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Why intersectional feminism is a progressive movement

In the face of calls for a more ‘intersectional feminism’, many people will ask what an intersectional feminist is. The term intersectionality stems from the interconnected nature of social categories and identities, in that someone can have numerous identities rather than being defined singularly by their sex, sexuality, race, or gender.

Consequently, intersectional feminism is a means to modernise the traditional feminist movement. As inclusive as feminism already is, becoming intersectional allows it to become more diverse and advanced. Feminism itself is, and should be, an increasingly inclusive movement meant for anyone who cares about the fundamental rights and role of women in the modern society; the idea of intersectionality within feminism is a simple means to establish this goal.  

Considering this, it’s not the development of intersectional feminism that encourages the exclusion of some men and women, it is rather the association of feminism to the idea of ‘femme’; being or identifying as a female. Many intersectional feminists – who are not necessarily the stereotypical feminist – do try to distance themselves from this notion of femininity, rather than from intersectionality. More specifically then, an intersectional feminism advocates an enhanced inclusivity as it opens the path for any feminist to have various identities and maintain distance from femininity.

The developing intersectionality could be viewed as the next wave of feminism; the next step in ensuring the equal rights of men and women

The positivity of intersectional feminism however does thus far rest on the premise that it doesn’t cross over into extreme positive discrimination. It is only a positive movement insofar as the strive to make feminism more diverse doesn’t lead to ignorance towards (and exclusion of) other important feminist campaigns, and that the traditional challenges for the stereotypically more privileged women should also not be deemed inferior. Nonetheless, at present the development of intersectional feminism has not conceded to this. Feminist campaigns surrounding consent, the gender pay gap, sexism and so on that are pertinent to all feminists and  all women continue to be crucial for the whole feminist movement.

This is not to say that the developing intersectionality of feminism does not hinder genuine progress. Diversity is an innately positive concept, but it can’t be ignored that it can also be increasingly divisive for feminists – especially given the controversial campaigns fronted by feminists. The controversy surrounding Beyoncé’s objectification of the female body is a good example. Through her song lyrics she instils the idea you must be the most attractive to have any chance of success, mirroring Sia’s overwhelming anxiety over showing her face. But in a wider context, no matter what women wear (covered up in a hijab or wearing a bikini) they look at each other as though it’s the fault of the patriarchy. Whatever individual women wear it will be a problem; it will be divisive.  

Clearly, intersectional feminism is a critical development for the movement: creating more diversity, modernising ideas, and enhancing inclusivity. The developing intersectionality could be viewed as the next wave of feminism; the next step in ensuring the equal rights of men and women; the reduced stereotypes of femininity and masculinity; the unifying of a movement that has been pivotal to the role women have in society today. Intersectionality could be viewed as inherently divisive but quite simply it is necessarily progressive.

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Comments (1)

  • A few things on intersectional feminism
    1) deconstructs the gender binary, acknowledges the interlocking nature of other systems of oppression with cis-sexism
    2) modernising is a term which is a feature of imperial feminism aka non-intersectional feminism. Perhaps veer away from aligning the radical thrust of interesectionality with the pernicious force of western imperial modernity discourse
    3) Intersectionality considers how race, class, sexuality, gender, ability, nationality, indigeneity shape one’s positionality within an oppressive system. More than unity. It is a radical praxis, which centres those with the most interlocking systems of oppression in the fight for liberation.
    4) decolonisation encompasses an intersectional praxis because of the nature of white western cis heteropatriarchal colonialism and imperialism

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