Intersectionality is the 5th Wave

How we characterise ‘Feminism’ has become unacceptably subjective. While wonderful work has been done and is still being done in the fight for the equality of the sexes, we have forgotten about what equality truly means. We have forgotten about inclusivity and seem to be heading towards inward-looking feminism rather than outward-looking, progressive feminism. Enter…Intersectionality; the equality for all classes, genders, races with the equal representation to back it up.

The first four waves of feminism were absolutely vital in getting our society to this point in 2019 but the way we talk about feminism with our mates, our teachers, our parents has to shift. We must evolve the discourse from narrow, insular and often white-privileged feminism to an inclusive and accessible level of equality and representation for all, not just the feminism that benefits ourselves as individuals.

Feminism is and has to be an interdisciplinary topical conversation that really challenges society on a global level.

  • Racism is a Feminist issue.

  • Classism is a Feminist issue.

  • Sexism is a Feminist issue.

  • Elitism is a Feminist issue.

  • Gender discrimination is a Feminist issue.

  • Defund the Police !

It is essential to remember that the term was originally coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to explain the experiences of African-American women; now a widely used phrase, intersectionality is still the only combining, equally representative way forward for true and progressive feminism which centres justice. Almost 30 years on, in an interview with TIME magazine in 2020, Professor Crenshaw explained what intersectionality means in our present. "If you see inequality as a “them” problem or “unfortunate other” problem, that is a problem. Being able to attend to not just unfair exclusion but also, frankly, unearned inclusion is part of the equality gambit. We’ve got to be open to looking at all of the ways our systems reproduce these inequalities, and that includes the privileges as well as the harms."

As American civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, ‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.’ Feminism is not one single-issue, but a combination of intersectional issues pinned down by societal narratives and patriarchal tropes. De-constructing and re-evaluating the patriarchy is one thing (which is brilliant, don’t get me wrong) but to think of it as being conquered purely because things seem to be ‘getting better’ for the women in your own life is unrealistic and ignorant. Patriarchy is inherently instilled in the foundations of Classism, Racism, Elitism, Sexism and gender discrimination through the systematic oppression of minority groups and those less privileged; it will not be abolished unless we are willing to SPEAK UP for all and not just ourselves.

SPEAK UP for black people’s rights. SPEAK UP for indigenous people’s rights. SPEAK UP for gender rights. SPEAK UP for disability rights. SPEAK UP for education rights.

Speaking may seem relatively insignificant in the scheme of all that’s wrong with the world. However speaking, talking and listening invites conversation, conversation invites questions, and questions can change seemingly unchangeable minds that will lead us to a healthier, more inclusive society.

Being engaged in the intersectional feminist discussion allows us to learn more, read more, ponder and wonder more. So that when the next person says, ‘What do we need feminism for in this day and age? Women have it all now don’t they?’ We can tell them that gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty and that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls. We can tell them that women make up more than two thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people. And we can tell them that only one third of rural women receive prenatal care compared to 50% in developing regions.* We can tell them this by speaking up and educating others on the intersectional issues that minorities have to face.

From this theoretical perspective, the word ‘Feminism’ perhaps should be changed to ‘Intersectionalism’ (not really a word, I have just made it up but if we really need an ‘ism’ then this will have to do). Let’s evolve the discourse so that we may truly progress in the fight for equality and representation for all. Keep smashing the patriarchy and the glass ceiling, but remember that other people’s glass ceilings may be even tougher to break than your own. I am an intersectionalist. And this is the 5th wave.

*All statistics from the UN women’s rights website (2019)


Writer: Eliza Crawford

Images: Charlotte Hampshaw

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