|A demonstration against the violence of neo-nazis and fascists in Sweden.|
A word that has been gaining traction in a lot of feminist spaces is the word Intersectionality.
Intersectionality is the study of the intersections of life, intersections of oppression that differ between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, gender-expressions and so much more.
To make a very easy point of this we can compare the privileges of a middleclass, white, cisgender woman with a black, middleclass, cisgender woman.
Though both are women and come from relatively good socioeconomic backgrounds, both identify with the gender assigned to them at birth they will still, most likely, have very different experiences during their lives.
Even if the two women were to have the exact same job in the exact same company, chances are that the white woman will be treated with more respect and have a slightly higher salary simply because of her skincolour.
It has been proven time and time again through several different studies that women are paid less than their equally qualified male counterparts and in the same way, women of colour are often paid less than their equally qualified white counterparts.
Studies have shown this many times over and yet we as a society often refuse to acknowledge this.
Intersectionality is the study of these differences in privileges among oppressed groups.
The phrase “check your privilege” is often used by intersectional feminists to point out that, though all those who are not encompassed by the white, cisgender, heterosexual male-norm are oppressed by the same structures, oppression can take many forms and are often less discriminatory towards certain groups.
Among the oppressed groups you will find cisgender white women and women of colour, trans*women and trans*men, non-binary trans*people along with homosexual/bisexual/pansexual/queer women, men and non-binary people.
Trans*women, for example are harshly affected by several different forms of oppression, among them being sexism directed towards them as women, transphobia directed at them as trans*women, and gods forbid they be anything other than white or the hate and discrimination they face can go so far as to claim their lives (in 2014 alone in the US these was a killing almost every other day claiming the lives of transgender men and women) simply for expressing their gender noncomformity. (Source*)
Many of those killed were trans*women, with trans*women of colour absurdly overrepresented.
In feminism, an intersectional analysis of oppression is necessary for us to better be able to battle against the repressive norms of our society, a society that demands we follow strict guidelines as to how women are perceived, how men are perceived and what is socially acceptable.
When feminism emerged as a force in the early 60’s in the US, it was often dismissed by the established media and even today, while we pride ourselves on our acceptance of LGBTQIA-folks and our open condemnation of racism we often miss the insidious ways in which these forces still operate today.
A term I was unfamiliar with up until only a couple of years ago was the term “micro-aggressions”, which refers to small daily jabs at those who do not conform to the ideal held up by western society (i.e a white, conventionally attractive, cisgender man or woman) and how they affect those who receive these comments.
It is not unusual for women of colour (WOC) to be told they are “attractive for an X” (X – black woman, hispanic woman, asian woman etc) or to be told that they aren’t like other women of their perceived race.
Micro-aggressions are not always comments said in a manner meant to hurt or dismiss a woman of colour, but even when these comments are spoken in what the commenter would think is a compliment, it is often said in a way that exotifies and isolates the woman.
This exotification can be easily seen when looking to the western view of women from South-East Asia.
There has long been a fallacy in the west, regarding the servile, proper, gentle and soft-spoken East-Asian woman. This is because a servile woman who “knew her place” was an ideal to many western men. The fact that these women have what was long considered “exotic” appearances furthered this idea and also solidified this view in western society.
When women in the west began their suffrage, their campaign for equality, the women of East-Asia became even more attractive in the eyes of western men due to the myths previously mentioned.
Some women, though exotified, were seen as hypersexual however. Most often women with african roots, or latinx roots.
This can be seen quite clearly in our daily lives. The sexualisation of black women such as Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj who receive comments daily about their appearance, who are put on the covers of gossip-magazines for the slightest show of skin (all women are subjected to this sexism, yes, but white women are not subjected to it on the same level as women of colour) or even a hint of sexual innuendo in their lyrics.
When Beyoncé performed at the VMAs in front of an enormous FEMINIST backdrop, she was immediately hailed both as a trailblazer and as anti-feminist because of the clothes she had worn.
She was called out, by White Feminists™, for dressing for the male gaze and for perpetuating the sexualisation of women.
When Katy Perry dressed in equally revealing clothing there was utter silence from the White Feminist™ Movement.
It is this double-standard for women of colour and white women that calls for an intersectional analysis.
It is why white women are hailed as empowered for being sexual and showing off their bodies, almost without any regard as to how or why they do so, while women of colour are vilified or even publicly shamed for doing the same thing.
Women should obviously have the right to show as little or as much skin as they want without backlash but somehow even within a large part of the women’s movement, this doesn’t seem to be true for all women.
Trans*women are also hypersexualised to a point, even by other feminists. Trans*women are not only seen as a deviation by many radical feminist groups (rather justly called TERFS – Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists) but are outright excluded from many women-only forums.
Trans*women are at greater risk of sexualised violence, rape, assault and even murder than any other group I’ve researched.
From what I have been able to gather, after a couple of hours scouring the web and seeing an innumerable amount of faulty statistics, the life expectancy of a trans*woman is between 30-35 years. There are those who say it is slightly higher, and those who say it is a great deal lower, but as far as I’ve been able to gather this is the closest to the truth. (Feel free to send me information or studies on this I might have missed and I will gladly revise this)
Why is it that trans*women, who are at an obvious disadvantage in today’s society can be banned from separatist forums made for women to feel safe?
Simple. TERFS, also known as idiots, see trans*women as men. They see trans*women as men playing at being women.
Trans*women are oppressed and excluded by the very movement they are seeking to join and help.
Intersectionality is necessary to see these different forms of oppression, even those that we unwittingly contribute to simply by being unaware of how we further the oppression of our sisters of colour, our trans* sisters and our non-binary siblings. (As one wonderful person pointed out, we must support our sisters, not just out cis-ters)
Without intersectionality we are furthering a movement hellbent on lifting white women the equality with white men, but we will be leaving behind so many more.
White Feminism™ has shown us that equality is not a pie in the sky. White women have been able to win many rights for themselves, but it is time now for us to look beyond just our own needs and also lift those whose voices have been continuously silenced by the western ideals and norms.
Pardon if this post became longer, and possibly a bit more rant-like than I intended, but I hope I made at least a few of my points relatively clear.
Good day, good night and thank you.