In her compilation of essays, Roxane Gay states that "I believe women not just in the United States, but throughout the world deserve equality and freedom but know I am in no position to tell women of other cultures what that equality and freedom should look like" (1). Growing up in a predominately Christian family, while studying and researching the different aspects of feminism and social justice, I feel that I have grown up as an insider while simultaneously being an outsider. I have grown up listening that a certain set of ideals were the only way, and that other ideologies followed this template. As time has passed and I have grown older and into my own understanding I have come to realize that feminism does not necessarily look the same to everyone.
The idea of intersectionality first came to my attention through social media. To me, intersectionality means the acceptance of women in any shape or form, for example, the acceptance of transwomen, lesbians, pan-sexual women, basically anything outside the “traditional” straight female. I am and always have been behind this idea because I believe that feminism means equality for all women, no matter how they choose to represent themselves. I have family and friends who identify as anything other than the traditional straight, [insert chosen major western religion here], cis-gendered woman; and I find it difficult to not be supportive of my family and friends. I recently started a course in Women's Studies at my college, and I found out that intersectionality is a new "wave" (mindset) of feminism that is gaining traction with the Millennial generation. This wave is meant to be feminism for all, meaning it is no longer for the white, privileged women but it is a movement for women of color, and of different backgrounds. I was a little confused at first, because I always thought that feminism was the struggle for equality for women, regardless of sexual orientation, the pigmentation of melanin and regardless of religious background. Taking a women's studies class has taught me, that while feminism is meant to be for every woman, there have been different waves of the movement that focused on different agendas, and on different groups of women.
As mentioned before, I grew up in a predominantly Christian family, and was put into a Christian private school early on and while I asked to be removed and put into the public school system during my high school years, I remained at the same private school. I was more than feisty, I was zealous in the fight for equality in the church itself. There is where I found opposition. The problem I see with intersectionality is that it is difficult to get one group of people to agree on anything, it would be increasingly more difficult to get a whole nation, much less a city to agree on the same principles. While intersectionality is the idea and the goal, I fear that it will not be achieved very quickly. The school I went to was under the denomination of “Non-Denominational”, the church I attend is known as “Pentecostal” and my grandpa pastors a “Baptist” church. Therein already lies one problem, there is separation of denominations and beliefs in most major world religions. I was constantly torn between three different teachings, but more than anything, I realized quickly how I disliked the way my school was ran. When I was in middle school I argued with my Bible teacher that God can call women to preach/teach because God really does not discriminate. I argued with great fervor, I countered his arguments with precision because his arguments really did not have any backing in scriptures other than “this is what our pastor teaches us”, and that teaching also included having the women remain in silence. I argued this because I have seen with my own eyes the way men in the church abuse their power over their wives with that exact mentality. I argued this defiantly because people tend to take things out of context, twist it for their own benefit to manipulate and oppress, and that is not what I grew up to believe is right. I’ve seen the shame that was brought upon women, because I was one of them. I was marked as that girl who disagreed and argued and I was infamous among my teachers and classmates because I questioned the status quo, because I was "argumentative" and opinionated.
At the time of the argument, I had no idea what feminism was, I just remember being incredibly upset that a man would say that a woman had to ask a man before she spoke because “God only calls a man to teach his word”. While I do believe there is an order in which things should be done, I don’t believe this notion that women have nothing to teach men. When I finally found out what Feminism was during my senior year of high school, I was instantly drawn towards this movement and philosophy. Being that I remained at that private school, I often felt alone in my way of thinking. Quite honestly, there were only two others who thought as I did, and one of them was my English professor, the other a girl I soon became very close to. I was told to keep quiet but to keep my ideas. I was advised simply to “give the teachers what they want”, and it was a struggle, because I believed that they were wrong to infect minds with such toxic thinking.
Five years later, and I have become more involved in this movement of women, in that I have been involved with different marches now, and have looked into organizations fighting for the same cause. The Women’s March in LA encouraged my heart to no end. I looked all around me and felt a huge sense of pride to be a part of something that is bigger than myself. I was however, saddened by the news that pro-life women were turned away at the March in DC. I understand that the movement has fought long and hard against major religious institutions that have used their power to oppress, but these pro-life women cannot simply be deemed as “anti-feminist” because they differ on one subject. For many of those women, they are fighting the same oppositions other women have been fighting. They fight against the manipulation from men, the abuse in any form, and the unfair treatment. Many of these women fight against the hyper-sexualization and the sexual assault that faces young girls and other women now. Hearing that news made me really think about the aforementioned quote by Roxane Gay, because feminism really does look different to different cultures and different upbringings. For example, the new Nike Ad has a woman in the "sports-hijab" which I thought was awesome and a step towards this idea of intersectionality but people who are ignorant of the Islam culture believe that this is a sign of outright support of the oppression of women. The reality is that Muslim, Jewish and even some Christian (think of Catholic nuns) women wear head scarves as a personal choice. Most of the time, the choice is to be committed to God and modesty. Sometimes women wear the scarves to identify with their culture and faith. There are times where we really must ask ourselves whether we are thinking about the greater good or if we are being closed minded. While many may argue that religion itself is closed minded and an antithesis of feminism, I believe as Roxane Gay said," I am in no place to tell other women of other cultures what freedom looks like." It is sad that the very people who are fighting for equality among women are secluding their sisters who are in just as much need as they are.
In closing, the differing opinions among women and the feminist community reminds me of a quote by Edith Wharton. In her short story, Roman Fever, Wharton describes the distortion behind women’s thinking by stating "So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope". While I have always thought of feminism as all-inclusive I think that it is high time that this all-inclusive movement become all- inclusive and find ways for Muslims, Christians, Agnostic, Atheists, Buddhists, New Age, etc. to be a part of the movement that is Pro-Women, and stop fighting among ourselves. Once we look past our difference of opinions on things like, pro-life/choice, the way the family structure is set, and the idea that feminism is only for women, we can finally take a step closer to having the equality that we all desire.