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Why Intersectional Feminism Matters

When the reboot of the 1980’s classic Ghostbusters was announced last year, the backlash was immediate. Many proclaimed that this remake would “ruin their childhood,” in large part because the main characters in the 2016 version are all women. The trailer for the movie is the most disliked video on YouTube, thanks to a coordinated campaign by Men’s Rights Activists to slam the film.

But for one of the movie’s stars, Leslie Jones, the criticism has taken an especially hateful turn. Actress and comedian Leslie Jones is the only non-white main character in the movie. Since the movie’s release, she has faced a barrage of horribly racist and abusive messages on Twitter, which ultimately forced her to leave the platform.

Twitter banned one of the men who coordinated the attack, Milo Yiannopoulos, stating that no one should be subjected to targeted abuse — as Ms. Jones was, at Mr. Yiannopoulos’ behest.

Situations like this make it clear that intersectional feminism matters. Intersectionality is a concept introduced by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who used it to describe how different types of discrimination interact and overlap — making it necessary for feminists to understand and consider the needs of women from different backgrounds. Although the term was originally about race and gender, it has expanded to include other factors, such as disability, sexual orientation and nationality.

Intersectionality means that feminists cannot (or should not) be concerned exclusively with issues related to gender. Instead, we must look at a broad array of issues that impact women. In the Ghostbusters example, intersectional feminism means that we don’t just speak out against the misogynist criticism of the movie — we also must speak out against the horrific racist attacks leveled against Ms. Jones. If we focus only on gender, we miss many of the problems facing women of color, LGBTQ women, poor women, and women with disabilities. If we are to speak out on behalf of women and advocate for equality, we must do so for ALL women — which means understanding and incorporating the issues facing all women.

Now more than ever before, it’s critical that we are intentional in our advocacy for justice. This means addressing the struggles of ALL women — or risk ignoring them entirely. As the brilliant Flavia Dzodan put it, “MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLS$!T!” In other words, if we don’t advocate for all women, then we are failing as feminists.

If we want to transform our society and end gender violence, we must include all women in our advocacy. That is why intersectionality is key to our mission, and why we will keep fighting for the right of ALL people to live their lives free of violence.

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