Intersectional Feminism is a complicated concept to explain. But I’ll try as best I can 😊.
Intersectional Feminism is the idea that women aren’t a single category. Every woman is a female but she also has other identities in addition to being female. Is she a disabled woman? A Muslim woman? A gay woman? A Native American woman? Educated or uneducated? Wealthy or impoverished? We need to acknowledge our privileges and disadvantages as women within feminism. Our personal histories have a huge impact on how we are treated in the world.
As an example:
It is a terrible truth in this country that a white woman in not treated the same as a black woman. They are both women, but their experiences as women can be very different. Their identities as women and as women of a certain race intersect.
Here is a really long explanation of another example. When we talk about the “Wage Gap” the number that usually comes up is for white women. White women only earn about 80¢ for every dollar that a man earns.* But those numbers get worse and worse for women who aren’t white. Let’s try to understand what that looks like.
If a white man works at a grocery store and he earns $20 per hour, with a full-time job he would earn $41,600 in one year.
If a white woman had the same exact job, she could earn only $16 per hour. If she worked the same exact amount of time, she would only earn $33,280 in one year.
Put an African American woman in that same job and her earnings might only be $12.60 per hour, which puts her yearly earnings at $26,208.
And a Latina woman in the same job likely fares the worst at only $10.80 per hour and she would only earn $22,464 in one year.
And this is all based on gender and race. White men almost always rank at the top in this country. To summarize:
White male: $41,600 year
White female: $33,280 year. She earns $8,320 less, just because she is a woman!
African American female: $26,208 year. She earns $15,392 less, just because she is a woman and she is African American!
Latina woman: $ 22,464 year. She earns $19,136 less, just because she is a woman and she is a Latina!
I hope you are starting to see how this works. Women are penalized for being women, and then those same women can be further penalized for their race, their abilities, etc.
One last example:
A white woman who is disabled can be discriminated against in a number of ways. She might not be hired for certain jobs, she may be harassed, she may have difficulty accessing certain places of business, and she is more vulnerable to abuse in relationships. So her life experience, even though she is a white woman, is very different from that of a white woman who is not disabled, or from a Latina woman who may be dealing with a different set of prejudices.
A feminist supports equal rights and opportunities for women. Intersectional Feminism includes equality for women as the strong foundation, and then accounts for the differences of women such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, size, ability, etc. To go back to my beginning statement, a woman is not just a woman in a single category. Hopefully that makes more sense now.
Intersectional Feminism is about women coming together to work toward equality for ALL women, to support ALL women, and to raise awareness and understanding about our differences and how those differences affect our life experiences, our expectations, and our own ideas about equality and feminism.
Read FAQs About the Wage Gap from National Women's Law Center
Read Facts About Pay Equity from the National Organization for Women
- Kim Collins, Be a BOLD Girl