Finding Intersectionality Within Myself
By Molly Braswell
Coffee Talk with Claire Bough
Claire, what do you feel are some of your most poignant strengths as an intersectional feminist?
I think a big one is being able to understand others and have empathy for many different experiences… unfortunately not everyone has the ability or desire to understand people who are different from them. Also, being an intersectional feminist requires you to view life from a big-picture perspective. This allows me to look at things from a long-term view to see how everything is connected and how it all affects each other. It’s a strength to be able to do that because it helps in understanding the world.
I think a lot of people grow up being taught that disadvantaged groups are that way because they’re lazy or they somehow deserve it. When I started learning about intersectional feminism and the history of social structures, I learned about the specific systems in place to keep minorities in a disadvantaged position throughout the world.
Do you think we’re starting to see “intersectional feminism” become more of a conversation in the United States today?
Definitely! I think it’s become more and more obvious when diversity is missing from anything. I don’t think we should be practicing tokenism at all, but it really isn’t hard to find a blend of people with different backgrounds and opinions no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. This is America after all – the “melting pot!”
As a woman of Filipino descent, have you been back to the Philippines to experience the culture and people?
Nope, but it’s at the top of my list. Hopefully a 2020 trip is in my future with the rest of my family.
Interviewer: Last question - who’s your favorite character from Sex and the City?
Literally anyone but Carrie and Big.
Finding Intersectionality Within Myself
By Claire Bough
“Intersectional Feminism” is almost a misnomer - you can’t have feminism if it isn’t intersectional in the first place. Without intersectionality or inclusion most people are settling for “white feminism,” which is a way for white women or men to move throughout life with blinders up. Under the guise of white feminism, you’re choosing to be ignorant of other women’s struggles and the history behind them, yet striving for successes among other white women who are also usually middle- or upper-class. For example, white feminists are usually vocal about things like the wage gap in the context of their 80 cents to every man’s dollar, but black and latina women are making nearly half of that. While the wage gap is an obvious problem to fight against, white feminism tends to be exclusionary instead of outlining the full scope of the problem for all women.
To ensure your feminism is intersectional, you should continually educate yourself about other women’s experiences and history while allowing them to use their voices. This should include all backgrounds of race, age, class, gender identity, sexuality, ability, religion and ethnicity. In order to progress as a society, all forms of discrimination should be addressed because they are always interconnected.
As a mixed Filipino-white American woman with first-generation immigrants in my family, I’ve only recently begun to understand the intersectionality within my own background, skin color, and experiences, and to understand how it affects my daily life, disposition, and relationship to others.
Growing up, I can honestly say that I was a little ashamed of who I was. I had a lot of white friends, and as a kid, you can’t help but notice every way you’re different. Kids (god bless them), would tell me I looked Chinese, would ask me where I was from, tell me I must be adopted and on and on… the type of racism that you can expect from children who may not know any better or aren’t being taught the right lessons early on. I buried that “different” part of me deep, deep down and never faced it. I went through life as if I was a white woman, blinders up. I never asked myself or my mother about my Filipino background (she immigrated here when she was 18), and I never wanted to know about the culture she left behind. I hung out with my friends, I absorbed American culture, and I never questioned it.
Once I got to college was when I realized that my strengths were the parts of me that I pushed away for so long. Being Filipino, at its core, is already such a mixture of cultures - both Asian and Hispanic. Our history contains rampant colonialism, but we have the evidence of resilient people who’ve developed their own unique traditions. Understanding the beauty in this allowed me to get along with anybody and to relate to people who have experienced the harsh realities of America: People who also had parents that immigrated, grew up with different house rules and expectations from their white friends, and were looked at differently sometimes. We were all people who intrinsically understood the value of struggle - both within themselves and through their ancestors.
At the same time that I was growing to love my skin and the type of culture I inherently adore, I was also forced to reconcile with the white privilege that I’ve benefited from my entire life. My dad, being a white man from Indiana, grew up in a stable family with a solid family background. He’s been able to extend that privilege to me through financial support while I was growing up and providing me with the same education that he was able to get as well. Facing my privilege and educating myself also allowed me to connect with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds - to hear them and to understand the ripple of effects that occur when people are dealt bad hands right from the start.
Through self-reflection, I learned that you need to understand all aspects of yourself in order to truly love yourself, and that the same goes for your relationships with others. What are the aspects of your family, history, or self that you’ve been hiding? What are the aspects of your friends or colleagues that you ignore, or that you don’t ask about? At the end of the day, we all have something that connects us. If we can connect, then we can progress.