Feminism, as the media portrays it, has typically only focused on the white, cis gender, able-bodied, upper class, heterosexual woman even though these are some of the most privileged groups of people. Popular feminism has allowed for the erasure of the groups of people who are most affected by discrimination. It is usually seen as a movement that has purely focused on Patriarchy, “the social order that privileges men and oppresses women”, which usually fails to mention how race, class, sexual orientation, gender expression and (dis)ability factors into it.
3rd wave and 4th wave feminism is working to change those stereotypes. Thanks to the incredible work of Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the term Intersectionality has become part of some of the world's most important feminist vocabulary. Intersectionality is focused on the social structures of privilege, oppression and discrimination and how identity plays a major role in how people are affected by such measures. Crenshaw talks about identity politics and notes that identity is cross cutting. In Crenshaw’s approach, she explains that there is no way to talk about privilege and oppression without understanding how every aspect of a person’s identity plays a role. Intersectional feminists therefore see that a person “is not simply oppressed or privileged: they are simultaneously privileged and oppressed by different aspects of their identity.”
This approach to feminism is so important because gives us a way to describe the complex social order in which mainstream society functions. Intersectionality, for example, allows us to see that when Sandra Bland was killed in police custody, her gender was not the only factor that played a role in her death. It was the combination of her race, the darkness of her skin, gender, social stereotypes, and history of past police brutality that played a role in her death.
Our feminism must be Intersectional or it can’t be feminism at all. There is no way to talk about racism without talking about how it affects low income women; how class issues are so much different for cis people than trans people, especially if they are Black or Latina. Intersectionality brings typical (“white”) feminism past simply including minorities in discussion, but instead it reworks the entire system. Intersectionality fosters a feminism that is truly inclusive; one that recognizes differences, rather than glossing over and erasing the varying experiences of different people.
The main idea of Interesectionality is to put people out of their comfort zone, to get them talking about the issues that have been historically erased for hundreds of years. It forces us to look past our own experience and understand how oppression actually works. To be willing to critically think about aspects of humanity through a lens that is not your own. It teaches us to push against the erasing aspect of modern day feminism and turn towards inclusivity instead.