Ever since I saw Wonder Woman in June, I’ve been meaning to write this post. I initially wanted to gush about Wonder Woman and why it really impacted me. Now that Black Panther is out, it felt like a good time to bring up these feelings.
First off, why are these movies doing so well? Every reader wants two things: to be represented in what they read and they want to be represented well. And these two movies meet these needs for certain audiences.
Thus my call for more intersectional feminism: it is the ultimate key to writing the stories that are in us, and providing books that our readers long to consume.
What Is Intersectional Feminism?
You’re all probably familiar with the term feminism, which calls for equal rights for all genders. At its core, it’s something that most well-adjusted people support, but is often misconstrued as a way to hate men or put them down. Take it from an actual feminist: we love men, but we don’t tolerate sexism.
Intersectional feminism, originally coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, goes beyond equality for genders. It calls for equal rights, representation, and respect for all people, regardless of religion, race, weight, sexuality, disabilities (seen and unseen), class, and more. Basically, it means that if I want equal representation for women, then I should care about the rights of anyone who faces additional bigotry because of the things mentioned above. There are many ways a person can be oppressed or marginalized, and some people deal with more than just sexism.
Now that you understand a bit that intersectional feminism wants to include literally everyone, I’m going to share some reasons why our industry can truly benefit from embracing intersectional feminism.
1. More Representation Means Better Stories
The idea here is that if we’re open to all kinds of writers, we’ll get a wealth of new stories. If you’re simply wanting something fresh and original, you’re more likely to find that by welcoming all kinds of writers to share the stories in their hearts. I’ve heard it said that “insanity” is basically doing the same thing multiple times and expecting new results. Letting the same writers do their thing will likely mean good books, but readers deserve more.
2. Diversity Inspires Others to Write, Too
If it weren’t for writers like Shannon Hale, Tamora Pierce, and other writers, I wouldn’t have been exposed to as many timeless and unforgettable female characters. I mean, all of us are here because someone once inspired us to write books, right? Imagine waiting a decade to finally read or see a character that looks like you. It would instill in you that you can emulate a great hero or you can add your own.
I initially became a writer because I was inspired to add my stories to the shelf. I also hope my work will inspire other people, too. Maybe they’ll be writers, or maybe they’ll just feel seen. Validation is something we naturally crave, and creating all kinds of characters can validate even more readers than before.
3. Intersectionality Helps Us Learn More About the World
Do you personally have friends who are gay, trans, Muslim, Asian, depressed, or blind? Do you know what it’s like to be or experience these different things? With books, we’ve always been able to get a glimpse of what the world looks like in someone else’s point of view. However, if you refuse to see what other people go through, you might never know what they’ve endured and what you can learn from them.
Despite all the female characters out there, I feel like we’re only still learning what it’s like to truly be a woman—from postpartum depression to imposter syndrome. We’re learning more about these things because more women are sharing their experiences.
I as a straight white Christiand woman still have a lot to learn about what it’s like to be queer, disabled, non-religious, or a person of color. But what a time to be alive! I can delve into books written by real people and I can be less ignorant about the world around me. You and I don’t have to assume when we can go straight to the source.
4. Diversity Invites Honesty & Healing
Have you ever read a book that made you emotional?
This is totally me.
I thought I was the only one.
The quest to be truly equal means opening up about things that are messed up about history and society—especially in the United States. While it can be painful, it can be healing—for the writer and the reader.
Think of how many people are emotional when they think about how the Harry Potter series impacted them. We need more books like this that can quite literally save the readers we’re reaching out to.
Stories are all about overcoming our biggest obstacles, and it’s not just a wizard or a dragon. It can be social ideals that make you feel less than human. And once we know there are others like us out there, we don’t feel alone. We feel encouraged to reach our dreams, break barriers, and heal real life wounds.
I know it’s not always comfortable to read something where you look like the bad guy or the bigot. But for too long, people have been barred from telling their own stories. It’s now time to grapple with these deep stories and sit in the discomfort.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So these are just a few reasons why intersectional feminism can and should have a place in the novels we write and read. I’m interested in hearing what you think—whether I got something wrong or if you have something to add.
In case you thought I was done, I have more to say on intersectional feminism and publishing. Pretty soon, I’ll have two posts focusing on how we can add intersection feminism to our own writing, as well as how we can create a more inclusive industry as writers.
To think on this further, who is your favorite character and why? Who is your favorite author and why?