Let’s be honest. The mass media doesn’t pay a great amount of attention to feminism, but some notable feminists who have gotten their fair share of publicity include Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson (despite her mistakes in the past).
However, it seems to me that some of the most iconic founders of intersectional feminism fail to receive the recognition they deserve. Intersectional feminism can be traced back to the third wave feminist movement, a rendition of feminism which began in response to second-wave feminism (started in the 1960s), although some intersectional feminists were still active before the third wave started, such as Angela Davis. Third wave feminism emphasised on the importance of intersectionality and criticised second-wave feminism for its lack of inclusivity of oppressed groups such as women of colour, LGBT+ and the working class.
Born in 1952 in rural Kentucky, Gloria Jean Watkins, most famously known by her pseudonym “bell hooks” grew up in working class family and attended a racially segregated school as a child. In 1973 she was awarded a degree in English from Stanford University. As of now she holds a PhD and is a professor of ethnic studies in Southern California. Famously known for her use of the term ‘imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy’, she has written over 30 books, most of which discuss important social injustices. Some of her most famous works include ‘Ain’t I a Women?’, ‘Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center’ and ‘Feminism is for Everybody’.
Not only is she a feminist, she is also a political activist who was leader of the Communist Party USA in the 1960s as well as a member of the Black Panther Party and so much more. Born in Birmingham, Alabama during 1944, she also attended a racially segregated school as a child. She now holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. She resides in California and is a researcher and lecturer at the University of California. Some of her notable books include ‘The Black Family’, ‘Women, Race and Class’ and ‘If they come in the morning’.
May she rest in peace, Audre Lorde was a civil rights activist, a feminist, a writer and a poet. Her poems and prose largely discuss the social injustices she had observed and dealt with throughout her life as well as the matter of personal identity. She was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants and attended the National University of Mexico. Lorde famously said:
“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” – Audre Lorde
She was also a prominent member of the Afro-German movement in Berlin. Her notable works include ‘Sister Outsider’, ‘the Black Unicorn’ and ‘The Cancer Journals’.
Born in 1956 from a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio, her grandparents were of the 6 billion Jews that had died in the Holocaust. She is now a gender theorist, political philosopher and feminist writer. Butler completed her Alma meter at Yale University and has taught at numerous universities such as Columbia. She remains one of the most influential activists in feminist and LGBT+ issues from the 1990s onwards, she has also taken part in many anti-capitalist, anti-war movements and pro-Palestine movements. Some of her most popular books include ‘Undoing Gender’ , ‘Bodies That Matter’ and ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’.
Kimberle Williams Crenshaw:
Born in Canton, Ohio during 1959, she is one of the leading scholars in the famous Critical Race Theory (the idea of racial power and systematic oppression etc.) and is known for being part of the introduction of intersectional theory. In 1984 she received a J.D. from Harvard Law School and is now a professor of race and gender issues at the UCLA School of Law as well as Columbia Law School. In fact, most of her books have served as the main basis of today’s social justice. Her most famous books include ‘Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings that Formed the Movement’, ‘Black Girls Matter’ and ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Colour’.
So, I hope this has motivated you to do some reading! Bear in mind that these are the just the writers whose work I’ve read myself, but there are plenty of other feminist writers and political activists whose writings have been fundamental to intersectional feminism.