The Future is Intersectional.
Updated: Sep 1
“I had gone from believing that women's issues were a distraction, mere ancillary problems to be addressed after everything else had been taken care of, to the realisation that women are the issue, the core issue. We will fail to solve any problem — poverty, peace, sustainable development, environment, health — unless we look at it through a gender lens and make sure the solution will be good for women.” – Jane Fonda
Feminism; you are either with it, or you’re not. I will never understand why anyone wouldn't be though. We all have a mother, a grandmother, maybe even a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a wife, or even a female friend.
Feminism should be championed by everyone, and it shouldn’t be such regarded as such ‘dirty’ word. Feminism represents and advocates for equality, but sadly, equality is far from being reached. It’s important to remember that pro-women is not anti-men; let’s not let fragile masculinity get in the way of this folks!
Branching on from Jane Fonda’s quote (mentioned above), I wanted also to highlight a famous Chinese proverb that suggests ‘women hold up half the sky’. Through this remark, it’s important to highlight how crucial women’s representations are within society. As Jane Fonda explains, if we do not start to look at all issues through a gender focus, then we will continue to neglect a majority of societal and developmental problems within our world.
Currently, women represent roughly 70% of the world’s 1.2 billion people still living on less than one dollar per day.
Overall, without a strong feminist focus and support, society will only continue to benefit a select few. Poverty isn’t gender neutral and through dominant patriarchal systems, it will only continue to create detrimental development and social issues for all societies; particularity those of vulnerable societies. However, when pushing for a feminist focus, this is where the feminist agenda can become quite skewed, and we can begin to neglect a majority who are significantly at risk and most vulnerable to the current patriarchal dominated systems.
Sure, the fight for equal representations and abolishing the pay gap is important. But when women can't even safely menstruate or contribute within society using their basic human rights, I think it's time we reconsider our definition.
This is where Kimberle Crenshaw's concept of intersectional feminism comes into play and has the potential to redefine our original pre-disposition towards our current Western constructed and favoured definition of feminism. Intersectionality is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: "the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect”. When we evaluate this definition, intersectionality refers to the idea that prejudism cannot be simplified into a few categories and considered as just black and white. Discrimination can exist in a number of complex ways and involves broader concepts and evaluations. And the same goes for complex issues surrounding women's rights. It is important for us to begin to acknowledge that in order for all women to be represented within the feminist agenda, the definition and discussion around feminism needs to ensure that all women reap the benefits. Thus, calling on an emphasis to focus on discussions around values of intersectional feminism.
It can be argued that the current feminist movement of today is at risk of losing its progress if it continues to fail to recognise that not every woman is a straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied individual with middle-class status. It's crucial now, more than ever, for this movement to acknowledge how a number of various forms of prejudices intensify gender-based discrimination for a number of different reasons.
Whilst looking for information to write this piece, I came across a quote by the Dalai Lama, which quoted that ‘the world will be saved by the Western women’. At first, I was genuinely shocked by his comments; I value the Dalai Lama’s teaching so much so that I have visited his residency twice, but this quote made me question the value in his status. This remark had constructed unsettling imagery for me that involved blonde haired, blue eyed women cuddling orphans and sharing their ‘rescue’ projects on Instagram. But at another glance, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt and alter this quote through a different perspective. A perspective that includes everyone. We, as Western women, have the responsibility to acknowledge our accustomed privilege and represent all women in this fight for equality.
Western women CAN 'save' this world by giving a voice to the less represented.
It is essential for women within the feminist movement to fight for all women's rights, not just the rights of women within the West. In arguing this, I am not undermining the inequalities women face in the West, such as a lack of representation within a number of industries and important areas of social, political and developmental discussions, rather, when we argue for equality, we need to include a larger discussion and give voice to the less represented within this movement. Feminism needs to include every woman and all women's rights and issues; not just what effects and benefits the West.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn's book 'Half the Sky, How to Change the World', takes us on a journey through nations within Africa and Asia and present startling facts on the issues women living within vulnerable communities face today. Here are some confronting facts from the Half the Sky Movement that I would like to bring awareness to, so we can begin to shift our focus to a broader perspective and outlook and continue to re-address our privilege and often biased constructed definitions. It's time we represent more than just ourselves.
More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.
The equivalent of 5 jumbo jets worth of women die in labour each day... life time risk of maternal death is 1000x higher in a developing country than in the west.
In many communities around the world, girls are still seen as less valuable than boys. As a result, an estimated 60 million girls are 'missing' from various populations due to the selective abortion of female fetuses and the mistreatment and neglect of female children.
The UN estimates that approximately 5000 women are murdered each year as result of honour killings, but many women's groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the number is at least four times higher.
There are approximately 27 million slaves alive today- more than at any point in history- and 56% of this number are women.
The typical age of entry into prostitution is 13 to 14 and almost 33% of the women got started in prostitution through family members or friends. Some estimates claim there are at least 300,000 children in prostitution, while others believe the numbers may be as high as 500,000 to 1.2 million.
Trafficking of women and girls was reported in 85% of the world's conflict zones.
Worldwide, an estimate of 51 million girls have been married before the age of consent. In many parts of the world, parents encourage the marriage of their underage daughters in exchange for property and livestock to benefit their social status.
Every day, between 800 and 1500 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
More than 1 million children are left motherless every year due to their mother's death and these children are 3 to 10 times more likely to die within 2 years.
An estimated 135 million girls living today have undergone female genital mutilation and another 2 million girls are at risk each year.
For more facts, please visit the Half the Sky Movement: https://b.3cdn.net/halfsky/98e4b2ac55567cdb4b_mlbrs696w.pdf
In addition to this, another brilliant documentary that addresses confronting gender-based issues and inequalities is 'It's a Girl: the Three Deadliest Words in the World.'
While International Women’s Day is quickly approaching, it’s crucial to remind ourselves what this day should challenge, represent and address; as well as what the definition of feminism should continually encompass and preach. It’s not just about our own benefits, but the benefits of everyone; all women, from all walks of life, experiencing all different forms of discrimination and inequality.
To conclude, I would like to leave you with a beautiful quote, from Half the Sky.
Nicholas Kristof simply puts:
“Women aren’t the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity”.
Intersectional feminism is the only way forward. Are you apart of the movement? Or are you just wearing feminism? It's time to make your choice.