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Intersectionality as the Main Concept of Third-wave Feminism

Info: 2369 words (9 pages) Dissertation
Published: 30th Sep 2021

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Tagged: SociologyEquality


Third-wave feminism which follows the second-wave of feminist movement began in the 1990s with the mixture of disgruntled, and unsure feminists, and feminists born into the world where feminism had already existed. The movement of third-wave feminism has a little focus on laws or political processes, but more on a person’s identity. This wave of feminism is the most diverse and individualistic feminist wave society have ever seen. It is considered to be a worldwide feminist wave because its main idea is to show the world that women are of many colors, religions, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. First two waves of feminism have made so many changes in different aspects of our life. Besides the right to vote, the right to get an education, and the right to work, women, who lived during third wave of feminist, required to change the stereotypes and language that was used to describe a woman. Third-wave feminists had a desire to challenge or avoid the assumption that there is a universal female identity and over-emphasizing of the experience of the upper-middle class white women. What is most important is that the roots of Intersectional Feminism were born together with third-wave feminism. “Intersectional feminism is much more than the Feminism itself because it is an understanding of how women’s overlapping identities- including race, class ethnicity, and sexual orientation- impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.” (Dastagir)

Rebecca Solnit is an author of the book ‘Men explain things to me’ who touches the problem of marginalizing women by silencing them and talks about consequences that can lead female because of this issue. She ends on a serious note- because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!” (Solnit) Rebecca Solnit states that

“men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about.”

It is a presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field: that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world.

“It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”


Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert women’s right to control over their right to exist. Rebecca Solnit says that things gotten better today compared to what was happening 30 years ago.

“This war won’t end in my lifetime. I am still fighting it, for myself certainly, but also for all those younger women who have something to say, in the hope that they will get to say it.”



Third Wave feminism is a feminist wave that attends to deal with race, racism, and the experience of nonwhite women who do not free equal in our society. Intersectionality, therefore, has an intense focus on identity and particularly on racial and ethnic identity. The common positions are “We are here for women of color, trans people, lesbian, gay and bi people and the differently abled” and “Listen to women, listen to people of color.” (Pluckrose) A big issue is that intersectionality becomes inaccessible to even more people. As Mariana Ortega mentions in her article “White Feminism and Women of Color” the list of respected women of color is so short. In her essay, she tries to figure out the reason of intersectionality, asking so many questions, such as “Why is it that feminists still scramble to fill out the spot for the respected, well-known woman-of-color, speaker that will bring in a crowd? Why is it that there is only a small percentage of books and articles written by women of color in the growing lists of feminist publications? Why is it that I or any of the few women of color who are involved in feminist work could write lists of all the experiences that make us invisible, misunderstood, homogenized, and victimized while dealing with white feminists.” (Ortega)

Women of color are marginalized in many ways and different aspects. To be intersectional is to focus on many different categories of marginalized identity at once, be convinced that they are marginalized and be concerned about them all. To expand this statement more, “marginalize” means to push people to the edge of the society not allowing them a place within it. A society that labels an outside the norm- weird, scary, hateful, or useless- marginalize those people, edging them out. Women of color are great example of marginalized people who are pushed away from the rest of society, are oppressed, and discriminated just because of their color, race, religion, and other factors.

White Feminism

White Feminism is used to describe the feminist movement that only focuses on white and straight women. Usually, their fight focuses on rape culture, equal pay, and diminishing patriarchy. White feminists have reached success in different aspects for white women, but what about women of color? It is still problematic because white feminists refuse to accept women of color, women with disabilities, and women who are not in a good body form. As a matter of fact, they used to ignore their issues and their identities as well. Although they are trying to close the wage gap between men and women, they do not recognize that Latina and Black women earn even less than white women do. Gloria Steinem is a famous American Feminist, who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s. Steinem does not recognize such thing as “White Feminism”. She was adamant about the fact that “white feminism” as a term has no discourse about gender inequality. (Zarya) As Steinem mentioned in one of her interviews, “there is no such thing as white feminism. If you call it white, it’s not feminism. It either includes all women, or it’s not feminism”, she said. (Zarya) We are not allowed to forget that basically black women were the major force of the feminist movement, particularly during the 1970s. For this reason, and many others, white feminism has no place in current society and should be eliminated as soon as possible.

