Learning About Myself Through Intersectionality and International Day of the Girl

Thursday, October 11, 2012 marked the first International Day of the Girl. International Day of the Girl is a movement to empower the advocating of girls’ rights all over the world.

My feminism class ran an International Day of the Girl assembly at my school. Although I couldn’t actually be there, the process of preparing for the assembly and International Day of the Girl itself was very meaningful to me. We decided to focus on the education of girls because of its importance. Statistically, educating a girl dramatically improves the well being of their family and community.

If the education of girls increases, poverty and mortality rates decrease. This is more than just statistics; these are people’s lives. This idea of educating girls became more concrete to me when I watched the documentary Half the Sky. The personal stories from girls all over the world who experience gender-based violence in their homes and communities were extremely powerful.

The fact that education, something that seems so routine and expected for me, has been held out of reach from most of these girls makes me realize how lucky I am and inspired me to want to help. In the midst of different articles, books, movies, and speakers, I have gained a new insight and view of not only feminism internationally, but also domestically.

On the first day of this feminism class we were told to write down what we thought feminism meant. I wrote down a typical textbook definition. In bell hooks’s “Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression, she states, “Most people in the United States see feminism as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men.”

Before learning about intersectionality this definition seemed completely accurate to me. bell hooks continues by writing, “since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to? Do women share a common vision of what equality means?”

Through learning the theory of intersectionality, I learned that feminism is a lot less straightforward than I had initially thought. Feminism covers all aspects of a woman’s identity. This means that feminist issues not only incorporates her experience of sexism but also race and class oppression.

Feminist author, Audre Lorde addresses this idea in her piece “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression,” by stating, “Within the lesbian community I am black and within the black community I am lesbian.” This statement shows that there is not just one thing that defines you. There are many different aspects of you and parts to who you are. All of these aspects are linked to create the idea of intersectionality.

Although this concept of intersectionality still seems a little daunting, it has come to make much more sense to me. As part of our class, we had to write personal intersectionality essays. This idea overwhelmed me. I found it difficult to write about myself and the different aspects of my life. But at the same time, writing this essay taught me about myself and helped to provide a stronger voice for myself.

Everyone’s essay was very different from each other but at the same time I felt bonded together by these differences. In another Audre Lorde piece titled “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,”  which can be found in her book, Sister Outsider, she states, “As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation rather than as forces for change.”

Although everyone in the class has a different background and a different story to tell, through our essays and sharing of some of those essays during our International Day of the Girl assembly, I feel as though we are celebrating our differences and bringing all of our differences to the fore for a cause. I hope the audience felt the togetherness through the intersectionality essays as they tied in with the assembly as a whole.

I actually spoke to some of my peers who were in the audience to find out what they thought about the assembly and about what struck them the most. One person told me that their favorite part were the videos about struggling girls in other countries. They said that it made them realize how important education really is and how much it could change these girls’ lives.

Another student told me that the most powerful part was the final video we shared from the Girl Effect that shows the impact of education on girls’ lives.

A different student told me that they liked the intersectionality essays the best because it actually connected classmates to International Day of the Girl. I believe that International Day of the Girl embodies everything we have done in class so far and much more, as it unifies the world through our differences for advocacy.

It is a day of celebrating, it is a day of advocating, and it is a day of change.

10 thoughts on “Learning About Myself Through Intersectionality and International Day of the Girl

  1. Phoebe i loved this post. Your introduction was the epitome of grabbing, I was immediately drawn into it. One quote I enjoyed was when you said,”The fact that education, something that seems so routine and expected for me, has been held out of reach from most of these girls makes me realize how lucky I am and inspired me to want to help. In the midst of different articles, books, movies, and speakers, I have gained a new insight and view of not only feminism internationally, but also domestically.” This quote explained your privilege and mindset before the exposure to all these different stories of others in other countries. I truly believe this is the biggest problem throughout society, we walk through life solely thinking of ourselves and never put others into perspective. When the time comes when we do put things into perspective we always leave out ourselves so the connection is never made. If we can learn to think about other people’s situations without being paternal and while also being honest with ourselves we can then truly make a difference.

    I like how you used the Girl Effect Video as the last reference source I think this provides the reader with an idea of a solution. It also concludes on all your other points elaborating on statistics and other issues stemming in other countries.

  2. Since you actually were not there to present the assembly to the school, I loved the way you mentioned the impact that the mere preparation for the assembly had on you. I also love the way you wrote more about the impact of the lack of education of girls in India and how this education would help them in their lives.

    I also loved the Intersectionality portion of your post. You stated that “everyone’s essay was very different from each other but at the same time [you] felt bonded together by these differences.” You voiced exactly my opinions of the sharing of the essays. Great job! 🙂

  3. Beautiful post! I loved the last line! And when you said “Everyone’s essay was very different from each other but at the same time I felt bonded together by these differences… ‘As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation rather than as forces for change.’” I love this Audre Lorde quote. This is a line I personally connected to, because I have felt this way before, and love the idea of using each of our unique qualities to create a better world. And I like that you connected this to the feelings you experienced listening to people’s essays. This is something I enjoy about our class and about feminism as well, that it is a massive group of people, coming together to support one very important cause.

