7 Famous Intersectional Feminists You Should Be Following

7 Famous Intersectional Feminists You Should Be Following

Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights.

Some "feminists" like to think that feminism begins with Betty Friedan and ends with Gloria Steinem. But that's nowhere near what modern feminism truly is and should be.

Betty Friedan is what modern feminists call a "white feminist." To be clear, white feminism does not mean all of its perpetrators are white. In simple terms, white feminism thrives off of the idea that all women have less privilege and power than men when in reality, white women have exponentially more privilege and power than both men and women of color. It doesn't realize the distinct experiences of a person's combined identities.

Like poet Rachel Wiley said, "white feminism is about as feminist as Dr. Pepper is a medical doctor."

Intersectional feminism, on the other hand, recognizes that separate identities of a singular person intersect in myriad ways to form unique everyday experiences based on how those identities are understood by others. This includes gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, physical and mental ability, nationality, socio-economic status and more.

If this still doesn't make sense, here's an explanation of intersectional feminism from the woman who introduced the concept to feminist theory in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw:

"African-American women, like other women of color, like other socially marginalized people all over the world, were facing all kinds of dilemmas and challenges as a consequence of intersectionality, intersections of race and gender, of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism; all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique."

Here are 7 famous intersectional feminists who really know what they're doing.

1. Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour is a Muslim Palestinian-American activist and former director of the Arab-American Association of New York. She's also one of the co-founders of the Women’s March, the largest political demonstration in United States history that saw almost 700 sister marches worldwide, along with Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland (all of whom you should be following, too). In 2016, the Obama Administration named Sarsour one of its Champions of Change, and she frequently speaks at colleges and universities across the country. Sarsour's entire life is educational activism, and her intersectional feminist mantra is crystal clear: “If you’re in a movement and you’re not following a woman of color, you’re in the wrong movement.”

Instagram | Twitter

2. Rowan Blanchard

Rowan Blanchard is a 16-year-old actor and activist who knows more about and has done more for intersectional feminism than most people could in a lifetime. Her social media accounts are consistently flooded with feminist messages that go far beyond gender justice. At only 13 years old, Blanchard wrote an essay on her Tumblr account defining white feminism and intersectional feminism, and why she advocates the latter. Because of her activism, Blanchard has been invited to speak at events like the 2017 Women's March LA and the 2015 UN Women U.S. National Committee. She continues to speak about her intersectional ideals every chance she gets.

Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

3. Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams is an actor and comedian most widely known for her work as a senior correspondent for "The Daily Show." While Williams' career centers around political satire, she wastes no time drawing on her own experiences as a bisexual black woman in her activism. Her work has not come without backlash – at a luncheon celebrating women in film during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Jessica responded to Salma Hayek and Shirley MacLaine's accusations of black women self-victimizing in their activism with an explanation of intersectional feminism: “When I talk about feminism, sometimes I feel like being a black woman is cast aside. I always feel like I’m warring with my womanhood and wanting the world to be better, and with my blackness — which is the opposite of whiteness.” Currently, Williams works with Phoebe Robinson on the "2 Dope Queens" podcast and stand-up tour.

Instagram | Twitter

4. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a paramount intersectional feminist. At 15 years old, Yousafzai was the victim of an attempted assassination by the Taliban because of her support for girls' education in Pakistan, her home country. Now, at 20 years old, Malala is the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is the star of her own documentary, has published a New York Times bestselling autobiography, has opened a school for refugee girls in Syria, is enrolled at Oxford University, has addressed the United Nations and has chatted with the likes of President Barrack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated."
-Malala Yousafzai, United Nations 2013

Instagram | Twitter | Malala Fund

5. Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an actor and activist best known for her role in "Orange Is The New Black." Her politics are incredibly personal, and her feminism is purely intersectional. Her work as an actor is her activism, and Cox uses her experiences as a black transgender woman to make that work as authentic as possible. Cox has noted that her character Sophia Burset on "Orange" is a "wonderful opportunity to talk about and highlight issues of trans women in prison." Cox is the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in acting and was named Glamour's 2014 Woman of the Year. This year at Glamour's Women of the Year Summit, Cox reminded us that it is "important that trans women are included in talks about women." Her activism doesn't end there, though. Cox regularly advocates for the enactment of public policies that will improve the lives of trans people, specifically trans women of color.

Instagram | Twitter

6. Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi is a 17-year-old actor and model best known for her role on "Black-ish." Shahidi surrounds herself with people who share her ideas, including Rowan Blanchard. Through her work Shahidi is able to act on her feminism, advocating and searching for roles that are representative of intersecting identities. "Black-ish," while it has its downfalls, frequently explores political and social issues, including police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Shahidi credits these discussions as important to expressing the "duality of raising black children in our modern climate." Planning to attend Harvard in 2018, Shahidi works with Always' #LikeAGirl campaign in her time off.

