By: Hannah Paige Michels ~Photography Editor~
I wish I would stop having to explain feminism to people-to men, to women, to anyone. The concept that women deserve equal rights is not radical and is not complicated. It’s not about superiority. Using the label “equalist” or saying “I support equal rights, but I’m not a feminist” is only perpetuating sexism and misogyny.
I didn’t know that feminism was considered a dirty word until I got to high school. I’ve known what feminism was since I was 8 years old. My mother raised me to be strong, passionate and driven. My father commended me for my achievements, motivation and wit. I watched my mother endure sexist treatment throughout her career. I watched her fight for justice against discrimination throughout my entire childhood. I do not take feminism lightly.
Feminism is not a dirty word, yet I still receive eyerolls and scoffs when I identify as one. I could tell you that being a feminist does not make me a man-hater. I could tell you that being a feminist does not mean that I burn bras or that I want more than my fair share. I could tell you that feminism breaks down the barriers of masculinity and femininity, that feminism says that men do not need to prove their worth through aggression and that women do not need to be submissive in order to be valued.
I could tell you all of this, but this has been said before. This is not new information. Feminism needs to mean more than equality. It’s more than paid maternity leave, abortion rights and equal pay. Feminism needs to mean justice.
I am fully aware that I am a White middle-class woman with immense privilege. And, because of this, it is crucial to practice intersectional feminism. This means acknowledging and fighting for the justice of all women: immigrant women, women of color, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, women with mental illness, old women, young women and women of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
While I am a woman, I need to be an ally for my sisters who are more marginalized than me. While I do experience oppression due to my gender, women of different backgrounds experience gender inequality differently and to varying degrees.
The feminist movement is historically exclusive, only fighting for the rights of White, middle-class women. Early feminist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used racist language when Black men were enfranchised before White women.
Intersectional feminism acknowledges that poorer women don’t necessarily have the choice when it comes to accessing health care, birth control or an abortion. Intersectional feminism says that White women earn 78 cents on the White man’s dollar, but Black women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn just 56 cents.
Feminism is for everyone. I need feminism, you need feminism, we all need feminism, because we all need equality. But, more than that, we all need justice.Intersectional feminism acknowledges that women of different backgrounds experience different oppression and that we, as a nation and as a world, need to strive for progression. We must acknowledge our own privilege in order to understand the struggles and oppression of others. Because, while I have been given the platform to speak about my experience, I must also be an ally for those who have been silenced. That is intersectional feminism, and that is justice.