Intersectionalism and Inclusion in Feminism

I am glad to choose such a light topic for today. In truth I have been ruminating on this topic for over a week. I thought of just not doing the post but when something haunts you day in and night, it means to do something about it, in my case write. I am also haunted by exercise, which I have been doing as well. Listening to my ghosts it seems.

First a quick definition of Inter-sectional feminism.  It is the basic idea that we are not just female or male. We have colours of skin, cultures, sexualities and varying degrees of abilities. It is the idea that feminism must include all aspects of the person and that privilege exists at different levels.  Privilege is unearned benefits in society that are inherent.  They are often unseen benefits such as not being racially profiled as a white person.  It is meant to INCLUDE everyone, to be sure everyone has a voice.  Simple concept right? What could go wrong?  People.  People can go wrong.

I have had quite a larger look at life here at “feminism camp” with 17 women from developing countries. Looking at life through their eyes, I see all kinds of privlidge that I take for granted.  Socialized health care, home insurance, food banks and more.  Western civilization can be quite a gift. I mean we have Trump and many problems in North America, but also quite a bit of privledge. Now if we just made a sweeping statement like that, and had it universally applied, we would find flaws. Perhaps a homeless person with mental health issues who is dying on the street doesn’t consider himself privileged.  This is where intersectionality comes into play; we are a make up of many different facets and we need to listen to others to learn about how life is from their world.  We need to include people.  I mean except rich white men.  They’ve had their time to talk.

Hang on white men who accidentally stumbled on my blog; I am here to talk about your inclusion. Stay with me everyone, I am about to make epic sense.

Feminism has come a long way in the western world. Large gains have been made, but often only to the inclusion of white women. Considering the social lens of 1900-current day, this is not surprising. The fight to get white women the vote was hard enough, had they introduced Indigenous rights they would have been laughed at and likely not been successful. These women used the resources they had at the time to get stuff done. I can respect that. Today we are in a different world because of these women. One challenge we now have is lateral hostility. I learned that word listening to an international conference on women’s issues where the speaker discussed how we feminists get stuck in lateral hostility, which is a fancier way of saying infighting. I have been in debates with other feminists who will say “good luck with that second wave feminism” or bombard me by telling me I am racist or not a real feminist.  These are other feminists having a conversation.  Their lens of privilege is youth.  Think about that; this is a conversation between two feminists.  Now add white men to that.  Perhaps how we talk to them is why they cannot see past “men haters”.

A fairly radical in stance friend of mine posted a question about Justin Trudeau as a feminist and asked if he was a fake feminism.  This was my reply:


“I believe he is genuine but also limited in his world view. Here at feminist camp we have discussed feminism in Canada vs developing countries and the harsh actions by “radical” feminist..the infighting and the harsh statements of white men and privilege is actually why many have been scared to use the term. So perhaps the watering down in this sense of having the white knight (gag) come in and say feminism and women’s issues as good is a good first step for those on the fence to see it is not a “men bad” movement. Once people accept feminism as good they can slowly start to view the world a little different. They realize what patriarchy is. They realize that there are different issues for western white women than women of colour and they learn more. So in the end he is doing good by slowly peeling the onion that is social stratification because for some when feminism comes in too harsh they are turned off immediately and their brain associates feminism with only fighting and being told they are too white or too privileged to have an opinion. I just wrote a personal paper for class on how we criticize past waves of feminism but if we look at the social climate..let’s say if women fought at the time for ALL women to get the vote… It would have never happened.. Indigenous people weren’t people so they would have lost. So in the past they had to pick fights that were winnable. Today we are fighting an image as feminists that frankly makes us look like women who just fight with each other over who a true feminist is. This plays into patriarchy keeping is infighting. So yes Trudeau is a feminist in his understanding of what feminism is. Let’s use that as a starting point to begin inserting more “lenses” in regards to intersectionality”

I have a white male friend. I have a white male friend who likes Trump. Let’s call him jackass, because well, it’s pretty self explanatory.  He has talked about how as a white man he is told he can’t even have an opinion.  That’s a yes and a no.  Yes, now is time to hear from people of colour.  Now it time to hear from the voices that have been silenced and oppressed for centuries. But to say that one person doesn’t count anymore; aren’t we now creating a new problem.  This isn’t a “poor white guy” but how can we get them to listen to what we are saying when we  are simultaneously saying they don’t matter.  The fact is they DO matter. More than we’d like to say.  Think about Canada and abortion.  Women and feminists fought for abortion rights.  They did the leg work, they acted and they were successful.  Well, they were successful because Dr. Mortentaler, a white dude, agreed with them and history was born.  We have more women, and we have more people of colour in power, but we still need white men and their influence.  We need these allies and we need to talk to them as people, not as oppressors.  Having privledge does not mean they are the oppressors. They  may not understand privledge, but tell me how will they listen and understand when we are screaming at them?   I know my kids tune me out when I am yelling at them and this is what happens with some men, they feel that feminism is just “blame the dude” and thus tune out.   Some go far to counter feminism with Men’s Right’s bullcrap, which is not helping either.

There are times for peaceful protest.  There are times for yelling and screaming, but there should always be time to learn from each other and that does include everyone. Maybe once we use a bit of honey to explain why they have privilege, they may actually listen and be willing to give some of it up.  Otherwise we are just yelling at a wall, and thus turning people away of feminism in the process.  All the while we do this and patriarchy keeps turning.  Every time we feminists have a fight about inclusion a sexist out there is laughing, because the work we need to be doing is not actually getting done.

Let’s use some honey and let’s not exclude all the time.  Let’s allow safe spaces for marginalized people, but let’s also allow safe discussion points for those who do not yet get it.  They may be ready,  on the cusp, but once told they do not matter, why would they engage with us further.

I am married to a white man.  He’s pretty cool and a great feminist, but if I told him “you don’t matter”, perhaps he might not be such a happy ally and friend to our cause.  Let’s think before speaking, act with passion but be respectful of everyone.  Yep.  Everyone.

Also floss.

1 thought on “Intersectionalism and Inclusion in Feminism”

  1. Good article, Jenn. I’m humming something…The Rascals…people got to be free…listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be. Yes, at my advanced age I still believe that; don’t plan to stop now!

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