“Perfectionism in feminism simply does not exist…”
I am no expert when it comes to talking about feminism. The mere thought of having to write this article sent me on a knowledge bender. I spent days refreshing myself on what the feminist movement aims to achieve in order to weed out any prior interpretations that led me to be misinformed, and I wish there was a better way to describe it but I truly did get “lost in the
sauce.” After hours of researching, analyzing and differentiating the many types of feminism that exist I was left feeling confused, frustrated, ignorant and honestly just exhausted. This “divisive” topic and ever growing movement is extremely daunting and complex to me because frankly I’m afraid of admitting my ignorance, of saying the wrong thing or using terminology incorrectly and overall being what some might refer to as a “bad feminist.” But then I remembered although this is a movement driven by and for the empowerment of women, at the end of the day it is a movement that fights for equality across the board.
The reality is no one’s feminism is perfect and it’s simply because of the fact that we all have our own biases and internalizations, but these aren’t things that we need to hold onto forever. Feminism is extremely intricate and can have it’s own set of flaws too. There are feminists who focus solely on gaining equality for certain groups and this is where the conversation about intersectional feminism comes into play. I’m not exactly sure how many
times this phrase will surface the internet but let me say it again a bit louder for all of you in the back: WE DO NOT LIVE SINGLE-ISSUE LIVES THEREFORE OUR MOVEMENTS SHOULD NOT BE SINGLE-ISSUED. Intersectional feminism is not only about gender but about class, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, age and immigration status. The woman
who coined the term herself, Kimberlé Crenshaw, describes the intersectional experience as something greater than the sum of racism and sexism.
There are many out there that have critiqued the resurgence of the intersectionality theory claiming that it seeks to divide and weaken the feminist movement from within. These criticisms come from a place of discomfort with having privileges challenged and prevent authentic
dialogue about inclusivity. To quote Audre Lorde, prominent feminist, womanist and civil rights activist, “Community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretence that these differences do not exist.” And that’s just it. We understand that everyone is different and unique and that is why it’s so crucial to embrace intersectionality and to listen to the stories of women from all walks of life, because it’s impossible to walk a mile in everyone’s shoes. Intersectional feminism is a topic that can make many people uncomfortable but it sparks a conversation that opens up space for diverse voices to be heard.
The more I read about the topic at hand, the more I kept thinking about the idea of solidarity. Not just in terms of nationality, or ethnicity, or gender, or with whom we share the most experiences with but in terms of those with whom we share the mere fact of being human. And I think that’s the bottom line we keep forgetting about. When we’re fighting for the rights of
others, attempting to be allies, we should not only be concerned about the groups in which we’re involved in because if you do not stand for all women than you do not really stand for “women” at all. It’s important to be inclusive in all aspects of your feminism as to not ignore the overlapping oppressions that many women face. But talk is cheap and adopting an intersectional
framework is not an easy process.
Feminism isn’t here to make you feel comfortable. It’s not meant to be “easy, peasy lemon squeezy,” but more “difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.” You should feel challenged. You should feel a sense of disruption because that is the birth place of progress. We grow when we hurt, or when we struggle, or when we do our best to stretch ourselves in order to understand
something new. And that difficulty and discomfort is where change is bred. And most importantly, don’t forget to leave your idea of perfectionism at the door because perfectionism in feminism simply does not exist. You are not the first person to make mistakes and you will surely not be the last, but it’s imperative to do the work and make those mistakes along the way because our relationships, communities and societies built upon justice rely on it.
Janet Mock put it perfectly in her Women’s Day March speech saying, “Our approach to freedom need not be identical, but it must be intersectional and inclusive.” This is not a “one size fits all” type of issue but rather it is an issue that must take into account the multiple forms of vulnerability women around the world face. So go ahead! Stand with your queer, black, poor, disabled, trans and muslim sisters! Empathize with those who are not like you and allow them to teach you about the ways in which you are privileged in order to ignite a fire within you so as to use that privilege not only to advocate but elevate those who need it regardless of if it affects you personally.
Because the idea of equality is that until we are all equal, no one is.
Illustration by Laura Kay Keeling.