What Intersectional Feminism means to me

[Content Note: transphobia, racism, sexism, economic disparity)

So on my first post, I was asked to define “intersectional feminism”. The definition of the term “intersectionality” is: “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” What that means, basically, is that what social category a person has does not exist in a vacuum. For instance, I am a white, female, cisgender, fat person. While I have privilege in the forms of being white (race) and cisgender (the opposite of transgender), I am marginalized in the forms of being female (gender identity) and fat (body type). Intersectionality is how those various social categories interact with each other, and how that affects my life and the lives of others.

So what does that have to do with feminism? Feminism is a historical movement that advocates for the equality of women. But the main tenets of historical feminism focus primarily on white, straight, cisgender, economically privileged women. Intersectional feminism is the idea that feminism shouldn’t be restricted by any other social category. The needs and focuses of black women are different than the needs and focuses of white women, just as the needs and focuses of economically disadvantaged women are different than the needs and focuses of economically privileged women, and the needs and focuses of trans* women are different than the needs and focuses of cis women. There are feminists who believe that no trans* woman belongs in a space marked as being for women (they are known as TERFs, or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists). There are white feminists who downplay or ignore the needs of women of color. There are economically privileged feminists who ignore the needs of economically disadvantaged women.

Intersectionality aims to simultaneously embrace and highlight these differences. I have cisgender privilege, but I acknowledge trans* women as women, because I respect their autonomy, and I recognize that their needs are not the same as my needs. I also expect women who have thin privilege (i.e. women whose bodies conform to the socially accepted ideal) to listen and acknowledge me when I point out problems that I have related to having a fat body and the fat hatred and body shaming I deal with as a result of that. Intersectional feminism means that I believe every woman has a right to be equal, and that every woman has different needs based on her own social categories. As an intersectional feminist, it is my job to validate all women in their lived experiences, advocate for them when they need me to, and push back against anyone who says otherwise.

One of the most important aspects of social justice, to me, is to be patient. No one expects anyone to get it right all the time. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years since I first became involved in the social justice community. I’m a very sensitive person, and it took me a while to learn that someone calling me on my mistakes wasn’t a personal attack. And if you’re really serious about being intersectional, do your research. Chances are, if you see someone using a term or expressing an identity you’re not familiar with, there’s already some information out there about that term or identity. The only wrong way is to not even try.

Some further reading, for anyone who’s interested:

Carrying Feminism (comic)

Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (article with pictures)

Welcome to “Sehnsucht und Fernweh”

My name is Chelsea and this is my new blog. I’ve had a lot of blogs over the years, but I took some time off from blogging the last few years, I’m trying to ease back into it. To start I’ll probably be writing about whatever pops into my head, or daily life things, or so on. I have a wide variety of interests and I’m not very well organized, so I can’t promise this will turn into any specific kind of blog eventually, so while you’re welcome to come along for the ride, please don’t expect too much right away.

The title of the blog comes from German, which I am finishing up M.A. in right now, and thus obviously have some pretty strong connections to. “Sehnsucht” and “Fernweh” are two words that can be difficult to translate into English, because the concepts behind them aren’t easy to explain. “Sehnsucht” is a longing or yearning, usually for something you’ve never experienced, or even for something that you have no idea what it is. “Fernweh” is a little easier, it means the longing for a far-away place, the opposite of being homesick. We sometimes use the term “wanderlust” in English (which, funnily enough, also comes from German), and it’s usually meant as a strong desire to travel, but it has deeper connotations than that in German.

So why did I choose these two words? Well, for one thing, M.A. in German. For another, I often feel those things. I feel emotions very deeply, and I often feel a sense of longing, and I’m not always sure for what. I also often feel like I need to “get away”, go someplace I’ve never been, or revisit someplace I haven’t been in a while. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up and only one of them is in the town I usually think of as my hometown anymore (not in the same house), so I don’t have a particular place I call “home” from my childhood, which contributes to the feeling of wanting to move, I think. At 30, I’ve been moving between crappy apartments for the better part of a decade, first in college and then the period between my undergrad and grad school, and now in grad school as well, and while some of them were better than others, I don’t know that any of them really felt like home. Hopefully once I graduate I’ll find my place, at least that’s the plan.

A little more personal info about me. I’m 6′ tall (1.82 meters), Caucasian, fat, brown hair and eyes, pansexual, cisgender, able-bodied. I have two older brothers, they’re both married and one of them just recently welcomed a son, so I have a cute nephew. Both my parents are alive but no longer married to each other, one is remarried and the other is not. All of us are animal people, there are a grand total of 5 dogs and at least 7 cats between us (I forget exactly how many cats my oldest brother has). There’s more family on top of that, but I’m trying to keep it simple right now. I personally have two of the aforementioned cats, Sen (boy) and Delilah (girl). There was a third cat, Kočka, until yesterday, but that’s too raw to talk about yet. I enjoy writing and reading, although I’ve had little time for either outside of school work the last few years. I also like video games, knitting, singing and listening to music, baking, eating good food and sometimes drinking good alcohol. I’m a passionate intersectional feminist, and I will probably sometimes write about social justice things on this blog, because they are really important to me. I always welcome being called out if I say anything that’s offensive to a marginalized person, because I do have plenty of privilege and sometimes go off half-cocked. I have anxiety and depression and have had them for pretty much my entire adult life (plus parts of high school), so this blog may sometimes be an outlet for those thoughts and feelings as well. I will try to make sure I put Content Notes on any posts that need them, but if I miss something feel free to let me know. Comments are moderated by me, so even though you can feel free to post whatever you want, I will decide whether anyone else ever sees it.

Because I have some grieving to do and because I might not be able to think of anything to blog about this weekend otherwise, please feel free to ask me questions in the comments, and I will answer them to the best of my ability in another blog post.