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Why intersectionality matters

I used to not be a feminist.

I remember when I was in middle school – probably seventh grade – I went through this very weird anti-girl phase. It wasn’t the “I hate the color pink!” phase, but it was a phase when I bought into misogynistic views about girls not being able to see each other as friends, but competition for boys. A majority of the girls in my class hated my guts for unknown reasons, although I have my guesses about why. After all, a good majority of the girls in my class who didn’t like me were either white or really wanted to be friends with the white girls. While I was not dark, I clearly don’t “look white.” I probably had more respectful conversations with the boys in my class than the girls at that point.

My understanding of feminism at the time was that you had to support all girls and all women and their rights, even if they treat you like garbage. This was not an idea I could get behind. Why would I support a gender that treated me so poorly and abused my generally good nature for their personal gain? So, I fiercely rejected it.

When the term intersectional feminism made its way into popular culture last year, long after I had finally and fully embraced feminism, I realized that my problem wasn’t feminism itself. After all, why did I go to an all-girls high school after middle school? Turns out my problem was and still is white feminism, feminism that advances the oppressive whites in power narrative.

The issue is that I’m not just white or just black. I’m not even just biracial. I’m multiracial. My dad is white and my mom is African American. But, that’s not the end of the story. About two years ago, my mom took one of those tests that tell you where you came from. Turns out there’s a lot more to my mom than just African. She’s also Pacific Islander, East Asian and European Jew (an actual category, apparently). And this is just a shortened list.

It’s not that I don’t like having these identities. I love being multiracial. But being multiracial has its challenges. I remember for the longest time in elementary and middle school, whenever we took the standardized tests, I had no idea what to put for the race/ethnicity section. What was I? Black? White? I remember one day asking my dad what to do, only because my mom wasn’t home from work yet. He said, “Just say you’re white.” And that’s what I’ve done on any sort of standardized test, even though I always felt uncomfortable doing so. I did this until my sophomore year of high school, when I somehow convinced myself putting “Other” as my ethnicity wasn’t lying about who I was.

This lack of a firm racial identity is inconvenient in so many ways. For example, when people talk about their traditions for the holidays, these traditions tend to reflect a regional or racial quality. My parents didn’t care for having traditions that reflect race. All that was needed was a huge dinner, music blasting from a player and holiday-specific decorations. These non-race specific traditions further contributed to confusion over my racial identity. The world was demanding me to choose which of my “races” to identify as, but I didn’t want to. To identify as one was to betray the others somehow.

I find it a little discouraging when people can so easily identify as white, black, Latinx, indigenous or Asian when I can’t even pick a category to identify as. Do I identify as white, even though my mere appearance makes some white people uncomfortable? Will blacks and East Asians accept me if I claim to be one or the other and fight alongside them? I try to reach out to these groups as much as I can and to learn from them, but that’s not what makes one black or Asian or white or native.

So, I’ve resigned myself to not aligning with any one racial group, as isolating as that is. I just say I’m multiracial now. In a way, I do feel a sense of separation when I see racially-centered movements, but at the same time, it’s freeing to be able to fluidly move through racial divides, standing beside racial groups I identify as an ally. I can’t say I understand what these groups who don’t hold power go through regularly based on their skin color. I guess, in effect, that’s my privilege. But I can say I’m always willing to listen to them and stand with them.

However, intersectional feminism doesn’t just deal with race and gender. It also involves sexuality and economic status. I won’t speak to my economic status, but in a world obsessed with sexual attraction, just existing as an aromantic asexual (aro ace for short) is exhausting. The constant pressure from friends and family alike to have a boyfriend and to be in a romantic relationship adds to my state of constant tiredness. The fact that society is struggling to accept that some just aren’t interested in sex or in being in romantic relationships is also exhausting.

A humorous side note, but I had no idea asexuality or aromanticism was a thing until I got to college. This is good, because I was tired of saying I was a heterosexual who was not interested in sex or romantic relationships.

Here’s hoping people will come to accept not just those who identify as one or two races, but those who are more than that and who don’t align with one group. Here’s hoping people will accept that not every young woman in her twenties dreams of getting married and having children, and won’t change her mind when she gets older.

Hi, I’m a multiracial intersectional aro ace feminist. Nice to meet you.

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