In celebration of Women’s History Month, join the Steinem Sisters Collection for HerStory: Intersectional Feminism.
What is intersectional feminism?
Intersectionality is the buzzword to end all buzzwords. Depending on who you ask, it can be the most important theoretical innovation in feminist history; the cancer that’s killing the left; a critical tool in on-the-ground organizing; or totally meaningless liberal academic jargon that doesn’t connect to the real world.
Recently, intersectionality has saturated feminist discourse, but use of the term has become vague because many feminists, even those that call themselves “intersectional feminists” don’t understand what the term actually means – often misusing and misapplying it.
Although intersectionalism was not directly connected to feminism until Crenshaw, you can see the roots forming in the 19th century with abolitionist Sojourner Truth, Black Liberation scholar Anna J. Cooper, and civil rights and anti-lynching activist, Ida B. Wells. These early black feminists challenged the idea that civil rights work and the oppression of black people was separate from the women’s suffrage movement which focused almost exclusively on those issues affecting middle-class white women. With a few exceptions, the trend of disregarding the lived experiences and multiple-identities that keep black women and other marginalized women oppressed continued throughout the 2nd and 3rd waves of the feminist movement.
Recently, as intersectional feminism has gained traction and activists purposefully work towards inclusiveness, feminism has begun to decenter itself. As feminists, it’s important that we pay attention to the fact that feminism is about more than ending sexism – it’s also about ending all interconnected systems of oppression that effect different women in different ways. The things our privileges allow us to take for granted are the reasons we need intersectional analysis to do truly inclusive feminist work. Without it, it’s easy to center feminism around either our own experiences or the experiences of those who are already the most privileged in society.
How to practice intersectionality?
No matter what work you do or what your privileges are, take care to step back when things aren’t about you, educate yourself on things that don’t affect you, and pay attention when people speak of their own experiences.
Intersectional feminist practice asks us to be willing to make mistakes. Adopting an intersectional framework is not an easy process.
It involves seeking to understand things that are difficult for you to understand, empathize with people who are not like you, to step back instead of speaking over others, and opening yourself up to a high level of accountability.
And above all, intersectional feminism isn’t here to make you comfortable, quite the contrary in fact. If your doing it right, intersectional feminism should challenge you, stretch you, and make you uncomfortable. But the difficulty of intersectional feminism is a difficulty and discomfort that is meant to inspire change.
Thus, we have to be willing to take up the critical reflection and self-work necessary to push back against our privileges and to create an intersectional ethic and lens through which our feminism is crafted.
You will make mistakes; we all will.
But if we want to realize relationships, communities, or societies built upon justice and not oppression, we have to keep doing the work.
HerStory: Intersectional Feminism
March 9, 2019 | 2:00 p.m. | Sanger Branch Library
Explore intersectional feminism and the ways women’s overlapping identities — including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation — impact how they experience oppression and discrimination. Featuring a panel of the Toledo region’s most celebrated women’s activists and forward-thinkers, HerStory will investigate how the feminist movement can be more diverse and inclusive. Our panel will also invite discussion from attendees.
Kristina Mockensturm ElSayed, Women of Toledo, InterConnection Coordinator
Katie Shelley, The Ability Center, Disability Rights Advocate
Veralucia Mendoza, Community Organizer and Activist
Dr. Monita Mungo, University of Toledo Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Assistant Professor
Other Women’s History Month Events and Upcoming Steinem Sisters Collection Programs (Spring 2019)
The Soul of a Queen
March 25th | 6:00 p.m. | Kent Branch Library
From the time of her first recording at the age of 14, Aretha Franklin captivated audiences with her distinctive voice and became one of the most celebrated singers of all time. As her music became associated with social movements, she came to be known as the Queen of Soul, influencing scores of female musicians who followed her. The Tatum Center celebrates her legacy on what would have been her 77th birthday. Music, poetry and light refreshments.
Film Focus – Dolores
March 25th | 6:45 p.m. | Maumee Branch Library
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century—and she continues the fight to this day, at age 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change. Directed by Peter Bratt, 96 Minutes.