The Future is Intersectional: Why Inclusivity in Activism Matters

Sabine explores the importance of intersectionalism in activism by demanding change in the present and honoring activists and academics, breaking boundaries.

Sabine Gaind Staff Writer

Kimberlé Crenshaw Image Source

Intersectionality was a term created by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia and UCLA, in 1989. In an interview with Time magazine thirty years later, Crenshaw describes intersectionality as “a lens, a prism, for seeing how various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” Though initially used to discuss the intersections between racism and sexism, the term has broadened to include the intersections between other forms of inequality such as homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and more. 

I first encountered the concept of intersectionality while doing research for my high school art class and looking for non-white artists to use as inspiration for my work. I came across Vienna Rye, a mixed Asian and gender non-conforming artist who uses bold colors to express even bolder messages. One of Rye’s prints, titled “INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM” reads, “IF YOUR FEMINISM ISN’T INTERSECTIONAL, IT AIN’T SHIT.” Sure, the statement might be bold, but I think that Rye’s words ring true. If feminism, a movement that supposedly advocates for equality, fails to recognize that intersections that impact individuals differently — or even worse, chooses to ignore these intersections to make the movement palatable in the mainstream — then feminism isn’t really about equality. It’s about trying to improve the lives of some while continuing to oppress others. =

Throughout the history of feminism, particularly during the earlier waves, intersectionality was largely ignored. An example of intersectionality being forgotten is the ratification of the 19th Amendment in the 1920s when women got the right to vote in the United States. Unfortunately, it was primarily white women who benefited from this amendment. Black American, Asian American, and Native American women still dealt with obstacles in the voting process. Similarly, in Canada, white women were granted the right to vote before Black, Asian, and Indigenous women. The intersections of these women’sidentities meant they not only faced structures that discriminated on the basis of sex but structures that upheld white supremacy and colonialism. White feminists like Susan B. Anthony only cared about advancing the progress of women like them. That isn’t to say that there weren’t non-white women active in the feminism movement during these early days. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was a Chinese-American immigrant and a powerful voice in the women’s suffrage movement who led marches when she was a teenager. In Canada, Mary Ann Shadd advocated for women’s rights and the rights of Black Canadians. Intersectional activists, both from the past and present, are the ones paving the way towards a more just society for all. 

Image Source : Overachiever Magazine Instagram
Image Source:  Overachiever Magazine Instagram 

Earlier this month, OM reposted a tweet on Instagram that stated, “the future isnt female. the future is nonbinary it’s genderfluid it’s queer and it’s trans it’s natives rising up against their colonizers it’s sex workers getting coin it’s gay it’s bi it’s pan it’s ace it’s ppl of color it’s ppl w disabilities THE FUTURE IS INTERSECTIONAL.” To my surprise, there were some replies that seemingly took issue with this statement. However, saying the future is intersectional is not being hypocritical or combating discrimination with more discrimination. By saying that the future is intersectional, there is an acknowledgment that there are still structures that inherently disregard, exclude, or erase certain identities and that these structures need to change radically in order to create a better future for everyone. It is by understanding the importance of intersectionality, that our individual struggles are generated from the same place, that we can achieve this future. If the system continues to uphold certain forms of discrimination, then the system itself needs to change. We can’t fight for a better world while completely disregarding others; that doesn’t create a better world, only more of the same.

It is important to continue learning and acknowledging our blindspots, especially when it comes to activism. Mari Mastuda, an Asian American law professor, suggests that to understand intersectionality, one can ask themself how one form of oppression might be related to another. She writes that looking “for both the obvious and non-obvious relationships of domination [helps] us to realize that no form of subordination ever stands alone.” As someone who considers herself an intersectional feminist, I tend to notice the intersections between racism, sexism, and queerphobia, since these are the areas that most impact me; however, I know that there are still areas in which I need to broaden my activism. I might not be privileged due to certain aspects of my identity, but I do benefit from other privileges. It’s even a privilege for me to learn about the inequality others face rather than experiencing it myself. Still, acknowledging privilege is an important first step in intersectionality and listening to others’ perspectives is crucial as well. For example, I’m someone who loves analysing media, but there can be a lack of an intersectional lens on my part, particularly when considering ableism and ableist language. My colleague Shruti Rajkumar writes about this in her critique of Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever. Learning from and listening to individuals is an important step in adopting intersectionality in every aspect of life.

That being said, the following are some resources I’ve found helpful in broadening my perspective and understanding how important intersectionality is. Keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list. Part of intersectionality is knowing that you need to seek out the perspectives and voices of those who experience certain forms of discrimination firsthand. To quote Pragya, one of the hosts of the podcast “Intersectional Feminism – Desi Style!” : “Intersectionality is not just a word – but, more than that, it is a way of life. Our ideas, perspectives and beliefs are all shaped through the intersections of our identities.” 

Consider the following stepping stones to accepting that the future is intersectional. 

To Read

To Listen

To Follow

(Instagram accounts)

Staff Writer

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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