Exploring Better Feminism Part 3: 5 Easy Intersectional Feminist Steps To Take

If you feel like Intersectional Feminism can be hard and confusing, then don’t worry because you’re not alone – I used to feel the same way!
My first brush with intersectional feminism was in a women of colour group on Facebook. And it was intimidating. There were a whole ton of rules (very few of which made much sense to a new person), and if you made a mistake you had to issue an apology with a “self-critique” to ensure that you understood your mistake. It was a crash course in intersectional feminism, but it was a toxic environment, where people were quick to post aggressive rants about staying in your own lane, not making people do emotional labor, not using African American Vernacular English, and a whole ton of other things. And when a new member would comment and ask what these terms would mean, the only assistance they would get is being told to go look it up. I was simultaneously aggressively educated and policed about cultural appropriation, and supporting my black sisters. I also watched as a woman of colour of mixed race got chased out of a thread about bindis by my Indian/South Asian sisters, even when she kept repeating she was half Indian on her mother’s side. It left me feeling disheartened. It can be hard to learn to be a good intersectional feminist. Goodness knows, I’m still learning. I understood the women in that group – they were tired and frustrated. But I also feel like that anger can sometimes turn readers away from wanting to engage and learn – and I don’t want to give you, reader, a taste of the same experience I went through. So, I’m going to try and give you some of what I learned there in a much easier to digest form!

  1. Don’t use African American Vernacular English. Period. Regardless of who you are and where and how you grew up, AAVE terms are terms we’ve inherited from the black community. It’s not our vocab, and we’ve stolen it. We are not shook, we are not on fleek, don’t tell someone to “go off, sis”. We are doing something very harmful when we culturally appropriate language, so I often try to really think about what words I’m using and why.
  2. Stay in your own lane – and go talk to your cousins! You’re allowed to listen to people talk about their struggles. For example, imagine two black transwomen discussing their life and perspectives with each other on Twitter. That’s probably an amazing, rich thread that you can read and learn from, but! Don’t add yourself to that conversation and tell them about your own experiences, unless you’re a black transwoman! That’s what staying in your own lane looks like. Another example is when a person not of a particular community speaks on their behalf. For example, a cis white woman speaking on behalf of the black community, or the trans community is definitely not someone who is staying in her own lane. If you’re concerned about something someone else is doing, it’s totally okay to say “hey, I’m not the expert in this situation, but I think you might be (insert thing such as cultural appropriation here), I’d suggest you consult with (insert someone they can contact that is a good representative of the community here)”, rather than stepping in and saying, “hey, you’re appropriating from (insert a community that you do not belong to here), and you shouldn’t do that. Stop this at once!”, because it’s not actually for you to dictate that. And instead of trying to correct and police people of other races and cultures, correct the people in your community that are doing harm. Right now, the thing I feel intersectional feminism needs the most are people who are willing to speak to their “cousins” – the people of their own communities who have not yet learned or fully understood feminist concepts. We need to build more allies, and that was what actually inspired me to create The Desi Vibes, because no one that I knew of was educating my cousins on subjects like safer, happy, consensual sex and healthy kink.
  3. Ditch the ableism and transphobia. Intersectional feminism is for all! Make sure you’re respecting other people’s preferred gender pronouns, and normalise the use of preferred gender pronouns by also sharing what yours are (for example, hi! I’m Irene and my pronouns are She/Her). Furthermore, consider your choice of words in your metaphors. Saying things like, “that’s crazy/retarded”, “I’m so bipolar right now”, “I sprained my ankle and now I’m a cripple,” are incredibly hurtful things to say because they’re offensive to people with disabilities and implies they hold a lower status. Instead, you can say “that’s unbelieveable”, “I’m really moody right now”, and, “I’ve sprained my ankle and it’s really hindering my ability to get around”. Your words can oppress and put people down!
  4. Listen to underprivileged communities, even when they’re criticising yours. It may be hard sometimes to be feminist and realise your feminism still needs work, but feminism isn’t about communities tearing each other down, but rather about calling out the racism still at play so that we can all continue to work to improve our worlds. By not listening, we play right back into the exact things we’re trying to work against. Audre Lorde is famously quoted as saying, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. Similarly, if we uphold patriarchy, racism and so on in our interactions with underprivileged communities, we’re not being intersectional or feminist. Marginalised communities have perspectives that may be vastly different from yours – but that doesn’t mean that their experiences aren’t true. Listen to them and work with them towards change.
  5. Seek out diverse opinions. Similarly to the last point, we can’t possibly consider every single perspective, intersection, and viewpoint. Ask around! There are intersectional feminists in every community that are happy to help share their thoughts and perspectives with you when you’re stuck on how to deal with an issue.

