I am a feminist. I wish I could say this and know that everyone understands what I mean, but we live in a society that does not fully understand feminism. Because of this lack of understanding, many people view feminism as a bad thing. What’s worse is that the lack of unity in understanding feminism causes splits and divisions, making the feminist movement less strong. Without a full understanding and unity among all people, feminism cannot do its job in bringing social, political, and economic equality between the sexes. So, how do we fix this issue?
We stress the importance of intersectional and transnational feminism.
I will break this down into two parts, explain the definitions of these terms, and share why this will help the feminist cause.
What is intersectional feminism?
Intersectional feminism is the idea that women experience varying levels of oppression based on race, gender, nationality, social class, etc. Allow me to provide an example of what intersectional feminism looks like:
Let’s take the gender wage gap issue. All women around the world are receiving less money than their equal male counterparts. This means that women who have the same educational background and same skills as men are receiving less money simply because they are women. Now, let’s zero in a little more on this issue. A white woman will receive 78 percent of a man’s salary, and an African American woman will receive 63 percent of a man’s salary. There is a 15 percent difference between what a white woman earns and what an African American woman earns because an African American woman faces more issues than a white woman. You see, an African American woman battles both racism and sexism, which makes it much harder for her to reach full equality in a white patriarchal world. Even though a white woman is still receiving less money than her equal male counterparts, she does not face the racism that unfortunately is still present in society. (This is also an example of white privilege, which does exist in society.)
Intersectional feminism tries to address the varying levels of oppression that women face. Yes, some women are less oppressed than others. Yes, some women have to tackle racism, xenophobia, and judgement for their social position on top of women’s issues. Intersectional feminism shows us and reminds us that women’s issues exist in varying levels of injustice. Without addressing the varying levels of injustice, or if society just focuses on “white feminism,” we lose the ENTIRE point of feminism.
What is transnational feminism?
Transnational feminism focuses on women’s issues on a global perspective. It acknowledges that feminism IS NOT all about the white Western woman. Transnational feminism DOES NOT divide women of the world into two categories: Western woman and third world country women. Making a division like that suggests that non-western cultures are somehow inferior, and this is not true. Transnational feminism seeks to address global women’s issues that affect different cultures, nationalities, and races in varying degrees without trying to “westernize” women. “Westernizing” women in different countries is NOT feminism, and it is certainly not how we will achieve equality.
Let me provide an example of what transnational feminism is trying to erase. There is a common Western misconception that a Muslim woman who wears a hijab is somehow oppressed. A “westernizing” solution would be to “liberate” Muslim women by getting rid of the hijab.
A hijab is not oppression. The real oppression in this is the people who tell a Muslim woman wearing a hijab that she is oppressed and therefore cannot make her own decision on what she chooses to wear. Transnational feminism does not seek to “westernize’ and degrade women of the world for their differences; instead, transnational feminism seeks to raise women up while respecting and advocating for diversity.
How will intersectional and transnational feminism help?
Intersectional and transnational feminism will help women because the combination of these two ideas seeks to address varying levels of oppression that women face based on a number of factors, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, social class, and nationality. Both ideas remind us to take a step back and realize that there are more issues besides the “white feminism” that seeks to separate us and focus on one issue for one type of person.
In other words, intersectional and transnational feminism unites all women from all over the world. This is the true goal of feminism. Here’s the thing: women will not be able to achieve equality between the sexes until we all stand together. When we divide ourselves, we become weaker. When we unite, we become stronger. Unification does not mean that we automatically should become the same, either, and intersectional and transnational feminism addresses that issue. With these two ideas of feminism, we can unite in our diversity and help each other without trying to make carbon copies of each other.
I am an intersectional and transnational feminist, and I hope you will join me.