Updated: Nov 13, 2021
…you’re not intersectional.
Point blank, period. This article could really just end here, but it seems like not a lot of people actually know what being an intersectional feminist entails. It thus prompts a clearer explanation, as well as an opportunity for self reflection. So let’s go through it step by step.
You’re not a feminist if your idea of feminism directly excludes a group of women. I see this correlate with the complete disregard of the LGBTQ+ community in discussions relating to feminism. It doesn’t make much sense to me when people call themselves feminists and in the same breath are homophobic, contribute to transwomen erasure, etc. Is this to say that these women are not deserving, are not entitled, to the same rights that cis-straight women are? Because that’s the message being sent out, and it immediately derails any type of feminist activism you would otherwise be undertaking. The erasure of LGBTQ+ women in these supposed “safe spaces” is unfortunately all too common, and sends a dangerously contradictory message. “Women deserve equal rights in society, except them”—why are we cherry picking? What makes YOU a woman more deserving of rights than a woman who identifies as a lesbian, or bisexual, or who’s transgender? The correct answer is that you’re not, and if you recognize that, then congrats! You’re one step closer to becoming an intersectional feminist. But we’re not done just yet. Let’s continue.
You’re not a feminist if you’re racist. Obvious, huh? Well, it’s apparently not as obvious as it should be. I’m going to go right ahead and say it: you cannot “not” see color. Saying that you don’t see color is dismissing the concerns, issues, and experiences of racism. Contrary to what you think you might be doing, not seeing color adds to the problem. It leaves you incredibly vulnerable to making racial microaggressions because you’re not actively making yourself aware and educated of what those around you are struggling with just because they were born with a different skin color. Please see color—be aware and sensitive of the issues others face because of their skin color. Have empathy.
Before moving on, I would also like to take a second to bring light to colorism. For those that are unaware, colorism is the prejudice and discrimination in racial/ethnic groups from those with lighter skin towards those with darker skin. This issue is most commonly talked about when discussing Hollywood and casting directors’ preference of choosing lighter skinned black women rather than dark skinned black women for roles. With companies like Fair and Lovely and the many other forms of skin whitening treatments available on the market, colorism is a very real issue that affects many women around the world. Colorism absolutely is related to racism, but also classism, as it is a commonly held belief that lighter skin = wealth and prosperity whereas having darker skin is associated with poverty. The damage that colorism does, especially to young girls at their most impressionable moments, is something that needs to be fought. Those with lighter skin should recognize the privilege they hold in that society favors them over those who have darker skin, and should use that privilege to ally themselves and uplift those without that same privilege (more on privilege later).
You’re not a feminist if you don’t call out those around you, and by that I mean call out your friends. Call out your significant other. Call out your family. Do you honestly expect for anyone to take you seriously when you try and fight for women’s rights when your best friend is sexist? Or your significant other makes rape jokes like it’s nothing? I certainly won’t take you seriously, and it’s very likely no one else will either. The people you surround yourself with do reflect back on you, and it often is very telling. Just because they’re your friend, significant other, family member, doesn’t mean they get a pass for their actions. If you think that they’ll hate you for trying to educate them, then you need to surround yourself with better people.
You’re not a feminist if you don’t check your privilege. If you have lighter skin, you have privilege. If you’re straight, you have privilege. If you’re able-bodied, you have privilege. If you’re able to go to school and get educated, you have privilege. If you’re rich/well off, you have privilege. Being aware of your privilege is a crucial step in even beginning to start being an activist. If you do not use your privilege to be able to uplift others who do not have that same privilege, then what’s the real point of your activism? Your activism ends up becoming rather shallow and superficial if your first response to someone telling you that you have a certain privilege or number of privileges is “That insults me.” It shouldn’t. You have privilege. We all do. Own up to it. If you don’t recognize your privilege, then you’re inherently unable to understand or empathize with what other women suffer from just because they don’t have the same privileges as you. You might as well kiss your feminist title goodbye.
As students of a supposedly progressive and liberal institution, our initiatives to speak and discuss feminism should be sensitive to all these issues. But so far, there’s been a bit of lack in truly being intersectional and promoting intersectionality within the Georgetown community. Whether it’s from willful ignorance, truly not being educated, or a fear of backlash, I’m not sure. Maybe all three. But it’s getting tiring to see supposed feminists not actually doing what they claim to be doing, and that’s supporting all women, from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and not just speaking about feminism when it pertains directly to you.
Heba is a sophomore majoring in Culture and Politics and is one of the leaders of Film Society.