Intersectionality shows that all forms of oppression can occur at the same time and when we try to make one greater than the other; we miss the point of what it looks to cure. It can exist on its own or within the identity of feminism. Intersectional feminism joins the ranks of radical feminism, liberal feminism and the non-exhaustive list of sub-identities within the movement, giving direction to the broadness of feminism and tailoring it finer to an individual’s personality, beliefs and experiences.
As a concept itself, it looks to show the interconnectivity between types of discrimination, how interwoven oppression is with class, race, ethnicity and gender. Within the perception of feminism, intersectional feminism looks to be better inclusive for women of colour, low-income women, having honest conversations about the inability of the broad understanding of feminism to fully liberate these categories of women because of other forms of discriminations they experience that the white cis woman may never encounter.
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An understanding of this concept brings peace to my personal struggles as a Nigerian feminist. It bothered me greatly, how men could fully grasp the concept of oppression with political power and racial inequality but invalidate women’s rebelling against gender-based oppression because they (men) are innately entitled to dominance over women. This excuse, usually rooted in religion and culture, is the easiest defence they run to in terms of the oppression suffered because of their domination. Interestingly, these defences that are bypasses to oppressing women would equally be offensive to them when applied to oppressions they face, say racial inequality.
October 2020 was a historical time in Nigeria’s timeline. It saw the youth stand against the arbitrary administrative techniques employed by the police force. While that was an incredible feat for a now suppressed country, I was astonished by how we could agree that profiling by choice of clothing was awful, the designer clothes, the flashy automobiles and choice of hairstyles wasn’t enough to brand young people as criminals or harm them, sometimes fatally. Millions of young people joined the cause, some donating money, others taking care of logistics and creating awareness across social media platforms. Most importantly, these events were on a united front, demanding accountability from those who chose to use the privilege of power to oppress. It was a social justice wonderland with uncoordinated but seamless division of labour.
Eureka! It took relatability for these men to get it. The logic was the same. Profiling with clothing was the typical defence Nigerian men afforded to sexual violence perpetrators. Seeing how it did not matter while we protested against the assumption of Nigerian men as fraudsters, it sure was not going to matter when sexual violence is brought to question.
All things being equal, my identity as a feminist on Nigerian social media spaces; especially twitter, will profile me as a broken, bitter man-hating rebel faster than it will describe as an advocate for women’s right. This flows from the majority of men seeing the ideal of woman emancipation as an attack on their masculinity and not a fight towards equal human rights. Whenever feminists decide to raise awareness on women’s struggles, the ‘not all men’ idea deflects it, concentrates on political correctness instead or it will even poke holes in the recounts of abuse creating justification for the perpetrators of such evil. The ‘not all men’ narrative redirects the awareness of women’s safety that feminism makes effort to promote, removing certain men from the issue without addressing the actual problems.
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With the social movement of #EndSARS, my celebration of a futuristic unity in attainment of women’s rights was cut short by stories of protesters accusing LGBTQ+ protesters of hijacking the protests to the point of harming them. They were involved in a movement to challenge arbitrary violence yet felt within their rights to attack LGBTQ+ community members citing their difference in sexual orientation as enough justification to abuse them. My surprise went further after the protests, when the internet went back to square one, shaming victims, asking for evidence, prioritizing false rape allegations over actual rape and creating defences for pedophilia.
Men put the responsibility of fertility and conception in the hands of the woman not minding the hormonal side effects of birth control methods but are not ready to sit at a table where male contraception is discussed because they care so much about how that will affect their delicate nether regions, using their biological advantage that allows them to be easily absent from the bulk of pregnancy experiences to oppress women’s reproductive rights by prohibitive legislation. These same men and women can be the objects of social profiling and face racial discrimination from institutions meant to protect them. It will be a dearth of intersectionality to assume that freedom has been attained with racial equality without addressing the patriarchy that affects black women in the hands of their co-oppressed by race (black men).
Intersectionality cures all the issues of social injustice within different oppressive systems because it does not create tenets in isolation, it considers experience of other forms of oppression including those where the oppressed becomes an oppressor. Intersectionality while qualifying different social justice movements reiterates that freedom is absolute; for all and not just a conformist majority. Looking at social issues through its eyes makes the swiftest journey to a world where multiple oppressions can be taken care of under one canopy.
‘But the male consciousness must be raised to the realization that sexism and woman hating are critically dysfunctional to his liberation as a black man because they arise from the same constellation that engenders racism and homophobia.’
– Audre Lorde, Sister Outside.
If we must be inclusive, we must adopt the longest stretch of an open mind, not shying away from and ostracizing differences that are not familiar but eager to engage in conversations to ensure better understanding and stable sensitivity to issues that potentially positions us as oppressors. Inclusivity is an emphatically human way of saving the planet and its people. Social justice should always be perspective based.
Sarah Nwakaego Ordiah is a budding lawyer and writer who identifies as an intersectional radical feminist.