Intersectionality is a central term in much contemporary feminist scholarship and activism; it is particularly prevalent in the “third wave.” Intersectional scholarship and activism recognizes the multiple and intersecting axes of power that form our identities and around which instances of oppression and resistance are enacted. This means that in addition to attending to issues of gender/sex/sexuality, third-wave intersectional scholars and activists also address questions of race, class, nationality, and (dis)ability, among others. In turn, some third-wave intersectional scholars and activists argue that feminists and feminisms must move beyond “women’s issues” and focus on social justice issues broadly construed. For example, Laboton and Martin (2004), editors of The Fire This Time, argue “intersectionality suggests those issues that have traditionally been associated with the feminist movement—reproductive rights, domestic violence, date rape, and equal pay for equal work—are not the only issues that should define it” (p. xxxiv). While Laboton and Martin are not suggesting that these “traditional” second-wave issues no longer matter, they argue:
“We should not become so distracted by the core issues that we neglect other social justice concerns. The borders of feminism need to be split open, both so that we are freed from ideological rigidity and so that other identity claims of race, sexuality, class, nationality, and geography can move beyond being simply “tolerated” or ’included.’” (p. xxxiv)
A similar sentiment is articulated by Lisa Jervis, cofounding editor of the third-wave feminist magazine Bitch: “Gender isn’t always the primary mode of analysis. . . . Anti-poverty work, international human-rights work, and labor are all issues that are feminist issues, but they aren’t all about women” (Rowe-Finkbiner, 2004, p. 34).
Reflect on the arguments put forth by intersectional feminists. Do you agree or disagree with what they advocate? Specifically, consider the following questions in your journal prompt:
- What do you think motivates intersectional feminists to broaden their focus from “women’s issues” to socialjustice?
- What do you Black Feminist believe as it relates to intersectionality?
- What might be some of the implications, both negative and positive, of turning feminists’ attention from “women’s issues” to socialjustice?
- By expanding the bounds of feminism and moving beyond “women’s issues,” do you think feminism could become more appealing to men? Why or why not?
- What issues should intersectional scholars and activists focus on? Whatdecision criteria should guide their focus?
- If feminists focus on social justice broadly construed, is the term feminism necessary? Is feminism still a legitimate social movement/area ofscholarship?
Hayden, S., & O’Brien Hallstein, D. L. (2009). Placing sex/gender at the forefront: Feminism, intersectionality, and communication studies. In K. Chavez & C. Griffen (Eds.), Standing in the intersections: Feminisms, intersectionality, and communication studies, New York: SUNY.
Labaton, V., & Martin, D. L. (Eds.) (2004). The fire this time: Young activists and the new feminism. New York: Anchor Books.
Rowe-Finkbiner, K., (2004). The F word: Feminism in jeopardy: Women, politics, and the future. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.
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