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Photo by Austere’s Ellie Alonzo

Close your eyes and imagine a woman. Is this woman tall or short? Skin dark as the richest soil? Perhaps, pale like a cloudless sky. Is she thin like stems stretching on a flower, or round like the juiciest fruit? Does she have long draping locks or tight kinky curls? Is her voice high and enchanting like singing birds or maybe it is low like the songs of deep ocean whales? Does she remind you of your mother? Or maybe the stranger you met eyes with on the train? What is her story? Did she grow up comfortable and sheltered, or was her upbringing a tale of hunger and sadness? Is her spirit fiery or is she gentle? In her eyes do you see warmth, or is there coldness in her gaze? The woman you imagined is inherently different than the woman anyone else could have imagined.

Our brands of femininity are often created by the environments in which we were raised. However, narratives of ideal womanhood have historically haunted our perceptions of ourselves and each other. So why are mainstream ideas of femininity so singular? We find our answer in the constructs that have always shaped our lives. We have been told by the media that our value is based on appeal, while politicians use legislation to decide which of us get more rights than others. Education is often yet another indication of the level of appeal we hold for society. It is easier to point out the physical differences between us, than it is to address the social and political factors that impact us. Women of color have always been disenfranchised because of their ethnicity; trans women have experienced prejudice because of a lack of understanding. Both have suffered from a lack of empathy. These factors intertwine with one another, and are the foundation for Intersectionality in feminism – these women explain what intersectionality means to them, and why it is so essential:

JUSTINE: To me, feminism without Intersectionality isn’t feminism at all. This is because it acknowledges women’s overlapping identities in which they may face oppression, advocating for all women in the end. Intersectionality is important because it involves constant learning and growth when it comes to recognizing one’s own privileges in areas such as class, race, sexuality, and cultural identity. It focuses on the inclusiveness of all of those differing identities, including femmes, transgender women, and non-binary people and how they face oppression rather than advocating for only cis/het, middle-class woman.

FRANCESCA: What Intersectionality in feminism means is not ignoring every aspect of prejudice against femininity. This includes misogyny and transmisogyny. Intersectional feminism is the only feminism that matters, honestly. Because women are intersectional and we are marginalized by sexuality, skin color, cultural and occupation-wise. Feminism otherwise is just cishet white feminism. Feminism itself should only be intersectional.

ARIEL: The importance of recognizing Intersectionality in feminism is to acknowledge that not every female experiences oppression, in the same way, there are several types of oppression for each individual. The way I am affected by oppression – as a white young female from Saginaw – is not the same way my other female friends of different backgrounds and races experience it and that feminism needs a larger voice from people of all different races, backgrounds, classes, ages, and sexual orientations. The importance is to respect every woman and consider each individual’s different life experiences as a whole. The purpose of feminism is to join women and men together for the equality of the sexes for the sake of humanity.

DANIELLE: As a white bisexual female with little personal experience in the greater queer community, intersectionality was a vital piece of knowledge to understand. It helps me reiterate personally how every human wants to be respected, felt validated, supported. It’s the utmost acceptance and recognition any “true” feminist can provide or feel. I hope that as time passes, people as a whole will educate and empower themselves and others through intersectionality. As a white female, I recognize the differences between my intersectionality and of others and hope to use my “normality” as a flagship to carry the message and provide as much support through my voice as possible. It’s almost like a moral obligation, and I hope to fulfill it.

NAOMI: One of my favorite online posts says “feminism without intersectionality is just white supremacy”, which is true. As a mixed, queer, fat individual, intersectionality is super important to me. Intersectionality’s goal is to lift up oppressed individuals and give space for those stories and experiences. Intersectionality is even more necessary now in the light of recent political changes as hate and bigotry are on the rise. Feminism has given me a voice, it has opened doors of compassion and knowledge to me, as well as helps me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue my dream of being a burlesque dancer. Intersectional feminism lifts up those who can’t lift themselves through community. In short, without it, I wouldn’t honestly be able to function.


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This story was printed in the DAWN issue.
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