"When we talk about diversity on screen we're not just talking about color; we're talking about gender identity, fluidity, and sexual identity. We want to talk about identity in a deeply multifaceted way because our definition of diversity has, and must, continue to expand."
-Yara Shahidi for i-D

Instagram | Twitter

7. Amandla Stenberg

At 17 years old, Amandla Stenberg was named one of Elle's 2015 Feminists of the Year alongside Rowan Blanchard and Laverne Cox. Now 19, Stenberg is easily one of the most outspoken celeb feminists, utilizing her social media to spread messages of love, intersectional feminism and her own journey of loving her blackness. As a black bisexual actor, singer and activist best known for her roles in "The Hunger Games" and "Everything, Everything," Stenberg wastes no time finding roles that allow her to access and portray intersecting identities. She's received BET's Young, Gifted + Black Award through Black Girls Rock, has spoken with Gloria Steinem on the importance of intersectionality in feminist theory and lends her work ethic to the Art Hoe Collective.

Instagram | Twitter

Cover Image Credit: pasa / Flickr

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The Aziz Ansari Situation Is Called Sexual Coercion, And It's Way Too Common

It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about.

Since the publication of Babe.net’s account of an anonymous woman’s bad date with Aziz Ansari, media, and social sites have been throwing out opinions on what this means for the Me Too movement, and for Ansari’s career.

Many of these opinions range from accusing the woman – referred to as “Grace” in the account – of taking away from actual rape survivors to outright calling her out for being bitter about not being treated like a future girlfriend by Ansari. While this story is very different from the New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein and its discussion on workplace assaults and rape, the story by Babe brings up a more common issue that many women and men who have been in a sexual encounter with another man can relate to.

In the account, the writer talks about how “Grace” felt increasingly uncomfortable as the night went on at Ansari’s apartment. He made sexual advances that were aggressively pushed upon her without her active consent. The article goes into detail about how every advance he made seemed to be rushed and gave her no time or opportunity to feel comfortable and safe enough to decline. She states that she had tried multiple times to non-verbally express her discomfort, but Ansari either didn’t notice or chose to ignore those signs.

“Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points, I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”

Now, this is where things get tricky and many people have put her situation up for debate on whether or not it was an assault. While it may not follow the so-called guidelines that society has set up that define a rape or assault, the way she describes her situation certainly is not consensual in any way.

Sexual coercion is a form of sexual assault and it is harder to identify and prevent it from happening. The reason for that is because we as a society are exposed to sexual coercion almost everywhere, especially in the media and in films.

As shown in many romantic films, the man portrays the go-getter character who’s one goal is to win the girl’s affections, even after being told to back off many times. This kind of harassment is romanticized in a way that shows men that even if a woman says no, they can still eventually get what they want if they try long and hard enough.

The movie "Grease" is a classic and more outright example of enforcing rape culture in this way when one of Danny’s buddies ask, “Did she put up a fight?” in the number “Summer Nights”. The notion that it is more sexually appealing to pursue a woman who might not be interested in having sex, instills patriarchal ideologies into our culture and has men feeling like they are entitled to sex.

When we talk about how something so common and seemingly ordinary is actually problematic, people can’t understand why things need to change. With the Ansari situation, critics of Grace’s story ask why she didn’t just say no and walk out of the situation, or that its normal for girls to feel this way during a hookup, and she should’ve had thicker skin and moved on instead of going to the media. Critics like HLN Anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, brought up victim blaming points like these in an open letter, while also saying that her workplace harassment actually deserves the media attention.

This isn’t some competition on who has been more assaulted than the other. This is a discussion about how we should have a higher standard when it comes to sex, and that standard should be consensual and communicative. There are extreme power dynamics at play that allow men to use that privilege and power over women (and other men) as a way to have sex, even if it’s not explicitly consensual. As a very powerful, influential and supposedly feminist man, Ansari should have understood the responsibly he had and simply asked Grace if she was ok. The absence of a no does not equate an active yes.

As a response to many of Grace’s critics, TBS comedy show host Samantha Bee stated on her show that Ansari’s actions may not be defined explicitly as rape, but that still does not make it acceptable.

“It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about. Any kind of sexual harassment or coercion is unacceptable!”

It really shouldn’t be too much to ask to be treated like a person and have your emotions be validated during something as intimate as sex. If men can't be mature and communicative enough to handle that, maybe they should take some of Samantha Bee’s wise advice and go fuck something else: “May I suggest a coin purse? Or a Ziploc bag full of grape jelly?”

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Donald Trump Is Not A Populist

Trump's style of politics is not even close to populism.

On 8 Jan, President Donald Trump announced that he would be attending this week’s World Economic Forum. The three-day meeting takes place in Switzerland, the banking capital of the world. The W.E.F. “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest,” according to its mission page. Over its 48 years of existence, the forum has become synonymous with the global financial elite.

