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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.