I want to leave you with some more amazing wisdom from Audre Lorde’s piece, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Written in 1984, her words are still relevant today. Lorde addresses the willful ignorance of white feminists who say that they didn’t know who to ask for advice by saying:

“That is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art our of women’s exhibitions, Black women’s work our of most feminist publications except for the occasional “Special Third World Women’s Issue,” and Black women’s texts off your reading lists. … How come you haven’t also educated yourselves about Black women and the differences between us – white and Black – when it is key to our survival as a movement? … Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women – in the face of tremendous resistance – as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.”

Let’s work together, intersectional feminist sisters and allies, to make sure we’re smashing the patriarchy while lifting each other up! Did you find this list of 5 things you can do helpful? Leave me a comment if you’d like more lists like this, or lists that go into more detail!
References (as always!)
Lorde, A. (1984). The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (pp. 110- 114). Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.
Weiss, S. (2015). 6 Ways To Be A More Intersectional Feminist. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/119061-6-ways-to-be-a-more-intersectional-feminist-because-feminism-is-all-about-inclusion

Exploring Feminism Part 2: A Look Into Feminist Theory

It’s time for another theory lesson! What is intersectionality? Where does it come from? How does intersectionality relate to feminism? All of these questions are really essential to being able to understand how intersectional feminism works – and why this form of feminism is so very important to fight for. As always, I brought some academia with me to help make the case!

First, let’s explore what feminism is. Feminism, as defined by bell hooks (an incredibly important Black feminist scholar) is, “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” Now, that might seem pretty basic and straightforward – surely we don’t still need feminism, right? Well actually, according to a scholar named Ştefanovici, in 2016 she pointed out that, “Even nowadays, the kitchen is considered to be a woman’s place, yet the overwhelming majority of restaurant chefs are male. Fashion and clothes and make up are considered to be girly hobbies and passions, yet the top earning designers and CEOs in the fashion industry are men. Even in the fields that are supposedly dominated by women, you see men leading the companies and cashing in the profits.” Further, she argues that women face objectification and oppression in new domains, and that women are still being exploited by gender marketing strategies. Worse still, she says, in sexual education courses girls are taught what to wear, but neglect to teach boys the concept of consent. All of these reasons are incredibly important reasons why feminism is still much needed in the present day and age.

And feminism isn’t just for women! It’s for all genders, and it’s not about being anti-male. Another great quote from bell hooks is, “To end patriarchy (another way of naming the institutionalized sexism) we need to be clear that we are all participants in perpetuating sexism until we change our minds and hearts, until we let go of sexist thought and action and replace it with feminist thought and action.” Her point is, anyone can be sexist, just as anyone can be racist. You can be oppressed and racist, or oppressed and sexist, or hey, all three! But until we (all of us on the gender spectrum) start to consider being more feminist in our actions, that won’t change. But, there’s a problem with feminism as it currently stands. Western women have gained greater class power than their sisters of colour. As bell hooks says, “when women with class power opportunistically use a feminist platform while undermining feminist politics that help keep in place a patriarchal system that will ultimately re-subordinate them, they do not just betray feminism; they betray themselves.” Here’s where intersectionality comes into play.

Intersectionality is actually a concept that refers to interactions of social structures like race, class, and gender. According to Gopaldas (2013), “the implication of intersectionality is that every person in society is positioned at the intersection of multiple social identity structures and is thus subject to multiple social advantages and disadvantages. … [Further,] Intersectional research stresses the inclusion of all voices, especially oppressed voices.” Gopaldas and (another very important feminist voice to pay attention to!) Kimberle Crenshaw argues that even though these concepts are socially constructed categories, they are constructs that are causing harm in the world, and therefore must be addressed.

Imagine intersectionality as a grid, and place yourself on that grid at the intersection where your race, class, and gender meet. In intersectionality, there’s no “oppression Olympics” where one person’s oppression is the worst oppression or more oppressed, but we instead recognise that in some cases, we have privilege, and in some, we have less. Also, according to Severs, Celis & Erzeel in 2016, “at all times, both parties – privileged and disadvantaged – are simultaneously undergoing and exercising power. In a similar vein, intersectionality theorists’ observation that ‘one is never just privileged or oppressed’ dissolves rigid distinctions between the so-called powerful and the powerless.” To emphasize: in all scenarios, you are never just privileged or oppressed. Power flows, moves, and shifts; intersectionality expands on concepts like privilege but examines them in a way that pays attention to all aspects of what is influencing a person’s privileges and oppression.

