What is Intersectional Feminism and How to Practice it?

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

You may now think "wtf is intersectional feminism". Perhaps you feel a bit overwhelmed having this fantasy about a complex theory which is discussed somewhere in the university classes on gender studies. I get it. Perhaps the term 'feminism' itself even scares some people as they have a certain stereotype of a person infront of them. But listen up, this does not have to be this way. Just try to open your mind and READ THIS.


For me (female, Persian roots, raised in Germany), intersectional feminism is the thing. It' my hub to see the diversity of obstacles we people have to face and how they all interlink with each other. When I heard of the idea of intersectionality, I felt for the first time that someone can relate not only to the discrimination I've experienced by being female in this society, but also to my middle-eastern cultural background growing up in Europe. While encountering first-hand diverse forms of sexual harassment throughout my life, there have been comments which have been also related to my ethnicity. Intersectionality opens the eyes for everyone to understand that other human beings have to face other forms of discriminations.


First things first, what is feminism?


I've heard very interesting ideas about the definition of feminism, like women who kind of hate men to feminists are against wearing make-up, but as all those stereotypes are certainly not true, let's just be all on the same page and take a simple definition with the help of the Merriam-Websiter dictionary:


Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

Not so hard, right? Feminism is basically about something very profound: equality. Having this image in mind, we continue with intersectional feminism. Let me break it down for you:


And now, what is intersectional feminism / intersectionality?


The term intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, American civil rights advocate and law professor. It started with the idea that black women face certain forms of discriminations which are cannot be placed in the category of sexism, nor of racism - moreover of a combination of both. After a period of time intersectionality has widened its concept. What this means? Intersectionality is a hub for ANY form of discrimination and raises a new mindset towards understanding the different obstacles each and every person has to overcome in life.

This may relate to gender as well as to socioeconomic status, race, age, mental and physical ability, religion or ethnicity. It acknowledges and embraces diversity to its fullest.

What's important is that intersectional feminism is not only about race as I heard it many times before. Intersectionality interlinks any possible difference between people. For example, take two young white European girls with different backgrounds. One girl comes from a family with a lower income and a single-mom, the other girl grew up in a household with an above average income, but lives with a physical disability. Both are dealing with the same troubles when it comes down to being a girl and facing sexism, but though they have other personal barriers which still need to be addressed.


So, how to apply intersectional feminism in your life?


Reflect on Your Privileges.

Start to think about the privileges you have in your life. Beginning from your current health over to ethnic background right to financial situation. Be aware of your privileges and don't take them for granted.


Listen.

People share their stories on different mediums, from Instagram to blog posts. Many of them discuss openly the topic of intersectional feminism, like Rashida Jones, Laverne Cox or Rosario Dawson. Take some time and listen to their experience. They most probably will open your eyes for problems you might never even have thought about.


Show Empathy.

Be reflective and try to place yourself in the situation of other people. You will see that other people struggle as well, but with different forms of problems. We experience injustice so diverse and need to stand compassionate next to one another in order to fight any form of discrimination.


Intersectionality is a lifestyle. It brings together the diversity of us human beings and can be practiced by everyone and all the time.


Text by Bernak Kharabi

Preview image by For All Womankind


#feminism #intersectionalfeminism #intersectionality #Kimberlecrenshaw #forallwomankind


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