Attending the meeting in Davos should bite at the fabric of Trumpism. Many have said that Trump ran as a populist, assailing everyone from immigrants to the executives of Goldman Sachs. He won the 2016 election primarily by beating the polls in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that normally vote for Democrats but that sided with Trump’s harder line on free trade that Hillary Clinton’s.

So why would Trump want to be seen with the likes of the CEO of the largest hedge fund in the world and the former president of the European Parliament? He would be the first president to R.S.V.P. to the W.E.F. since Bill Clinton; Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama were concerned that attending would hurt their images. Last year’s speakers railed against protectionism; Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” The globalists in Davos might moderate their talk with Trump, the epitome of protectionism, in the room, but they might also take the opportunity to speak to him directly.

The root of the confusion at Trump's plan to attend is the assumption that Trump is a populist. The phrase “populism” is broad and hard to define. Google defines “populism” as “support for the concerns of ordinary people.” Populists tend to be called extremists, whether they are as far right as French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or leftists like Senator Bernie Sanders. Generally, populists favor a stronger government and distrust all other institutions, including foreign governments. While anti-immigrant sentiment is common among populists, it is more central to populism to rail against the economic elites and globalization. Most of all, populists are stubborn to a fault; they hold true to their positions to the bitter end.

Trump famously began his campaign complaining that Mexican immigrants were overwhelming the country with crime. He also denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) and accused Clinton of being too tied to Wall Street banks. But these are words, not actions.

In a meeting last Tuesday with members of Congress from both parties, Trump said that “we’re gonna do D.A.C.A.,” referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order that Obama signed but Trump rescinded, “and then we’re gonna move on to phase two, which is comprehensive immigration reform.” This seems to cut against Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiment; he more or less assured Democrats that he would sign a bill that translated D.A.C.A. into a law instead of an executive order. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stepped in and informed Trump that the Senate had tried to pass a D.A.C.A.-esque bill before, which then-Sen. Clinton had voted for.

Two days later, Trump had invited Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), both favorable to a humane approach to immigration reform, to further discuss immigration. When the Senators arrived at the White House, they learned that they would be joined by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and White House adviser Steven Miller, two immigration hard-liners. At the meeting, Durbin suggested a way to scale back the diversity visa lottery that Trump has assailed. In return, Durbin suggested favoring third-world nations in Africa and Latin America. Trump, in response, wondered why the United States was so focused on bringing in people from "shithole countries," according to both Graham and Durbin. He said the U.S. should accept more Norwegians and the like.

Many have reflected on whether those comments reflect racist sentiment on Trump's part, but consider this: Cotton, the far-right Senator, was at the Tuesday meeting, but was outnumbered by lawmakers closer to the center on immigration (Miller was not at that meeting). The second meeting saw Graham and Durbin become the smallest voices in the room. It is possible that Trump was simply appealing to his audience, acting tough on immigration, especially from developing countries, simply because he wanted right-wing legislators and advisers to think he was on their side. (On Sunday we saw the benefit of making borderline racist comments only with borderline racists: Cotton and Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.) denied that Trump had suggested that the U.S. should limit immigration from the developing world.)

On his first full day in office, Trump withdrew the United States from T.P.P., a trade deal crafted by Obama binding together twelve nations representing 40% of the world economy. But that didn’t kill the deal; in fact, the other countries might have an easier time negotiating without concerns that Republicans in the American Congress will obstruct it, always a fear in international relations. The Trump administration is also renegotiating N.A.F.T.A. instead of throwing it out like he promised.

In regards to Wall Street, the President has not exactly kept bankers at arm’s length. Five members of his cabinet are alumni of Goldman Sachs. On Wednesday the administration began scaling back regulations authorized by the Community Reinvestment Act, which mandated that banks had to do more to alleviate poverty. And then there's the W.E.F., expected to be attended by leaders of some of the world's biggest banks.

When Trump announced his run for President, the media had become accustomed to labeling candidates: Obama was a reformer, Clinton was establishment, Sanders, by his own admission, was a democratic socialist. Trump was labeled as a populist for lack of a better term because he talked the talk. Now that he has been in office for a year and accomplished remarkably little of the right-wing agenda he espoused during the campaign, many are starting to realize that Trump may not be the populist they thought he was.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any -ism that accurately describes Trump’s ideological engagements because he says different things to different people. In public, he tells his supporters he wants to round up all the immigrants and throw them out of the country; to legislators, he says he wants D.A.C.A. to be enacted as a law. He assures the working class he is on their side; he assures the world economic elite he wants to attend their rich people party.

So what do we call this new style of politics? Perhaps we should call it approval-ism, after Trump’s desire for approval from whomever he is speaking to.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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