What is Intersectional Feminism?

Even though the concept of intersectionality in feminism has been around for decades, it only seems to have made it into mainstream debate in the past year or so.

The main thing ‘intersectionality’ is trying to do, is to point out that feminism which is can be overly white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied – which represents just one type of view – and doesn’t reflect on the experiences of all the multi-layered facets in life that women of all backgrounds face.

If feminism is advocating for women’s rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities can impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.

Ultimately why intersectionality is important is because it allows the conversation to be broadened.

Its about acknowledging that some branches of feminism only focus on Western standards and the problems faced by the “average woman” which fails represent the struggles that women of colour, non-straight women, trans women, disabled women and women belonging to religious or cultural minorities.

A pretty good example on why intersectional feminism is essential is looking into the statement: “Muslim women shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs or burqas because they are oppressive.” Due to the simplicity of this statement it’s the complete opposite of intersectional feminism. It’s a failure to consider a woman’s identity beyond the fact that she is a woman.

Although there are some connotations that the purpose of wearing the veil is women’s responsibility to dress in such a manner as to not “tempt” men – the veil is also used metaphorically to describe barriers between good and bad, believers and nonbelievers*. So there’s multiple factors to consider and to not consider all factors can be branded to be ‘white feminist’.

The term ‘white feminism’ makes some people uncomfortable in part because it suggests that white women recognise their privilege and examine the ways in which that privilege can make other women invisible within the feminist movement.

However understanding white feminism – recognising that gender isn’t a single category and acknowledging underrepresented women and domestic groups that have different histories and are at a tremendous disadvantage isn’t saying you aren’t allowed to be upset or feel oppressed it’s simply educating yourself so when you stand for something you can make sure it stands for everyone.




*Here’s some articles giving further insight into why Muslim women choose to/not to wear the veil.