Is International Women's Day intersectional enough? | The Tylt
Is International Women's Day intersectional enough?
The first National Women's Day was celebrated in 1909 to honor women garment workers who went on strike in New York in 1908, protesting poor working conditions. The following year, the holiday was designated "international in character" in order to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women.
Over the years, International Women's Day became a day for fighting for a better world. From the right to hold public office to protesting World War I, women across the world have used the day to speak in solidarity and without inhibition.
Although the holiday first appeared in North America and Europe, the UN makes clear:
International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.
But some feel despite its international label, International Women's Day focuses largely on cisgender women and Western culture. Disa Pimentel explains on Medium how sex-centered pictures, which often circulate on March 8, exclude transgender women from the conversation. Pimentel writes:
While a tweet or a photo might not be inherently hostile or violent, it only continues to perpetuate the narrative of women equating to their genitalia instead of exploring and normalizing the different ways women can (and do) exist.
According to Pimentel, International Women's Day does a poor job of exploring gender, and thus fails to carry out its goal of promoting inclusive conversations.
Any type of exclusion leading to segregation is what feminism should be fighting against.
Others argue that this year's theme, in particular, hones in on intersectionality. Forbes' Audrey Murrell explains:
This year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter encompasses a wide range of issues, including gender bias, social justice, discrimination, violence against women, access to education, advancement to leadership and wealth creation for women globally.
Murrell cites bell hooks' writings as inspiration for pursuing a gender-balanced world, which is to say one that is both "complex and multi-faceted." Murrell also looks to Kimberle Crenshaw, a lawyer and civil rights advocate, who first coined the term "intersectionality." She says of Crenshaw:
Her teachings and scholarship challenge us to examine the various ways that certain identities interact with each other to create unique barriers in our journey toward #BalanceforBetter.
On this International Women’s Day and beyond, it is important to recognize the intersectionality of women of color and include this perspective in efforts to solve the problems of gender gaps in pay, differences in educational outcomes, and persistent disparities in health care.
Some feel that International Women's Day only speaks to issues largely tied to Western cultures. Noha Aboueldahab argues via Brookings, a nonprofit public policy organization, that International Women's Day fails to address the diverse grievances and needs of women in different contexts:
Intersectionality, as many have convincingly argued, requires that the multiple layers of oppression faced by women in diverse contexts be seriously addressed. For example, the plight of an Arab, Muslim woman is almost never identical to her white, non-Muslim counterpart
Aboueldahab highlights that differences in race, religion, culture, and more often lead to different types of oppression, and thus different needs for support. She concludes:
Feminism grapples with multiple and complex levels of oppression. However, many movements emanating from it, including International Women’s Day, have repeatedly fallen short in adequately addressing women’s grievances in diverse contexts. So long as International Women’s Day and its related advocacy campaigns continue to be hijacked by Western narratives of emancipation, they will continue to mean little for women of diverse races, cultures, and religions.