Breaking Down Barriers: Intersectional Feminism Conversation

Kayla Jones-White, The Black Bear – Breaking Down Barriers: Intersectional Feminism Conversation

Over 200 students, faculty and staff gathered in the  Missouri State University Plaster Student Union Ballroom on March 8. Ice-cream, chicken wings and drinks were served while upbeat music flowed through the room. There was a buzz from sidebar conversations as stragglers trickled in and students began to migrate from the refreshment area to their seats.

The host of the event interrupted the subtle commotion when she spoke into the microphone with an opening announcement, “you can have an opinion, just don’t force it down people’s throats.” Many audience members chuckled at the slight joke, and prepared themselves for an open conversation on intersectional feminism and all that it entails.

The facilitators stressed that though they would be discussing controversial topics, it was important that there was a mutual understanding of respect amongst all members of the conversation. After their brief disclaimer, the ladies began the conversation with an activity.

Phrases flashed across the projector and onto the screen.

“When I wear a band aid it matches, my skin tone.”

“When I am out shopping, I don’t have to worry about being harassed.”

“I do not have to worry about my natural hair being considered professional.”

The exercise was aimed at getting the students to consider the many daily processes that are affected by race, gender, and sexual identity. In the group discussion that followed, many students admitted that they had not previously considered the prevalence in which their sexual identity, race, and socioeconomic factors influenced their interactions.

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Students discussing intersectional feminism. Photo by Kayla Jones-White.

The conversation covered a wide variety of topics related to feminism. Definitions were provided in an effort to educate those in attendance on the most appropriate and inclusive language to use. Newer terms such as “intersectional feminism”, “misogynoir”, and “white feminism” were defined and discussed amongst individuals in attendance.

Intersectional feminism was defined as “feminism that recognizes other forms of minorities and oppression such as race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status”. This type of feminism is considered more inclusive than white feminism, which is defined as “a type of feminism that fails to address the distinct form of oppression faced by women of color and women lacking other privileges”.

Misogynoir is a term coined in 2010 by an African American professor, Moya Bailey, to describe a specific type of misogyny that occurs to black women in which their gender and race contribute to the mistreatment.

Tyler Janssen, a freshman at MSU and one of the few men in attendance spoke about his views on feminism.

“I consider myself a feminist because I think that it’s really important and women raised me,” Janssen said.

MSU often facilitates Tough Talks that aim to shed light on issues that affect people on campus and in the community. Oftentimes, these topics are discussed with precaution because the inherent controversy.

Though this event had a similar premise, it was distinctly different. Intersectional Feminism featured a conversational environment through the duration of the event. There were no key speakers, so all those in attendance were encouraged to take advantage of their equal opportunity to speak.

Senior merchandising and fashion design major Karly Arnold took to the mic to share her experiences with her name.

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Senior Karly Arnold speaking to her peers. Photo by Kayla Jones-White.

Her peers snapped in agreeance to what she was saying.

“People always expect me to be white when they hear my name,” Arnold started. “day after day of people trying to give my name to someone else because it doesn’t sound like it belongs to me takes its toll.”

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