HerStory: Intersectional Feminism

Posted on March 1, 2019

by Rebecca S

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.

In its simplest form Intersectionality is a concept used to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (such as racism, sexism, ableism, and so on) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Renowned law scholar and critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw first introduced the term “intersectional” in relation to feminism in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

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.

Money and Feminism: Equal Pay and Beyond

April 3 | 6:00 p.m. | Sanger Branch Library

Join the Steinem Sisters Collective for this special Talking Circle as we examine the link between money and feminism. We will be discussing the book “Equality for Women = Prosperity for All: The Disastrous Global Crisis of Gender Inequality” by Augusto Lopez-Claros and Bahiyyih Nakhjavani and what equal pay means for women and their communities, not only in America but around the world. Everyone is welcome.

Creative Women Make Money

April 27th | 2:00 p.m. | Sanger Branch Library

Join us at the Sanger Branch Library to learn how women in the Toledo area are supplementing their income by using their talent and creativity.

Talking Circle with Steinem Sisters Collective

May 1st | 6:00 p.m. | Sanger Branch Library

An informal discussion of a provocative topic related to feminism. All voices welcome. Contact the Sanger Branch Library for upcoming topics.

A Sampling of the Steinem Sisters Collection

My life on the road / Gloria Steinem
Eloquent rage : a black feminist discovers her superpower / Brittney Cooper
Missoula : rape and the justice system in a college town / Jon Krakauer
Reset : my fight for inclusion and lasting change / Ellen Pao
Women who run with the wolves : myths and stories of the wild woman archetype / Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Sharp : the women who made an art of having an opinion / Michelle Dean
Not that bad : dispatches from rape culture / edited by Roxane Gay
Sex object : a memoir / Jessica Valenti
First they killed my father : a daughter of Cambodia remembers / Loung Ung
A room of one's own / Virginia Woolf ; foreword by Mary Gordon
Ain't I a woman : Black women and feminism / by Bell Hooks
The essential feminist reader / edited and with an introduction by Estelle B. Freedman
When everything changed : the amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present / Gail Collins
Geek girl rising : inside the sisterhood shaking up tech / Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens
The Warrior queens / Antonia Fraser

Related Toledo Library Blog Posts

For the Feminist Curious: A Steinem Sisters Collection Book List

Jane Austen’s Hidden Feminism

10 Podcasts Every Feminist Should Listen To

Looking for your next great read?

Let us help you!

Tell us what you’ve enjoyed reading, watching or listening to, and our librarians will give you personalized recommendations.

No algorithms, cookies or data mining – just real experts in your community sharing their love of great books, music and movies with you. We call it Give 3 Get 3.

Get started today at


Did you like this blog post? Keep up to date with all of our posts by subscribing to the Library’s newsletters!

Keep your reading list updated with our book lists. Our staff love to read and they’ll give you the scoop on new tv-series inspired titles, hobbies, educational resources, pop culture, current events, and more!

Looking for more great titles? Get personalized recommendations from our librarians with this simple form.