Written by: Anushka Sonawala
“This idea that we all have the same life is false. Race, class, gender come together to shape the life chances of people in very different ways.” Over the past three decades, activism has become a prominent asset to social change, encouraging millions to amplify their voices. However, inclusivity and diversity have become topics of discussion at both social and political levels. The plight of white-supremacy and whitewashing have entered the media, and “whites-only” activism has become a superficial phenomenon that has commonly been condemned. As three waves of feminism have tided over humanity, opinions on women’s rights have unquestionably evolved and matured. The first wave of feminism shone a spotlight on women’s political rights, and their rights to voting and autonomy. In the 1960s, the second wave of feminism came in and enforced the idea of equality between men and women. Sometime in the 1990s, the third wave of feminism flooded in, and introduced the concept of intersectionality and abolition of white privilege in feminist efforts. While these are only three waves in an ocean of success, they have markedly made measurable impact in women's lifestyles. We still have centuries of progress ahead of us, to bring women justice, and guarantee them the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Intersectional feminism branches out to the inclusion of people of race, sexuality, size, class, cultural beliefs, and other components that make up an identity. Wide-ranging feminism enables further representation of distinct experiences and goals. With privilege-dominated feminism, it’s easy to ignore majority of the problems faced by unseen yet beleaguered women. Inevitably, this erases the root definition of feminism. Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw suggested the intersectional feminism theory, and innovatively described it as, “a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”
Numerous feminist crusades have been held accountable for their inability to recognize WOC, transgender women, indigenous women, and overshadowed women. The #MeToo movement, for example, limited its mediums to social media, a space that millions of people are unable to access. Despite the moral motive behind it, it didn’t match the central idea of third wave feminism. Gender inequality is an inherently discriminatory social construct, however, what society fails to recognize is that the adversity a black woman faces is typically worse than what a white woman might face. To put this notion into perspective, consider this statistic; a white woman makes 78 cents to a man’s whole dollar. Regrettably, a black woman makes 64 cents as compared to their male counterpart’s earning of 74 cents, but that’s not the extent of injustice within work systems. There is a difference of 23% between a white woman’s earnings, and a Hispanic woman’s earnings, and this evidently underlines the discrimination between women of different backgrounds.
Unfortunately, white feminism has left its footprints all over US’ history. The Feminine Mystique written by Betty Freidan was undoubtedly a factor in inspiring second-wave feminism, however, it only covers straight white women of privilege’s experiences. Favorably, women of color (WOC) are finally calling out colorblindness and twisted savior complexes, and making an immensely revolutionary impact in third-wave feminism. If we allow exclusionary feminism to thrive, we pave the path to a more complicated and divided world, where a small fraction of important women’s voices is uplifted. Non-intersectional feminism is non-feminist.
In order to effectively combat embedded prejudices in our everyday systems, we need to push for intersectionality in feminism, and ensure that voices of the unheard are better represented and spotlighted. Intersectionality does not mean quashing the rights and freedom of privileged women in society. It means increasing the threshold and capacity of feminists fighting for a brighter future, and embracing acceptance of diverse opinions and voices.