  4. When you told me you had to post about the assembly even though you weren’t there, I had no idea what you would talk about. But you found a very clever way of connecting the feminist cause to International Day of the Girl. Some people asked me, ‘why is this a feminist issue’ when I explained IDG. I think you made that very clear and you really drew on your own knowledge and thoughts to write a meaningful post about what it means to be a feminist and what it means to be a girl striving to get her voice heard. I also liked how you incorporated some people’s reactions on our Intersectionality Essays. Overall, your post was an all-encompassing account of your journey through our feminism class so far as well as your thoughts and reflections of learning about feminism and issues that affect girls and women on daily basis.

  5. Great post really. Your introduction was like a climb it got better and better until it reached a peck, which to me was, “This is more than just statistics; these are people’s lives”. This to me was a greatly touching moment because I always believed that between words and facts, emotions often get lost, left behind. The notion that these numbers, stats, and even generalizations are human beings, are people is at times lost. I also feel like I learned a lot by reading how your definition of feminism changed though the course. Feminism is indeed not just about women wanting to have the same rights as men it is about equality. As you wrote ” Feminism covers all aspects of a woman’s identity” . Finally I would like to congratulate you for writing such a strong and touching piece even without being able to attend the essay yourself. You should be proud of this post and what you have learned about yourself.

  6. I have had the same experience that you describe when you write about how “education, something that seems so routine and expected for [you], has been held out of reach from most of these girls makes [you] realize how lucky [you are] and inspired [you] to want to help. In the midst of different articles, books, movies, and speakers, [you] have gained a new insight and view of not only feminism internationally, but also domestically.” In the short time that we’ve been in this class, I feel as if I too have gained a new insight and deeper understanding of feminism around of the world, and of the issues that are still prevalent.

    The way that you describe feminism as covering “all aspects of a woman’s identity” and how you explain that this means that “feminist issues not only incorporate [the] experience of sexism but also rase and class oppression” was brilliant. I had never thought about the ways that feminism covers the many different components of one’s identity.

    I really like that you talked about how the sharing of our intersectionality essays has made you feel “as though we are celebrating our differences”. We completely are! And through celebration and exploration of the ways that we are different, it will become easier to see the ways in which we are very similar.

  7. I have to say that I also agree with Livia’s and Kaitlyn’s comment! I like the part when you wrote that ” Everyone’s essay was very different from each other but at the same time I felt bonded together by these differences.” This is the role of intersectionality; to unite all the different voices and use these differences for a great change. As you become more aware about intersectionality, you learn more about yourself and others and this will create a stronger voice for you. Over the past few months, you have learned so much about yourself and your classmates and I hope this motivates you more to stand up make your voice heard!

  8. I loved the way in which you referenced the pieces of the of the different feminist writers. I also enjoyed, as Cheyenne referenced, how you found your connection to the International day of the girl, even though you weren’t with us at the assembly. The fact that you referenced your initial hesitation to write the Intersectionality essay, to then writing it and having IDG become a part of you, shows tremendous progress as a feminist writer.

  9. It was great to see that even though you couldn’t attend the actual assembly itself, you still had a strong connection with it and the process of discovering why international day of the girl is so important. I agree, that Half the Sky and the other documentaries and guest speakers we had made me more aware of the problems girls face globally. I couldn’t agree more when you wrote: “The fact that education, something that seems so routine and expected for me, has been held out of reach from most of these girls makes me realize how lucky I am and inspired me to want to help” .

    It’s not until you realise everything we have – all the things we’ve had handed to us on a silver platter and take for granted, And then compared to the amount of girls all over the world who would go to the ends of the earth to even have a fragment of what we have, that you realise, hang on a second… This isn’t right. Why are we the lucky ones? Why should we even be considered lucky?
    Because we have an education? A safe place to live? Just because we have our lives valued?
    Simple things like that – being considered a valued member of society is why we are so lucky.
    A realisation like that is what makes me so confused… Shouldn’t everyone have a life that is valued? Or at least be given the chance?
    So many unanswered questions is why we need this day. One day, that’s all it is – One day to try to bring to light all the questions and problems that need to be answered.

    I found this line you wrote incredibly powerful: “I feel as though we are celebrating our differences and bringing all of our differences to the fore for a cause.”
    We’re all different, everyone in the world is vastly different, but we all want and need to strive for the same goal – having Human Rights recognised for every individual. And by having us learn more and more about feminist issues globally, we are able to shed light on this common goal.

    You wrote something beautiful and very interesting to read. I agree that it must have been hard to write about something you couldn’t actually be there, physically, for. However, you’ve just proven that there is no “one day” for International Day of the Girl. You’ve proven that it’s much larger than that.
    Thank you.

  10. Wonderful reflection. We were definitely sad not to have you part of the assembly, especially since we had planned to have you as the opening announcer. Your post, though, certainly probes into the major issues and themes we discussed would be the focus of our marking of International Day of the Girl. I’m glad that you were able to speak to some peers to hear their responses to the assembly; I think that was a great way to report on the event. Looking forward to your future posts!

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