South East High School

Opinion: The difference between intersectional and white feminism

Imagine being frustrated with generalizations that are meant to describe you, but really do not. Imagine being asked to focus on one single aspect of who you are, and nothing else. Imagine being denied a platform to express yourself, or being overshadowed by others who don’t understand your struggles or privileges.

Many feminists who are not privileged to have a platform, a comfortable place to talk and share their thoughts and experiences, often find themselves being generalized and pit against each other because the media paints “white feminism” as the default form of feminism.

White feminism is dominated by white women who do not admit that being white is the reason they have time to deal with superficial feminist problems—it’s mainstream feminism—the feminism where white women are obsessed with not letting men hold open doors for them and not shaving or wearing makeup. It’s the feminism you’re first introduced to—baby feminism—feminism that doesn’t understand Western privilege, or cultural context, and most certainly doesn’t consider race as a factor in inequality.

White “one size fits all” feminism, as Cate Young states on her blog, is the set of practices where middle class, cisgender, heterosexual, white women are the example set out for other women to follow.

“White feminism” is the feminism that praises white celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and P!nk for “breaking gender roles” and using their sexuality to promote themselves, while shaming celebrities of color such as Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Beyoncé who do the exact same thing.

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While “feminist icon” Miley Cyrus is being praised, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj are shamed. They’re deemed “too raunchy” for mainstream media, and are told to “put a bra on!” or they’re “not [feminists]”. White feminism is the type of feminism that calls you a fake feminist or a misogynist when you call out a white women for being problematic. But what does it mean to an intersectional feminist?

Intersectional feminism is the type of feminism that is all-inclusive. Instead of cutting off voices and generalizing experiences, it acknowledges every experience is different, and includes individuals of non-binary genders, according to Ava Vidal on the Telegraph.

It is defined as “the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity,” as it was devised by law and civil rights professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. It is the view that social issues and patterns of oppression such as racism, and ableism to name a few, are linked to sexism.

It is important not to generalize, and to recognize that women who are part of more than one group of oppressed peoples have experiences that cannot be separated and sorted into one category. Someone who is both Middle Eastern and a woman cannot be discriminated against for wearing a burka or a hijab unless she is both Middle Eastern and a woman. Someone who is both homosexual and a woman cannot be discriminated against with derogatory terms such as “dyke” unless she is both homosexual and a woman.

It is important to recognize experiences, and to allow women of color, women with disabilities, homosexual and transexual women, to share their experiences as they are. It is important we do not allow white feminism to further the oppression of women who are already a part of other oppressed groups.

It is important we do not leave anyone behind in our fight for equality.