In my first Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Course in College, our professor required us to keep a journal of entries that related the week’s content to our life experiences. Reflecting on my own life helps me understand the feminist I am today. As I share my journal with you below, I encourage you to do the same type of reflection to understand why true feminism is intersectional!
Week 1: On feminist theorizing
This week we were discussing different types of feminist theorizing and the formation of the field of women’s studies. Then, we analyzed three specific approaches: empiricism, standpoint epistemology, and postmodern epistemology. In particular, I use both feminist empiricism and feminist standpoint epistemology in my activism because I use logic and science to identify existing inequalities. I focus on the voices of marginalized groups to promote intersectionality. Intersectionality is important to me as I am a member of many marginalized groups, including the South Asian community, the LGBTQIA+ community, and the disabled community. Without acknowledging the connections between social structures and their role in the oppression of specific groups, the polyvocality of feminism diminishes. This hinders the movement. Therefore, when I advocate for feminist values through my job of writing articles, I try to emphasize the intersectionality of issues.
Week 2: On white feminism
Critiquing is essential for learning, and feminism is no exception. We were critiquing the early waves of feminism which were not inclusive to people of color, actively excluding the narratives of women of color from the movement. Excluding these narratives hindered the movement by burying different layers of misogyny and underlying prejudices under the rug. The first waves of feminism emphasize equality for only white women. I am a woman of color. White feminism does nothing to help the issues that I go through as an Indian woman; it ignores my narrative and my voice in the unique struggles that I face. Overall, I face misogyny and the oppression, racism, and prejudices that all people of color face. White feminism ignores this complexity.
Week 3: On the importance of feminist intersectionality
Ignoring intersectionality hides the depth and complexity of discrimination. This prevents not allowing for true, complete awareness of the issue. Often, the ignored issues do not affect the majority population. For example, men; those who are white; those who are cisgender and/or heteronormative, etc. Moreover, I am a queer woman of Indian descent, so the idea of intersectionality in activism impacts me. The issues that uniquely impact those marginalized communities don’t gain enough attention. This is a direct impact of white feminism. I can combat the issue by choosing to continue to advocate for intersectionality through my own feminist activism.
Week Four: Feminist views on a “normal body”
Society’s idea of a “normal body” doesn’t stop at having an able body or white skin. One can consider Western society, which uses rigid, binary systems of identity. In my own experience, this rigid system affected me by claiming my demi-sexual identity. I didn’t know that there was a label for me. All I knew was that I never truly fit in with Western society’s binary classifications for sexuality. As someone who feels sexual attraction through deeply strong emotional bonds, I questioned my validity on the spectrum. Upon reflection, I recognize that this is because the conversation of sexuality being a spectrum needs to be held more often and with more detail. Queer people shouldn’t have to feel lost. Queer people shouldn’t have to choose between being themselves or fitting any rigid societal molds. Luckily, the intersectional feminist movement serves to eliminate needing to choose at all.
Week Five: Feminists for holistic acceptance
When it comes to the gender and sexuality binary, society places queer individuals in a tough spot. To be more specific, there is a certain stigma and alienation of those who don’t fit into the gender and sexuality binary. The feeling of wondering if it’s “okay” to be demisexual is something I can’t forget. This issue becomes even further complicated for me as I am a Hindu, Indian woman, and so I also face various stigma for cultural and religious differences. I often find myself having to choose between societal acceptance and my individuality. This is the reality for many members of the LGBTQ+ community. But we need to ask society: what is normal and abnormal anyways? The intersectional feminist movement acknowledges this issue.
Week 6: Feminists on reproductive rights
Society’s idea of a normal body has also led to controlling individuals on their reproductive rights. This policing controls those who are disabled simply because it is an easier way to exert control. As a disabled woman, I battle both forms of control. I notice that I am wary of planning where I want to live in the future, as I know that I need readily-available access to birth control to treat my PCOS. There is a very real fear of losing my reproductive rights living in the southern United States. I hope that this fear is something that can be eliminated one day. Reproductive rights must be fought for as those decisions are truly independent ones. The feminist movement fights for those rights even harder today!
