author: jen fuller| contributor
Feminism is the new dirty word. People assume that if you’re a feminist, you hate men. The Merriam-Webster definition for feminism is “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” with the most important word in the definition being equality. Women aren’t trying to ruin men’s lives or take their jobs; we just want to be equal with men for once. Even saying that we believe in equality labels us as crazy, man-hating women.
As a Caucasian, straight, cisgender, able-bodied female, I acknowledge that I have more power than women who are part of a visible minority, or part of the LGBTQA+ community. Acknowledging that you have privilege because or race or gender identity is important. Without identifying and acknowledging that you have a certain level of privilege, you don’t recognize said privilege, and sometimes ignore the disadvantages of others. Seeing the world through a privileged lens makes it seem that all women experience the same amount of sexism and harassment as you, when in reality, it is usually amplified due to racism, classism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Traditional feminism has left marginalized women out and has mainly focused on middle-class, cisgender, white women. It has even been seen as being racist and classist. Women’s issues have many aspects, and each aspect affects women of different backgrounds differently. For example, with reproductive rights, women from lower-class communities might not have the money to afford contraception or medical procedures; furthermore, if you have a non-conforming gender identity, or are part of the LGBTQA+ community, you will have different needs for contraception, or what types of reproduction methods are needed to have a family.
Changing traditional feminism to include all types of women needs to be a priority. Approaching feminism with an intersectional approach will help to include all women. All women need different things from feminism, but we all need feminism to help us to become equal between the sexes.
Like all large societal issues, feminism can’t be solved overnight; however, people can make small steps to try to create equality. Recognizing privilege is one small way higher-privileged feminists can make a difference for marginalized women. Talk to people about what feminism really is, and how it’s about equality and not taking over the positions of men. Learning more about feminism and its history will give you a more informed opinion. Before I wrote this article, I didn’t know what an “intersectional approach” to feminism was. I was aware of my privilege and what white feminism was, but I didn’t understand the full effect it had on marginalized women. Even just talking to other women from different backgrounds about their experience gives you a better perspective. Give unheard voices platforms and opportunities to be heard. In reality, this piece should have been written by a marginalized woman, so that her voice and specific struggles could have been heard. Because, let’s be honest, being white and cisgender gives you a lot of power. What you decide to do with that power is what counts. Without a diverse voice within feminism, people will be left out of the possible equality that can be gained from feminism.
So, the next time someone asks you if you hate men because you are a feminist, let that person know about what feminism, white feminism, and intersectionality is.
Want to submit some more feminist opinions? We are looking for women of color, disabled women, queer women, trans women or gender variant folks, and impoverished women. If you want your opinion heard, submit a request to firstname.lastname@example.org