Feminist Cinema – Intersectionality Please

Er… Meryl….

Lately, more and more of our cinematic offerings are female-led. Which is great by any other standard, other than race, the sex gap in Hollywood is the other social problem it should fix.

But have you noticed that these feminist films have lately not been intersectional at all?

Feminism – while focused on females – have lately all been told through the lens of white females. Intersectional Feminism is basically the call to action against this kind of thing, it is defined as:

“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.”

So basically, if you fight for female equality – you gotta be aware that women of other colors/sexuality/classes are simultaneously fighting the same thing but are also influenced by  racism/phobias/classism within the female group.

But lately, these movies have been so focused on the white woman, that we forget – where the minority women at?

The latest in this white feminist train is biopic film Suffragette – a Meryl Streep led film that chronicles the female struggle in gaining independence.

Suffragette recently showed its stars wearing a Tee shirt saying “I’d rather be a rebel, than a slave.”, a quote attributed to Streep’s character Emmeline Pankhurst.

The problem? Well, Pankhurst isn’t exactly friendly to minorities – and what she said, likely refers to actual slaves – an exaggeration that is actually quite unfair to ACTUAL slave living at the time.

The Mary Sue defined intersectionality brilliantly here:

“The tough thing about intersectionality is that you feel like you’re stuck in this weird liminal state of having to always add a qualifier, or asterisk to feminist movements and campaigns. While I might defend Suffragette against gendered insults that call it “unnecessary” and “overreacting,” I can’t defend these shirts.”

For shame, Meryl.


4 thoughts on “Feminist Cinema – Intersectionality Please

  1. Agreed! Caucasian/white characters usually articulate feminist issues through films. Think it might be because the issue behind ethnic minorities + feminism are two sensitive and topical matters. Films seem to find it difficult to cover two issues at once. Anyway, interesting article 🙂


  2. It is fantastic to see more confident and inspiration women in the Hollywood spotlight. I think Suffragette’s exposure of the early feminist movement is an extremely important issue to be raised. It is easy to get lost in the glamorous facade of Hollywood – when films like this come it is almost a reality check. I agree, it is hard to defend these shirts… however they don’t change my respect for this film. I hadn’t thought of the racial perspective you raise – it is extremely important issue as well.


  3. shjenkins

    Very true, what females drive the feminist cause through multiple lenses and yet we do not see any variation in that process. It could be due to the notion that the white female introduced feminism into the world in first wave feminism (early 1900’s) in the UK and US that focused on the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting, and property rights – something maybe people of colour didnt have much of in that time – yet in such an age in current society a different viewpoint must be assessed. This same notions are parallel to my cause, everyone, no matter the consequence of decision or background needs to be treated equally and new approaches are needed for that to occur. Prison inmates deserve to be rehabilitated properly, and with the current system with an all time high in statistics involving criminals re-offending – the programs are not working. With a more regulated and unconventional approach to teaching prisoners about re-working their interpersonal skills, and giving dogs on death row a chance of training and getting into a new family we could change social behaviour and endeavour to make our community a better place


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