Week 7: Feminists on systemic and systematic racism
Systemic racism is inherently within the system and doesn’t have to be perpetuated by rigid laws or policies themselves. It involves built-in biases that aren’t acknowledged within the system. It thus spreads to various social organizations, such as schools, courts, prisons, etc. When hearing about George Floyd in 2020, I subsequently found myself doing research to educate myself about systematic racism in the United States. My conclusion? Necessary critical race theory is not taught in schools. Teaching critical race theory would open a gateway to making systemic racism within the country a more identifiable problem. However, I also reflect upon the fact that truly fixing the systemic racism within the country seems to be a sort of utopic idea, given politics. However, politics also impacts the feminist movement.
Week 8: Feminists on violence against the body
The biggest example of systemic racism I’ve seen is the U.S. police and criminal justice system. Both seemingly always tend to get by after having used unnecessary levels of violence against the body simply to exert control. This is especially true when they interact with people of color. This became more evident to me after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Excuses for police brutality are justified with racist reasonings. This continually happens due to the system being inherently racist. As a person of color myself, I am scared to live in this country or be in a situation where I might need police assistance. I have doubts as to whether I will leave that situation alive or not. The impact of viewing such violence on a regular basis is traumatizing and instills fear where fear doesn’t belong. So much violence needs to be considered in the feminist fight.
Week 9: On social change
An abolitionist perspective on social change involves eradicating a practice or institution to make a positive social change. A reformist perspective on social change involves a complete change of a practice or institution to make a positive social change. When thinking of the impact each one could have all around the world, I think it’s pertinent to question which strategy is better where. As a person of color, police reform seems like one of the most important social changes the U.S. needs to see soon. Moreover, the traumatic impact on people of color of being exposed to such violence daily (through the media or in person itself) has not lessened. Police reform should begin by uprooting inherently racist practices and policies within the police system to avoid further justification of police brutality against communities of color. The disproportionate effect also impacts the feminist movement.
Week 10: Capitalist corruption in the mix?
The non-profit industrial complex refers to the interconnected relationships between non-profit organizations, governments, and businesses. What role does it play in the feminist battle? Non-profit organizations becoming more materialistic has led to the demise of the social safety net in the U.S. Also, politicians of the time demonized people of color in order to prioritize their own economic pursuits. Nowadays, all of us can make an impact by not giving in to corrupt neoliberal and capitalistic ideals. We must work to see that systemic racism is not allowed to perpetuate in the U.S. economy. The non-profit model needs to change such that organizations’ clients are prioritized more than the financial needs of industries. These nonprofit models must steer away from simply serving institutions. This can be done by protesting against harmful neoliberal and capitalistic policies.
Week 11: On the domination of western feminism
When comparing social movements, be sure to note certain patterns. For example, these movements have all grown to be more conservative as time has passed. The trend results in much of the antiracist and radical feminism occurring outside of these movements. Furthermore, intersectionality has been ignored in the sense that it has been Western feminism has been the focus. As a woman of color who descends from India, the impact is such that misinformation is easily spread. Western domination in narratives allows for various prejudices and racist ideologies to escalate. This negatively impacts the image of the Indian woman in other areas of the world, ultimately holding the feminist movement back. Suppressing voices only does more damage than good; there is feminism beyond Western feminism.
Week 12: On hearing all voices
When it comes to feminist coalition-building, listening to all voices is most important. This is done by upholding intersectional feminism. Feminism is not a monolith, and neither is the oppression that it serves to fight against. A utopian vision of a truly feminist future would be one in which no voice is silenced, and everyone holds an equal stance in society without any oppression. However, as discussed in class, a true feminist utopia seems nearly impossible to achieve. This is because all oppressors must become open-minded and educate themselves, which is highly unlikely. Thus, a feminist future looks towards intersectional education about these issues. In my own pursuits of activism, I write articles surrounding various issues that create harm to women around the world. I try to make an impact regarding these issues by always considering intersectionality and all voices.