Women of Color series explores intersectional feminism

Tian Yang, Staff Reporter

On Jan. 18, Flora Stone Mather Center for Women hosted a workshop called “Intersectional FeminismNavigating the Intersections” as part of its Women of Color Series. The workshop was led by Shemariah J. Arki from the School of Education at Northeastern University.

The word “intersectionality” was coined by civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw. It encompasses the idea that certain groups of women have multi-layered experiences in life—such as race, class, ability and ethnicitythat they have to deal with apart from simply their gender. According to Crenshaw, there is no one-size-fits-all type of feminism. For example, a black woman can face both racism and sexism as she navigates everyday life.

“To practice intersectional feminism, the first thing we need to do is to do our own work,” said Arki. Arki suggested that in order to promote tolerance, celebrate diversity and face social injustices correctly, people are required to first understand themselves and and their shortcomings. Arki also urged people to “decenter your perspective, avoid centering feminism around yourself and, third, weaken your unconscious bias.”

The next step to advance intersectional feminism is to navigate the intersection, which was also the main topic of the event. To navigate intersection is to answer the questions like: How do we build relationship? How do we build an inclusive campus? How do we create long-term changes?

“Be a clock builder, not just a time-teller,” Arki quoted from Putting Idealism To Work #46, one of AmeriCorps anecdotes, to better explain how to navigate the intersections. According to Arki, being a time-teller is to understand how an organization works, while being a clock-builder is to make some long-term changes to that organization. The understanding of an organization and its structure may fade, but long term changes will remain, just like the clock continues to run after the builders have left.

Arki asked participants to share their stories of being a clock builder. She said that this activity “helps to show how community building is necessary, [and it] also highlights the value of all of the functions that go into clock building.” Arki encouraged everyone to stand out and be a clock builder: “We just want everyone to know that no matter how minimal your role is, what you can contribute, we need you.”
The Women of Color Series is an initiative by the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women focusing on promoting inclusion, identifying ways to learn about gender equality and supporting a more gender-inclusive environment. During spring 2017 there will be three more workshops featuring different aspects of intersectional feminism.