The Women’s March and Intersectional Feminism

Women across the country took to the streets late last month.                                        PC: NYT

Last year’s Women’s March was the largest single protest day in U.S. history, where it was estimated that 5 million people marched worldwide. The peaceful protest continued this year, in the wake of the shutdown of the federal government and the notable #MeToo movement.

The rallies this year took place in some of the largest places in the United States, including New York, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco. This year, I was fortunate to march in San Francisco on January 20th, 2018.

But something that has been apparent to me for a long time was exemplified as I marched on that Saturday, and that was the importance of intersectional feminism.

Generally, I want to say that intersectional feminism is the only acceptable form of feminism. I also want to note that “white feminism” is the antithesis of intersectional feminism, and therefore, adherents cannot call themselves feminists at all.

By that, I mean that unless you stand for all women, you don’t stand for women at all. The Women’s March highlighted how important it is to be inclusive in all aspects of your feminism. We march for immigrants, LGBT individuals, the disabled, people of color, and people of all sizes, because there are women who fit under each of those categories.

But even though we marched for all of these different individuals, I have come to understand that not everyone who marched that day understands the detrimental effects of white feminism.

White feminism fails to address the problems that women of color and other minorities face that white women don’t. When this comes up, some white women have the tendency to instantly become defensive, arguing that it shouldn’t matter because we are all women.

But to simply say that we are all women ignores the oppression that all types of women face. It ignores the fact that race, religion, gender identity, and sexuality plays such a pivotal role in the experiences of some women. It ignores the discrimination against trans women, or Muslim women. It ignores the fact that although white women face obstacles because they are women, they still maintain white privilege. The disparity between what white women and black women face was made horrifically clear, when 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, while 93 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton.

What does this mean? White women cannot control having white privilege, but they can control whether they want to acknowledge it or not. They can also sit down, talk less, and listen to women of color when they speak of their grievances, because they have been silenced for much longer.

Take Emma Watson as an example. Her fierce advocacy for gender equality became apparent in 2015, during the speech she gave at the U.N. headquarters. However, many were quick to point out her “white feminism,” as she didn’t highlight intersectionality at all. But Watson took it as a learning opportunity, a chance to listen and learn about the many layers of feminism.

On January 20th of this year, I witnessed people march for black lives, for undocumented immigrants, for Native Americans, and for trans women, and each have their own unique narrative of the oppression that they face. As a feminist, it is so crucial to embrace intersectionality and to hear the stories of women from all walks of life. There are so many different aspects to womanhood, and if we’re not in the shoes of some women, it is imperative to sit down and listen to their stories. Progress cannot be made unless our feminism is intersectional, and I hope the Women’s March will amplify that tenfold in the years to come.

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Natalia Gevara

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