In the face of calls for a more intersectional feminism, there are even White feminists who claim the whole concept of intersectionality is just academic jargon that doesn’t connect with the real world. Many people do not really understand what is “White Feminism”.  Everyday feminism Magazine defines “White Feminism” as a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of color. It is ‘one size-fits all’ feminism, where middle class White women are the mold that others must fit. It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual White feminism, everywhere, always.” (Uwujaren)

White Feminism marginalize women of color that causes them to variety of negative effects. For example, White Feminism refuses to give feminists of color an ability to discuss their biggest issue, such as racial inequality which relates to gender inequality. It keeps reminding society that beauty standard in our culture is to be thin, blonde, and white. In addition of excluding women of color, it excludes women who are not straight or well-built as well.  White Feminists are also known as women of privilege in our society. Big issue is that sometimes they don’t even realize that they are excluding other marginalized groups. This is not an excuse for their behavior. Everyone should agree that it is a chance for women of color to honestly tell feminists of privilege how their lack of self-awareness affects other women, such as Black or Latin women. Existing problem could be changed by helping each other to recognize that women of different races, sexual orientations, and economic class experience gender inequality differently. People should be recognized and acknowledged according to their skills, knowledges, contributions, and talents, not according to their sex, skin color, or appearance. Everyone can become a better feminist if he will change this point in his head and mind.

The Problem of Difference

Maria Lugones is an Argentine feminist philosopher, also an author of Peregrinajes/Pilgrimages: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions book where she is taking readers through her understanding of white/Angla feminist theories, and is trying to answer the question: What is the “problem of difference” between white women and women of color, and how does the “problem of difference” affect non-white females? Lugones states that

“women of color always knew that white women and women of color were different; white women all knew that they were different from women of color. White women never considered the difference important, because they did not really notice us.”


White women used to simple and straightforwardly ignore the difference. But U.S. women of color heard and uttered an attack on white racism. Racist feminism does not see the violence done to women of color by denying that they are women. In her essay, Lugones compares women of color to the beings with a peculiar lack of substance or lack of credibility, or too frightening and intimidating, too dramatic, with too much or too little authority: all out of proportion, not fully real. (Lungones)

Third Wave Feminism

Third wave feminism respects not only differences between women based on race, color, religion, and economic standing, but also makes allowance for different identities within a single person. Third-wave feminism responds to the “category of women” debates of the late 1980s and early 1990s that began with a critique of the second wave contention that women share something in common as women: a common gender identity and set of experiences. The concept of “woman” and “experiences” are closely connected within the second and, along with personal politics, form the three core concepts of that movement. Third-wave feminists rightly reject the universalist claim that all women share a set of common experiences, but they do not discard the concept of experience altogether. Women still look to personal experiences to provide knowledge about how the world operates and trouble dominant narratives about how things should be.  Many third-wave stories strive to demonstrate the gaps between dominant discourses and the reality of women’s lives. Some third-wavers use their own experiences growing up in interracial or multicultural families to illustrate how the politics of race, class, and gender play out in people’s lives. For example, Cristina Tzintzu’n writes,

“I worry about dating whites, especially white men… I see what a white man did to my beautiful, brown, Mexican mother. He colonized her.”


What Snyder states in his essay has direct connection with Rebecca Solnit’s book which also raises the problem of marginalized women and men’s unfair attitude to women.

Both first and second-wave feminists have made huge contributions to the history of feminist movement but for third-wavers there were still lots of things to do and improve. Even though many laws were designed to protect women from rape, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, wage disparity, domestic violence, and other atrocities, women were still marginalized in the way of silencing. The ultimate problem that was present during third-wave feminism is silencing of women who have something to say. Women’s voices are as multiple and diverse as our cultural and personal histories, the meaning of silence- being unwilling or unable to speak- can be seen as the complex of issues for women that results in different negative concepts. Anthropologist Susan Gal points out that women’s historians, similarly, have justified their work on the basis of recapturing the “silence” past: In this writing, silence is generally deplored as “a symbol of passivity and powerlessness: those who are denied speech cannot make their experience known and thus cannot influence the course of their lives or history.” (Mahoney)

Feeling unable or unwilling to speak, and feeling bad about it, conveys the expectation that silence is the sign of inauthenticity, of failure to be a “real”.

Work Cited

Dastagir, Alai E. “What Is Intersectional Feminism?” USA Today 19 Jan. 2017: n. pag. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Lugones, Maria. “On the Logic of Pluralist Feminism.” Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. 65-75. Print.

Mahoney, Maureen A. “The Problem of Silence in Feminist Psychology.” The Problem of Silence in Feminist Psychology 22 (1996): 603-625. Feminist Studies, Inc., 1996. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Otrega, Mariana. “Being Lovingly, Knowingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color.” Project Muse (2006): 56-74. Indiana University Press, 2006. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Pluckrose, Helen. “The Problem with Intersectional Feminism.” Areo Magazine. N.p., 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Snyder, R. Claire. “What Is Third-Wave Feminism.” Chicago Journal 31 (n.d.): 175-196. The University of Chicago Press, 2008. Web 15 Apr. 2017.

Solnit, Rebecca. “Men Explain Things to Me.” Men Explain Things to Me. Canada: Publishers Group, 2014. 1-14. Print

Uwujaren, Jarune. “Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional.” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 11 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Zarya, Valentina. “Most Powerful Women.” Fortune. Valentina Zarya, 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

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