It’s 2018 and the landscape for feminism has changed entirely from what it used to be. Women are no longer standing down in the face of sexism and now more than ever, their voices are being heard. However, this really is just the beginning of equality, as there are more issues facing us than just gender inequality. It’s daunting, but how do we tackle so many issues while being inclusive to everyone affected? I believe that intersectionality is the true route for equality in the future.
Feminism in action needs to be about more than just gender-related issues. Intersectional feminism includes the aspects of economic class, ability, sexual orientation, race, religion and more when talking about who faces what kind of discrimination. The ideal of feminism benefits everyone. Unfortunately, as complex as all social issues are, we can’t just focus on the idea of “women being equal” — we need to step back and ask ourselves if all women are truly benefiting from our actions. Are black women benefiting? Asian women? What about transgender women? The past has often told us: no.
Women of color, LGBTQ women and other marginalized women often face much more blatant and potent forms of discrimination. While white women often make approximately 81 cents to a white male’s dollar, black women usually make about 65 cents and Hispanic women only make 59 cents. As you can see, these topics are not mutually exclusive, and the fight against these issues can’t be either.
Intersectionality is being brought to the table more and more, as highlighted by recent events. For example, the #MeToo movement has brought forward all types of survivors of sexual assault. Terry Crews, an African American actor and former NFL player, stated he felt encouraged to come forward and share his story of sexual assault after seeing so many women come forward as a result of #MeToo. He and many other survivors, the “Silence Breakers,” were collectively named Person of the Year by Time magazine, and the group includes men and women of many backgrounds.
But as amazing as these changes are, progress still needs to continue. White men still earn some of the highest wages and are one of the most college-educated groups in the United States. Around the world, women in developing countries face horrifying practices such as genital mutilation, acid attacks and child marriages. In 2017, 28 transgender individuals were violently killed in the United States. Over 80 percent were women and over 67 percent were people of color.
Another harrowing example of the need for intersectional feminism is Harvey Weinstein’s response to Lupita Nyong’o’s allegations against him. Weinstein, who currently faces over 50 allegations spanning from sexual assault to harassment to rape, had never directly responded publicly, much less called a victim by name, until Nyong’o joined the long list of his accusers. His representative told E! News, “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry. Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show ‘Eclipsed.’” He not only managed to single out a black actress out of all his accusers, but also implied she is to blame for her experience.
If the feminism you implement isn’t for all races, sexual orientations, abilities and economic standpoints, it isn’t really feminism at all. It is time to stop moving forward at the expense of another marginalized group. Either we all move forward together, or we go nowhere at all.
Elizabeth Short is a freshman majoring in biology.