Part II of Chapter 12
Intersectional feminism seems to have appeared as a response to the predominant paradigm of radical feminism that was characterized by the oversimplification of a phenomenon as complex as gender disparities. Radical feminists allegedly strived for the establishment of the global sisterhood, and yet, they never clarified the eligibility criteria for “joining.” Initially, the concept of women uniting and meeting common goals as friends, companions, and ultimately, sisters did not appear so bad. After all, it appealed to the idea that all women had similar challenges that they could bond over. However, as I see it, soon, the proclaimed sisterhood acquired another meaning that was easier to exploit by those who wanted to impose their dominance in feminist politics. Being a sister to any woman meant extrapolating your struggles onto her and the ability to refuse her unique problems if they were not relatable enough to yours.
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I suppose that that was where the issue of race stepped in. The leaders of the radical feminist movement were mostly White women. Their Whiteness did not mean that their lives were comfortable. Yet, it must have prevented them from sympathizing with women of color who had a very different social standing back in the 1960-1980s. As Gillis and Jakobs put it, people of color were subject to the following forms of mistreatment:
- being forced into a country;
- forced assimilation into the dominant language and culture;
- denial of citizenship rights, and often
- being channeled into low-paying, low-status jobs (375).
White feminist leaders never cared to factor those particularities of the racial experience in. It seems like even today, intersectional feminism that sees oppression as a sum and interrelation of various factors has yet to gain higher ground. White female celebrities are gaining more attention in the press, and while they may propagate the right causes, their experience is not inferential.
Part I of Chapter 12
This chapter made me think that feminism is often misunderstood due to the diversity of opinion. Indeed, liberal, radical, intersectional, and socialist feminists, as well as feminists of other minor branches, hold unique views on women’s issues that are often in conflict with each other (Gillis and Jakos 354). Thus, it is safe to say that there are two types of disputes inherent to feminism. The first one is an obvious clash between feminism and antifeminism, which is the most apparent. The second one, however, deals with disagreements and misunderstandings within the political movement itself. The history of feminism dates all the way back to the 19th century, and it seems that with time, it did not attain much clarity on the key issues. Yet, I firmly believe that if feminists cannot put the differences behind them, they should put them to good use.
Feminists do not hold the same views, and none of them can represent the entire cohort. Conflicts are only natural because otherwise, it would mean that women are homogenous and think alike, which is somewhat sexist. The freedom of opinion is a beautiful thing that members of the political movement in question should use to advance the cause. I think that the diversity of thought in feminism presents two significant advantages. First, the ever-changing nature of philosophical concepts accounts for its flexibility and ability to provide a meaningful response to the challenges of each era (example: First, Second, and Third Waves of feminism). Second, political pluralism means that no social, racial, or ethnic group is neglected as they can all weigh in on the conversation and contribute.
Gillis, Melissa, and Andrew Jacobs. Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Oxford University Press, 2019.