This means that intersectionality meshes incredibly well with feminism – in order to stop sexism and oppression, we also have to work to undo the systems keeping people oppressed by their race and class (to name a few). Kimberle Crenshaw argues that it’s illogical for feminism and antiracism to campaign about their causes as if they’re mutually exclusive. Krenshaw also says that “frequently the consequence of the imposition of one burden [is] that interacts with pre-existing vulnerabilities to create yet another dimension of disempowerment”. What she means is that laws (for example) that are made using only white, middle class perspectives to try and create a certain change may actually have the opposite effect with the communities that were not considered, and that this will actually further oppress them. I use the example of laws because intersectionality doesn’t need to be limited to feminism or academia – if other parts of our world such as businesses and our laws became more intersectional, we’d be helping to lift up so many people from all walks of life out of oppression.

Personally, this inspires me. I know there’s a lot of work involved in dismantling such deep-rooted social constructs, but if your feminism isn’t intersectional, is it really feminism? Is it truly feminism if your work gives certain communities freedoms at the cost of others? I’m deeply inspired by bell hooks, Krenshaw, and Audre Lorde – they are all black women scholars whose writings on intersectional feminism are absolute must-reads if you’re curious to know more. Pro tip: Feminism Is For Everybody by bell hooks is actually a very small handbook full of feminist information that I highly recommend if you’re wanting to learn more about feminism and intersectionality!

So what do you think? Did this piece help you understand intersectionality, and intersectional feminism better? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

References

Crenshaw, K. (1994). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. In M. Fineman & R. Mykitiuk, The Public Nature of Private Violence (pp. 93-118). New York: Routledge.

Gopaldas, A. (2013). Intersectionality 101. Journal Of Public Policy & Marketing, 32, 90-94. doi: 10.1509/jppm.12.044

hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for everybody. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press.

Severs, E., Celis, K., & Erzeel, S. (2016). Power, privilege and disadvantage: Intersectionality theory and political representation. Politics, 36(4), 346-354. doi: 10.1177/0263395716630987

Ştefanovici, S. (2016). Why Do We Need Feminism. Studia Universitatis Petru Maior – Philologia, 21, 105-110.

Introducing The Desi Rant: Tea Tea

Remember, my loves, when I promised you a rant?

It is now time for that rant. Oh yes. Welcome to The Desi Rant – a place where we tear apart really stupid and frustrating things!

First up, deservedly so, is this Inc.com article, because ignorant white people like to ruin everything – including chai. So grab yours, and let’s break it down piece by piece.

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The title reads: “On a Whim, This Hippie Founder Packed Her Bags for India. Now, She’s Made $35 Million Selling Chai Tea”
…Okay, stop. Stop right there.

There is no. such. thing. As chai tea. Because “chai” means tea. So by calling it “chai tea”, you’re a redundant idiot. And don’t give me some bullshit excuse about, “oh, well we’re calling it that because it is Indian and is boiled with milk and masala in it, so we must distinguish it from other kinds.” Although that is technically correct, if you really need to call chai anything other than tea, call it masala chai. That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s not a chai latte, or a chai tea latte (what the fuck? “Tea tea with frothed milk”? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s only saving grace is that it’s kinda good…), or chai tea or masala chai tea. Let’s make your life simpler, redundant person: call it masala chai, or call it chai, or just call it tea.

Accha? Yes? Good. Let’s continue.

“Brook Eddy founded Bhakti Chai after falling in love with India’s favored drink.”

…A white woman founded “Faith Tea”. Because that’s literally what Bhakti Chai means, she’s just swapped out English for Hindi to sound all fancy and yoga-like. You could also make an argument for Devotion Tea as a translation, but it’s still not very creative. We’re not even into the actual article yet and this is already a fucking mess.

“Brook Eddy is America’s own 21st-century master chai wallah (Hindi for chai merchant). She founded Bhakti Chai, a B Corp with projected 2018 revenue of $7 million, whose cold-drink product can be found on Whole Foods, Costco, and Target shelves across the U.S.”

I don’t just call bullshit, I call blasphemy. Chai is drunk hot, regardless of whether it is winter or summer. Iced chai is a North American invention. She’s also not a chai merchant – she’s a thief profiting off of my culture for a whopping 7 million dollars. 7 million. That could pay for my entire degree!

