The Intersectional Feminist Supporter
By: Ha Truong
As a young Asian woman and feminist, people might question why I adamantly support the protests against the grand jury decisions in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. I’m not black. I haven’t faced severe discrimination. I am not from Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; or any poor, urban area. Mike Brown and Eric Garner died unfairly due to the color of their skin: they were seen only as threats, not as equal citizens under the law, and were executed quickly without being given equal civil rights or the benefit of innocence. Why would a feminist take such interest in and support cases of race, police brutality, and lack of civil rights?
I am an advocate or gender equity, but I would never limit my support to only women. If I were to do so, I would be denying the support and progress made by feminists of different races, ethnicities, ability and socioeconomic statuses. Both communities of color and women as a whole have faced incredible violence and a blatant lack of civil rights, but these injustices have also been experience by the LGBTQ community, people living in poverty, and those facing ability discrimination to name a few. I have discovered that this phenomenon is called intersectional feminism, a concept whereby different people experience varying degrees of oppression due to factors such as race, ethnicity, ability, gender and class. Even though my main concern might be feminism, I do not owe an allegiance to one sole cause, because I do not want to deny the many stories of all the people who have contributed to the privilege I have today.
One of my role models is an intersectional feminist. Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American who was a young adult interned during World War II. Because of her experiences as an interned United States citizen, she was great advocate for Asian Americans. However, she was also a civil rights advocate for other racial and ethnic groups, particularly African Americans because she lived in Harlem and had a close relationship with Malcolm X. As an intersectional feminist, she understood that to reach full civil rights, different groups of people had to work together for one common goal.
Current feminists need to be especially aware of intersectional feminism. As the feminist movement and fight for gender equity gains more traction, we need to involve more types of men and women; feminism is not limited to white, middle and upper class, able-bodied, and (in essence) privileged women. I have seen this occur in my friends, who are reluctant to take on a feminist identity because they view feminism as a white progressive movement that does not give its fair share of attention to women of different communities.
We cannot view equality as one pie to be divided among different communities. Instead, we must be allies to different causes. It is never necessary to share the same characteristics of one oppressed group to be a supporter; that would be ridiculous. However, we are all capable of showing empathy, compassion, and solidarity with the other causes we support. Therefore, I hope that as more news and discussions are brought up on the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, feminists will also join the discussion as allies.
If you are interested in following the aftermath of the Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and other cases of police brutality or interested in helping these causes, please look at the following resources: