Why Feminism and Intersectionality is a Team Effort

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The Lavender Truth

I'm a student with a passion for gender equality, flowery literature, and Spanish grammar charts.

There exists the criticism that the feminist movement has mostly been directed at white, heterosexual,  and/or cisgender [insert any trait of the privileged folk here] women. Not only straight women are inhibited on the climb of corporal ladder, but also LGBTQ women–and although a white man makes $1.24 for every dollar that a white woman makes, a white man also makes $1.67 for every dollar that a Latina woman makes. Evidently, the injustices that women face within further minority groups are plethoric.

Often, the feminist movement is criticized for overlooking issues such as these, which are more specific to disadvantaged societal groups. Throughout American history, minorities within the female gender have certainly been alienated from the feminist movement.

You guessed it! It’s time for a fascinating history lesson from the self-proclaimed history nerd!

Rewind to the women’s rights movement, circa 1970. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was focused on ending sex discrimination in the workplace. Cool, right? Well, when a group of radical feminists, who just so happened to be a group of gay radical feminists, wanted to hop on board of the campaign, they were turned away. The core participants in the movement worried that issues involving sexuality would distract from their principal motive: ending discrimination against plain ol’  straight women in the workforce.

As a result, NOW lost the support of a fervent group of feminists who could have greatly contributed to the cause. Instead, the rejected activists formed their own movement directed at gay rights (Napikoski).

But, why didn’t the women merge two worthy causes, thereby expanding the group of supporters for their cause? Leaders believed the  feminist movement would be most successful if it explicitly catered to the more dominant group.

This mentality mimics the criticism that the modern-day feminist movement occasionally receives. By concentrating on the most prevalent issues, the equally important, but slightly less common issues, are cast aside.

To rewind further in American history, a comparable conflict occurred surrounding a women’s rights convention in 1851. In this time period, women’s reform movements were everywhere, along with campaigns for the abolition of slavery.

truthSojourner Truth, who was mentioned in Finding Black Feminism as a College First-Year,  was born a female slave. After escaping, she traveled around the United States to promote the abolitionist movement. In 1851, Truth arrived at a women’s rights convention to speak and was hotly criticized–participants feared her ensuing speech would detract from their more valued cause of gender equality.

On the contrary, Truth’s speech called attention to the hardships all women face. She inspired the masses with stories of the horrors she faced as a young woman slave. Truth encouraged men, especially those in power, to grant women their rights (Danzer 258). Basically, she was a mid-19th century version of Emma Watson.

Rather than disconnect the women’s rights movement from the abolitionist movement, Sojourner Truth synthesized the adversities that inferior groups faced during her time period. Her speech sparked a contrasting result to the 1970s women’s movement. Recognizing the oppression of another minority group actually caused a spike in support for improvements in gender equality, you know, at least by 19th century standards.

Truth’s story shows that by supporting all marginalized groups, a movement for equality can only spread. As feminists, we promote equality for men and women. It should not be cast aside that in doing so, we speak up for any woman that is devalued in society–no matter her race, sex, sexuality, or class.

Since the 1850s, we have clearly made progress in the realm of gender equality. However, we must not forget that as proponents for feminism, we compose a support system for one another. We fight against the discrimination that our fellow feminists face, no matter how rare their problems may be among us. Sticking together only increases our influence; we all have a lot to offer when it comes to the fight for feminism.

 

 

Citations:

Danzer, Gerald A., Ph.D, et al. “Women and Reform.” The Americans. N.p.:
McDougal Littell, 2005. 254-58. Print

Napikoski, Linda. “Lavender Menace.” About Education. About.com, 2015. Web. 19
Feb. 2015. <http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/a/
lavender_menace.htm>.

“National Organization for Women (NOW).” Encyclopædia Britannica. N.p.:

Encyclopædia Britannica, 2015. Encylcopædia Britannica. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/405154/
National-Organization-for-Women-NOW>.

Communist Bakery. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://communistbakery.com/post/110477006206/whenever-i-hear-the-women-are-paid-78-for-the>.