Gloria Steinem has always been super vocal when it comes to gender equality. As one of the most influential feminists of all time, Steinem began organizing for the movement from a young age and has made countless contributions to gender equality since. In particular, Steinem has never shied away from talking about the importance of intersectionality; and in a recent interview with Bust magazine, the writer and organizer explained why, exactly, it’s so essential.
“Nothing in this country is not affected by racism and sexism and class, it’s not as if one can be exempt from those influences,” she told Bust. “But in my experience, the women’s movement was less subject to them than any other large group that I’ve been part of. We all have different experiences and this probably wasn’t true from everyone, but I learned feminism disproportionately from black women.”
This isn’t the first time that Steinem has attributed her feminist learning to women of color. Last year, she divulged her favorite required reading for feminists in an interview with The New York Times, and the list featured a ton of notable black feminists, including Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and bell hooks. As Steinem points out, acknowledging the experiences of marginalized women allows us to better address and dismantle inequality — and this extends beyond experiences with race.
“For instance, in the early days of the National Organization For Women, not anymore, but in the early days, there was a reluctance to include lesbians or to name discrimination against lesbians as a feminist issue,” Steinem told Bust. “But by the late ‘70s, because of the national conference in Houston, that had changed and everyone was very clear that this was a feminist issue.”
In the interview, Steinem ultimately gets at the root of why intersectionality is so important: It reminds us to acknowledge our privilege, and to work towards equality for everyone — rather than a select few at the expense of the rest.
“We just need to listen to each other,” Steinem explains. “The impediment to working together is a lack of listening. Sometimes, older women think that their experience is still relevant — which it may be, but they will only know that if they listen to younger women. And younger women think that older women’s experience is not relevant — which maybe it isn’t, but they will only know that if they listen.”
That’s a lesson I think we can all benefit from learning.
(Images via iStock.)