“In 2002, after listening to an NPR story on Swadhyay, a social change movement originating in India, Eddy packed her bags for South Asia. ‘Swadhyay seemed like this really cool movement that 20 million people were practicing but no one had heard of,’ says Eddy”

…Um, 20 million people have heard of it and are practising it. So who exactly do you mean when you say “no one” had heard of? And who invited you to crash the party??? Let’s think about that for a moment… But wait – there’s more!

“Her research brought her to villages across Western India, where she quickly fell in love with the flavors and aromas of the country’s favored drink: chai. She soon became an aficionado, able to distinguish one varietal from another, noticing no two cups were the same.”

Fun fact, that’s because even though the basic ingredients are the same, the amount and order that they’re put in differ from place to place and family to family.

“Back home in Boulder, Colorado, she formulated an original chai brew when she was unable to find an authentic version at her local cafés.”

So she did all this research and went to India, then went looking in local cafes run by white people for “real” chai and expected to find it? That’s not how logic works. I am certain there must be Indian people in Boulder, Colorado that know how to make chai in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

“Now, 26 employees brew, package, and market chai concentrates, which are natural, organic, and fair trade. All the ingredients come from outside the U.S., including her “special sauce”– 300,000 pounds of organic ginger delivered annually from Peru.”

Wait – is it tea, or is it a concentrate? Because a concentrate isn’t real chai. There is no “concentrate” version of authentic masala chai. What the fuck? Also, who the fuck says “special sauce” anymore? Ew. Did the writer just want to try and sound cool? Because that…totally…worked. Not.

“And in 2015, in keeping with the company’s original mission, Bhakti Chai launched a social-change initiative called GITA (Give, Inspire, Take Action) to award financial grants to causes that range from feeding the homeless to providing access to clean water.”

…No. No. Stop. Could you be any less fucking creative and any more fucking offensive? First of all, “Give, Inspire, Take Action” is an incredibly uncreative and boring as fuck name for a social change initiative, second of all, the Bhagvad Gita is an essential holy scripture in Hinduism. So, you think you’re being cute by being a “devotional tea” company that isn’t even making real tea and referencing a religious item for your social change initiative? Why haven’t I heard of a social change initiative called BIBLE yet?!

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…Okay, deep breaths. Moving on!

“India continues to be Eddy’s muse and she returns frequently for fresh ideas. “I’m a white girl born of hippie parents in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and then raised in Michigan, right? I shouldn’t really have this pulse for India, but I do. I love the chaos and vibrancy. Every time I come I’m introduced to something new. It’s just real.”

Correction: India continues to be where she steals things from like a tomb raider of ideas. Look, If you’re a hippie, and you fall in love with India, that’s cool until you start stealing it. Don’t steal. Don’t be a cultural appropriator. That’s the lesson of this rant.

Now, rather than going out and buying this overly gingery bullshit concentrated nonsense, here’s how to actually make masala chai, if you can get your hands on some of the correct masala tea blends (or, find the teabags that have the tea and spices all in a bag!!):

  1. Start with your water in a pot on the stove. Add your teabags and masala. One or two will probably do. Go easy on the masala if it’s your first time.
  2. Bring it to a boil. Let it boil for a minute.
  3. Now, add your milk. Equal parts to the water, or slightly less than the amount of milk (it may or may not be very challenging to create only one cup of chai for this reason – also why a “concentrate” is bullshit).
  4. Bring this back to a boil again, and watch your pot like a hawk to ensure the milk does not boil over, because that’s always a total mess. As the milk and tea come to a boil a second time, the tea will take on a rich golden colour.
  5. Now, strain and serve!

And that’s how you make real masala chai! So, not only did you get an entertaining rant, you also got a recipe! #Bonus! Once you drink the real thing, you’ll never want to go back to Tea Tea ever again. 😉

 

And that’s a wrap on our very first Desi Rant! Did you love it? Did you learn something? Anything else you’re frustrated about? Leave all that good stuff in the comments! ❤
p.s. Leave a good idea for a social change initiative that we can acronym BIBLE! 😉

If You’re Seeing This, Welcome To The Desi Vibes!

It’s official, folx! At long last, The Desi Vibes blog is here!!! Get excited!

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Get ready for lots of masti (aka fun!), masala, sex, kink, feminism, Bollywood gifs, and so much more! I am so thrilled to be able to write for you all, and I’m looking forward to this journey with you!

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Also, if you decide you love what I’m doing, I’d appreciate it if you’d Buy Me A Coffee/Latte/Cuppa/Hot Chocolate! 😉 All proceeds will go towards improving the blog. ❤

That’s all I’ve got for now, see you around the blog!

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Lots of love,

Irene Leonis – Creator and Writer of The Desi Vibes