Intersectionality is key

By Lauren Vaughn

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Thanks to Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique,” an exciting second wave of feminism kicked off in the 1960s. During this wave, women were once again questioning dominating perceptions of their “proper” place in the home and asking the big questions: “Why are secretarial and low-paying jobs dominated by females?” “Why are most mothers’ careers sacrificed over their husbands’ careers after having children?” “Why are women still being paid less than men?”

In 2013, we are still asking ourselves many of the same questions. However, throughout its history, what the feminist movement has lacked is a focus on intersectionality, or, as defined by blogger Sarah O’Rourke, the inclusion of “all sexualities, races, and women who are disabled and non-cis.”
What this means is that the movement has largely privileged the struggles of white, middle class women over those of our Black, Asian, Latina, queer and transgendered sisters. We ask for female representation and fight sexism while ignoring how these issues intersect with racism, classism and discrimination based on gender and sexual identity outside of a strict male/female binary.

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof recently wrote in a column titled,  “She’s (Rarely) the Boss,” that “In America, only 17 percent of American Fortune 500 board seats are held by women, a mere 3 percent of board chairs are women – and women are barely represented in President Obama’s cabinet.” Women are still, across the board, paid less than men, regardless of job category or level of education.

It is also true that only 3.3 percent of the board seats at American Fortune 500 companies are held by women of color, showing no growth. This means that, according to Catalyst’s 2012 Census of Fortune 500, more than “two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies had no women of color board directors for the fifth consecutive year.”. And it is also true that Latinas continue to make 55 cents, and African American women 64 cents, to the white male’s dollar.
At every turn, issues of race, class and sexuality discrimination are being overshadowed by the struggles of primarily white females. This has created a feminist movement where no woman of color, despite similar beliefs, feels as though her rights are being fought for and her struggles represented.

We must realize the limitations that “white feminism” creates and how it excludes some women with interests similar to ours. It is time to work against a movement of solely white feminists by taking the time to educate ourselves about what – and who – we are missing.

Lauren Vaughn is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]