AAUW tells white feminists to 'confront your privilege'

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has created a new guide to help its members practice intersectional feminism.

In a Wednesday blog post titled “Three Musts for Intersectional Feminism,” AAUW intern Theresa Hice Johnson asserts that feminists must be “intentional about intersectional feminism,” arguing that women will not overcome “patriarchal societal culture” unless they acknowledge oppression based on factors other than gender.

Johnson explains that intersectional feminism refers to the fact that women experience varying degrees of oppression depending on whether they fit into other oppressed categories.

“As women, we are oppressed by the patriarchal societal culture, but there is still a difference in how and to what extent we experience oppression based on our race, ethnicity, ability, appearance, culture, economic status, gender expression, sexual orientation, and more,” she writes, contending that the feminist movement needs to incorporate “more non-white leaders” in order to succeed.

Promoting intersectionality and more “non-white leaders” is key for the feminist movement’s future, she argued, before giving her readers “three easy ways to help ensure that your feminism is intersectional.”

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The first way to ensure your feminism is intersectional is to “confront your privilege,” Johnson states.

“Confronting our personal privileges puts us in a vulnerable position—one where we must be willing to open ourselves to criticism with the intention to improve,” she explains. “Every day we must stand up to sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination that are upheld by the patriarchy” [emphasis in original].

The AAUW, which has branches on many college campuses, encourages its members to collaborate with “social justice groups” and “prioritize diversity and inclusion” at events as ways of identifying personal privilege.

“Respect Bodily Autonomy” is the second imperative of intersectional feminism, according to Johnson, who defines the concept to mean “promoting safe campuses, access to birth control and health care, affordable child care, [and] the right of women to wear hijabs without discrimination.”

Johnson lauds Ruth Bader Ginsberg as a “pro-choice defender” and a potential source of inspiration for AAUW members, along with self-proclaimed “fat femme” Jessamyn Stanley, whom the AAUW praised for doing “yoga in her underwear.”

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Johnson’s final instruction for promoting intersectional feminism is little more than a plug for AAUW programs, conferences, and events, which she encourages members to recommend to friends—“especially ones who don’t look like you or have different life experiences than you do.”

Those who host AAUW meetings and events, she adds, should “take a moment to reflect on who is not there and why they are absent,” asserting that “it is not enough to include a space for everyone at the table; you also have to invite them to the table and welcome them when they get there.”

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