Born an Intersectional Feminist
by Kelly Shepherd
I was born a white woman in 1993. My mother was white, my father was white, and my siblings were white. I learned my sexual orientation when I was in middle school when I developed my first real crush on Brady Thompson, my 7th grade English buddy. I was white and straight, officially. I didn't like it at first. I assumed that being a straight, white woman meant that I was basic and that I would never be seen as someone unique or someone with any valuable skills, knowledge or talents to add to the diverse world. You see, I grew up in a world of diversity. I grew up in a world where the more unique you were, the more likely you were to be successful. Or at least, that’s what I would think as I watched shows and scrolled through social media. It wasn’t until I attended college that I discovered that basic-ness was actually a fallacy. No one is basic. Everyone is unique, everyone is an individual, and everyone has something to offer the world that no one else can. There is always more than one narrative to describe women and feminists. This was the day that I discovered my intersectionality femininity.
All Feminism Is Intersectional
I had heard of the term feminism in high school and in discussions of critical social issues, but it never occured to me that this new term encompassed me, my entire life, and every person I would encounter. I thought that feminism was a term to describe women. I thought it meant that women were connected, educated and hoping for legislative change. Now, as an adult and a self-proclaimed intersectional feminist, I understand that my notions about feminism as a young girl were extremely incorrect. Feminism in inherently intersectional, and that is what I didn’t understand. I thought feminism focused on women, and based on the women I was seeing calling themselves feminists, I assumed that feminism focused on white women. This was incorrect as well.
Realizing the Rights of All
The phrase "intersectional feminism" is inherently redundant. Feminism, as originally defined, calls for the equality and equity of both men and women, though it’s major focus was equality for women. Intersectional feminism is concerned with the rights of all people, no matter the color, sex, orientation, religious beliefs or station, which was a much needed change for feminism. When you are a child, you are only concerned with yourself. We all go through phases of egocentricity that make us feel as though we are the center of the universe. This is to be expected. But as we age into adults, our understanding of humanity sets in and we begin to naturally worry about the well-being of all people, from the stranger on the corner having an allergic reaction, to the homeless man starving on the streets, or the baby crying in the store.
We, as humans, as intersectional feminists, care about the lives of all people. White feminists just need to be aware of their privilege. White men and women are more easily heard because of this inherent privilege, and they therefore have a certain role to play in the growth of intersectional feminism.
My Place in Everything
As a white, intersectional feminist, I understand that my role may look different from other people who identify alongside me. It has become my personal mission as a woman, as a feminist, and as a writer, to play a role in the female movement that promotes actual change — change that lasts and influences a better world to come. My role will be to serve as a supportive bolster, an echo in the silence, a candle flame in the tunnel. Much like any feminist, I hope to be able to voice the concerns of my fellow intersectional feminists and work toward seeing these concerns shifted into realities for progressive change. I want to help reinforce the things that are meaningful to intersectional feminists, like equal pay, equal educational opportunities, and equal representation in legislation for all people. When these important goals become fulfilled, the notion of gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion will be like things of the past and we can continue to move forward onto more important things like famine, war, and poverty. Despite growing up in a city that is far from a metropolis for young professionals, I was still able to get a glimpse of, and an understanding of, diversity and its important role in intersectional feminism. Without this understanding, I would still be a white woman who doesn’t see how she can push the feminist movement forward with her advocacy and her dedication to change.