Easy Ways to Make Your Feminism Intersectional
Do you identify as a feminist? Awesome! But are you an intersectional feminist?
Everyday Feminism defines intersectional feminism as: “...looking at the intersections of people’s identities. It’s a type of feminism that looks at how women of different backgrounds experience oppression - Women of color, trans women, lesbians, bisexual women, asexual women, women with disabilities, women with mental illness, old women, young girls, diverse body types, poor women, immigrant women, and basically every woman that the mainstream feminist movement has a bad habit of leaving behind.”
Are you unsure if your feminism is completely intersectional or need some help figuring it out? Start with these easy tips:
1. Seek out people who don’t look like you or have similar background to yours on social media. If you’re white and privileged, follow activists of color on Twitter. If you’re slim and have a smaller body, follow plus size women on Instagram. It’s the closest thing to walking in someone’s shoes and helps you understand what they’re going through. For example, I have a friend who is a size 18 and recently, she did an Instagram story about how hard it is for her to find simple swimsuits that don’t have weird details that try to hide her body. I had never thought about this issue - I didn’t even notice that most brands, even “body positive” ones, stop their swimsuit sizes around 14 or 16.
2. In addition to checking your social feeds, check out the other media you consume and see if it represents a variety of experiences. Take a look at your bookshelf, movie selections, music, podcasts and more and make sure that they characters and voices looking back at you aren’t all coming from the same background you are. Seek out diversity if it doesn’t exist around you.
3. Refer to individuals you don’t know as “they.” It’s a good way to get used to using the term and therefore, you avoid assuming someone’s pronouns. Even a person who dresses in a typically “female” coded way, down to their hair/makeup, could still identify as nonbinary, or just prefer “they/them” pronouns. Some people are trans but can’t afford or don’t want surgery, so despite how they dress or behave, they may still appear to be the gender they were assigned at birth.
4. Consider what unconscious stereotypes you may hold about certain cultures. This can include race, religion, class, gender, sexuality, ability and more. You can be open-minded and sensitive to people’s identities and still be missing something. Society doesn’t do a great job of encouraging us to examine preconceived ideas we grew up with, so it’s up to us to decentralize ourselves. And it’s a good thing to always be learning and growing!
5. Don’t patronize. Being an intersectional feminist doesn’t mean tiptoeing around people. Don’t assume that because of someone’s skin color or level of ability, they need you to help them or that they share all the experiences of others who look like them. People in minority communities would probably rather have empathy over pity.
6. Amplify the voices of those who are marginalized and listen to them. It’s okay if you have something to say about Kanye, but maybe if you’re not black, save your opinion for after others have spoken. Just sit back, share the tweet about Kanye written by a black person, and listen to what they have to say.
7. Reflect on the privilege you have and acknowledge it. Commit to researching the issues and identities you don’t understand. Don’t pretend you’re woke if you’re not going to put in the time and effort to fully understand important issues.
8. Hold yourself accountable if you make a mistake. No one is perfect, and when you make a mistake, like misgendering someone, take responsibility for it and apologize. Don’t get defensive or toss out that tired excuse that people are “too politically correct” these days. Being open to learning means being okay with getting constructive criticism and being okay being uncomfortable.
9. Get rid of your ableist language. There are the obvious words you shouldn’t use, like “r*tarded,” and “crazy,” and then there are a few maybe less obvious terms, including (but not limited to):
(Want a good glossary for substitution words? Look here.)
10. Get out there and advocate! March, sign petitions, repost fundraisers and charities, and donate if you can afford to. We all have our little corner on the internet, so share whatever you can in your corner to help get more eyeballs on it.
11. Support the work of people of other identities. Buy their books, attend their movies, fund their projects, and show that their art matters and deserves to be seen.
And last but not least, educate others on intersectional feminism! Spread the word and lift up the people who don’t get the attention they deserve from society.
Words: Caroline Moira