As you are formulating an advocacy project or participating in activism, it is important that you not only approach the issue from your own experience, but from the perspective of others. Embracing intersectionality as a fundamental part of feminism, rather than simply activist jargon, is what will guarantee that your project contributes to a more inclusive feminist community.
This community should be structured around the inclusion of all womxn. This community should not only focus on womxnhood, but on how womxn experience all forms of oppression and approach advocacy without excluding those of different backgrounds or political affiliations. At the Bipartisan Feminist Project, we are trying to encourage the growth of this feminist community. We hope that through your own advocacy measures you will be able to do the same.
I have included several resources about intersectionality and how to incorporate it’s ideas into your advocacy efforts that I hope you will find enlightening and useful.
Director of the BIFP Advocacy Team
A History of Intersectionality
Excerpt from Intersectionality in Context: Three Cases for the Specificity of Intersectionality from the Perspective of Feminists in the Americas by Sara Diaz, Rebecca Clark Mane, and Martha González.
“Within feminist organizing, feminists of color have struggled to have the particularities of their oppression as raced and classed women acknowledged and fully supported by white feminists. For example, Sojourner Truth is credited with an early version of inter- sectionality. When she asked white feminists at a conference in 1851 “Ar’n’t I a woman?” she challenged them to see her as not only a black person, but also as a woman (Hill Collins, 1991: 14).
As women of color engaged with the white feminist movement more than one hundred years later, they found themselves compelled to continue to challenge white women in this way. Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith pointed to the nearly invisible political position of black women in the title of their 1982 antho- logy “All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of Us are Brave.” For nearly 160 years, black feminists have insisted on being seen by arguing that their social, political, economic situation cannot be understood in terms of only one cate- gory of identity. This has been so central to black feminism that Patricia Hill Collins (1991) identified “the interlocking nature of oppressions” as one of its key themes in Black Feminist Thought. While the notion of intersectionality dates back to the Civil War era, Kimberlé Crenshaw is most often credited as the creator of this theory. What Crenshaw did was apply an idea central to Black feminist thought to critical legal studies and name it “intersectionality.” Critical race feminist approaches like Crenshaw’s were important because they were able to show that the notion of interlocking oppression is about more than identity, but has structural, legal, and material implications for African American women (Crenshaw et al., 1995). In this sense, intersectionality has never really been about identity, but rather about the politics of difference when that difference does not fit neatly into a single category.
In the “second wave” women’s liberation movement, women of color found white feminists’ notion of universal sisterhood oppressive and offensive. According to Elizabeth Spelman (1988), a white ally who has worked closely with Maria Lugones, the problem with universal sisterhood is that it is concerned only with the oppression that women experience as women. The notion of universal sisterhood rests on two assumptions—women share a common oppression as women and, as the root of all other forms of domination, gender oppression is the most important to eradicate.” (when really, feminism should acknowledge the intersecting and overlapping nature of the feminist movement.)
Patricia Hill Collins
An American sociologist specializing in the intersection of race, class and gender. She has published several books and is a leader, thinker, and academic in the area of Black feminism. This is an excerpt from a book she wrote:
Why U.S. Black Feminist Thought?
Black feminism remains important because U.S. Black women constitute an oppressed group. As a collectivity, U.S. Black women participate in a dialectical relationship linking African-American women’s oppression and activism. Dialectical relationships of this sort mean that two parties are opposed and opposite. As long as Black women’s subordination within intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and nation persists, Black feminism as an activist response to that oppression will remain needed.
In a similar fashion, the overarching purpose of U.S. Black feminist thought is also to resist oppression, both its practices and the ideas that justify it. If intersecting oppressions did not exist, Black feminist thought and similar oppositional knowledges would be unnecessary. As a critical social theory, Black feminist thought aims to empower African-American women within the context of social injustice sustained by intersecting oppressions. Since Black women cannot be fully empowered unless intersecting oppressions themselves are eliminated, Black feminist thought supports broad principles of social justice that transcend U.S. Black women’s particular needs.
Because so much of U.S. Black feminism has been filtered through the prism of the U.S. context, its contours have been greatly affected by the specificity of American multiculturalism (Takaki 1993). In particular, U.S. Black feminist thought and practice respond to a fundamental contradiction of U.S. society. On the one hand, democratic promises of individual freedom, equality under the law, and social justice are made to all American citizens. Yet on the other hand, the reality of differential group treatment based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship status persists. Groups organized around race, class, and gender in and of themselves are not inherently a problem. However, when African- Americans, poor people, women, and other groups discriminated against see little hope for group-based advancement, this situation constitutes social injustice.