someone identifies as a woman, should ensure they have support. Don’t wait until you have a personal tie- be the support the women next to you needs right now, even if you’re not quite sure you’re doing it right.
Our struggles are not the same, but they are inextricably linked. We will sink or swim together. I pray it is the latter.