Feminism, briefly, with footnotes


This is not an original point at all, but apparently it still needs to be made.

My feminism will be something called “intersectional” (1) or it will be not only bullshit (2) but lacking the basic self-awareness required to realise that a large part of the reason you think intersectional is “too academic” is probably largely down to the same reason the idea is so important.

Because you’ve probably studied other academic ideas and have no trouble with them, but you didn’t study this one because the ideas of black working class women have been routinely ignored so it’s not been on a syllabus you’ve taken or become part of general knowledge (3).

It’s also not just about checking your privilege, it’s about checking how limited your world view is, and being both open to learn and willing to actively help redress some of the imbalances in public culture and education. It’s not hard (4).


(1) Simply, the idea that oppressions – due to race, class, gender or something else – are linked. Here’s a good infographic.

(2) Yes, that’s a reference/ in-joke. Sorry.

(3) If we must defer to the words of white men, this whole issue reminds me a bit of CP Snow’s point about how it’s seen as shocking not to have read Shakespeare but being ignorant of the laws of thermodynamics is somehow ok, and how this is sign of lack of respect in culture for science and wider problems in the limitations of our education system. Similarly, the ideas and words of black working class women are all too often absent from our education. This post makes a similar point, more clearly than I can.

(4) Try reading Angela Davis’ Women, Race, & Class, for example. You might well find that, like reading some Shakespeare or learning about the the laws of thermodynamics, it’s a life-enhancing experience.

Image note: The woman with the winning grin above is Claudia Jones. Her feminism was intersectional before anyone called bullshit.  She was a journalist and political activist who also played a central role in setting up the Notting Hill Carnival. I grew up in North West London but never studied her at school (though she was on a stamp). I think that’s pretty awful, but not surprising considering the long legacy of what she called the “triple oppression” of being a working class black woman and which continues to find ways to forget the contribution of marginalised people.