With the reinvigorated wave of the Black Lives Matter movement and the continued momentum of feminism it is important to understand why feminism is so important and why it should be intersectional. Intersectional feminism to me can be characterised as the acknowledgment that there are other variables of discrimination in addition to being a woman. Intersectionality says that all women, every single one of them must be treated on an equal platform to men.
Intersectional feminism is important because it validates and acknowledges my experiences not only as a woman but specifically a black woman. It creates a space where all women whether they are women of colour, trans, queer, Muslim, Jewish, white etc. can discuss their shared yet completely different experiences of sexism and misogyny and educate others about those experiences whilst also advocating for gender equality and equity. Intersectionality allows us all to recognise that there are other struggles that women face in addition to their gender such as racism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, homophobia and transphobia.
People may wonder why the word intersectional really matters when feminism should already acknowledge these factors. The answer; the identity of feminism is rooted in its advocacy of white women. When we look to history, from the Suffragette/ Suffragist movement to the writing of feminist books such as ‘The Feminine Mystique’ it all boils down to the struggle of white women, even if race is not explicitly mentioned. We are all placed into one category because we are women. However, there are very different struggles that we face in addition to being women, whether it be race, religion or sexuality. The toxicity surrounding white feminism is clear as it centres around struggles of women in general, when our experiences are all different, this is not to say that every white woman is a ‘white feminist’. Some may argue that intersectionality wants to pit different groups of women against each other. I say no. It merely wants people to recognise that my experience as a black woman is not the same as a Muslim woman or a trans woman. It is when we acknowledge our different experiences as women that we can educate ourselves and learn from each other.
Growing up and even to this day I have definitely experienced more racism than gender based discrimination. From being the only child stared at by adults at an orchestra course I attended in primary school, to being the only person in my secondary school class who was questioned about their ability to swim, to being told that I am ‘pretty for a black girl’ or having a woman say to her husband that she ‘didn’t realise that black people could dress so smart’. Those examples aren’t written to make you, the reader feel bad or guilty. It is to highlight that me being black appears to be the first thing that others notice. Living in a predominantly white area, at times I felt that the discrimination that I face as a black woman was not necessarily fully understood by some of my white peers. I think that because my school was so white they could not really comprehend that I would be discriminated against as a black woman. They of course recognise that racism exists. However, if they had only witnessed discrimination based on gender, they perhaps did not want to accept that I would face racism. Why you might ask? Because of the lack of education surrounding what modern racism looks like. This is why intersectionality is so important to me because it acknowledges the experiences that I face as a black person in addition to being a woman.
I go back to why intersectional feminism is so important. There are many recent examples of why it is important to recognise the different types of discrimination faced by different groups of women. For example, black women such as Candice Brathwaite have been subject to racial bias when going through childbirth, even complaining of discomfort but was told that she was ‘overreacting’. Brathwaite returned to the hospital after, due to septicaemia even though she was discharged hours before. Statistics show that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in the UK. Additionally, since the comparison that Boris Johnson made, comparing Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, Islamophobic attacks increased by 375%. Muslim women were already subject to much Islamophobia prior to those comments, but are now subject to even more. Furthermore, black trans women are being murdered at an exponential rate and they are discriminated even further due to the system. Just this small group of examples proves why intersectional feminism is so important.
Look at all of these vastly different experiences of what it means to be a woman. It is when we educate ourselves about these differences and learn from them that the world begins to change. I believe that you have a higher chance of empathising with someone who is not your race, religion or sexuality when you educate yourself about their experiences. Now is a time where great social justice is beginning in the world so go and get educated, talk to others, acknowledge racial bias, and begin to see the world through a new lens.
About the Author: Phoebe Boateng
My name is Phoebe and I’m going into my final year of Law at Keele University. My passions include writing opinion articles about social and political issues and journaling in the form of poetry. I also started a fashion page a couple of months ago showing my love for sustainable and vintage fashion.