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Freeing the Shackled Woman – the Need for Intersectional Feminism

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‘I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own’

Audre Lorde

The resounding words of African-American feminist poet Audre Lorde capture the essence of intersectional feminism. The ‘shackles’ that obstruct women on a daily basis arise in numerous forms; some are subtler and more insidious than others. We cannot focus on biological sex alone when examining female oppression. This simply glosses over the nuanced differences of each uniquely lived experience. For instance, there are inherent differences between the kinds of sexism that I experience as a university-educated British Pakistani, and that of a middle-class American Caucasian woman, or of a Nepalese domestic worker in Saudi Arabia. Different layers of oppression “intersect”. For example, race, class, dis/ability, socioeconomic background serve to be the power structures that are culturally shaped, yet deeply ingrained in societies and civilisations throughout the world.

Mainstream Feminism, a.k.a “White Feminism”, has continually failed to observe this, and is quick to celebrate the ‘progress’ that only tends to benefit white women in areas such as workplace ‘diversity’. While we talk about and champion equality between men and women, we need to confront the lack of equality that exists among women. Only then can feminists pave the way for true female liberation.

The concept of ‘intersectionality’ was first developed in the 80s by renowned black legal scholar and feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw. Although the ideas she explored certainly existed before the term was coined, thanks to Crenshaw it became popularised. Since, it has gained traction in feminist theory, arriving to the Oxford dictionary in 2015, and is slowly entering public discourse.

Crenshaw developed this seminal notion after being struck by how the experience of a black woman was different to that of: a) a white woman, but also, b) a black man. Historically, a black woman was, and still remains, far more vulnerable than either of them[1]. Many academics are therefore justified in claiming that intersectionality is the ‘most important contribution that women’s studies has made so far’[2]. There are countless day to day examples of how ideas of female empowerment often forget the most marginalised women. While we hear a lot about ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ in corporate settings, this thread in mainstream feminism is out of touch with the realer issues facing many women of colour. There are those who cannot afford to spend time in higher education because they need to make ends meet, there are hijab and niqab-wearing women who cannot even get past interview stages in the job application process, because of their appearances. Some so-called feminists churn out the worn out, ignorant view that Muslim women need to take off their hijabs, which apparently symbolise patriarchal control. No wonder then that “breaking the glass ceiling”  for the majority of women is not at the top of their lists.

Another burning issue for feminists is the gender pay gap. Hands-down, I agree that we need to address this inequality in the pay gap, but at the same time, it’s not enough to tackle this imbalance through the lens of gender or even race alone.

In 2018, the gender pay gap for men and women across society was at 14%. However, this gap was wider between white men and black African women at around 20%. The greatest gap was between white men and Pakistan or Bangladeshi women at a staggering 26%[3]. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the pay gap between white women and women of colour is the fastest growing pay gap in the US.

Ableism is another discriminatory social category that mustn’t be overlooked; women and girls with disabilities are two to four times more likely to experience domestic violence than non-disabled women[4]. It would be vain to deny that the average white, middle-class, able-bodied woman’s experiences of sexism is couched in a lot of automatic privileges. Social issues are rife in society and disproportionately affect BAME and/or disabled women. If anything, those with privilege and power must use them to give a platform to the women who are systemically oppressed.

There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” Feminism. Changing this mentality is one of the first and most important steps towards unchaining women from the ‘shackles’ that deprive them of their full rights. What Lorde further draws attention to is how a woman should not feel ‘free’ just because of the freedoms they are fortunate enough to enjoy. Although institutionally and statistically, there are barriers I know I will have to fight, I still have huge privileges that I must use to help more subjugated women. Creating a sense of female solidarity, and a sensitivity towards intersecting discriminations, is what all feminists should endeavour to achieve. We cannot put an end to sexism without battling the many other overlapping systems of oppression.  


[1] Anna Carastathis “The Concept of Intersectionality in Feminist Theory”

[2] https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/gender-equal-pay-day-race-bette-midler-intersectionality-bell-hooks-brett-kavanaugh-me-too-a8639661.html

[4] https://www.womankind.org.uk/blog/detail/our-blog/2019/11/24/intersectionality-101-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Nadia is a Languages Graduate, a tutor and a traveller, with a keen interest in justice, sustainability and debunking widespread social misconceptions.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Umar

    8 March 2021 at 2:46 pm

    You have discussed the gender pay gap, but haven’t addressed the fact that women are generally paid less in aggregate because they work more part-time, and have more time out of work. There is almost no pay gap for younger women.

    Which begs the question – how exactly do you intend to address this? Would you like women to work a lot more as they go through middle age, and ensure they have as little time of for childcare as do men?

    May be useful reading: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/genderpaygapintheuk/2019

    Thanks.

  2. Nadia

    25 April 2021 at 12:54 pm

    No, women should not be having to work a lot more to balance the gender gaps in pay, and in the long-run, pensions. That would be unfair and unhealthy.

    Yes, there need to be more equitable measures put in place to address the higher rate of part-time work and career breaks among women. This is primarily because women will have caring commitments. It is deeply unfair that this disproportionately affects women for decades; reduced earnings due to other commitments means a cut in how much they can save, invest or put into pensions. Recent research has found that 43% of single mothers are excluded from pension auto-enrolment. Women are also much more likely to miss out on years of compounding interest/tax relief.

    Parents should have a legal right to paid leave to look after children. There also need to be opportunities for flexible working, WFH options, job-sharing and term-time only work so that working individuals can balance their workloads with caring commitments. This is already in place in many other European countries. Perhaps we could look to Sweden’s model for inspiration. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/22/how-stockholm-became-the-city-of-work-life-balance

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Politics

France closer to hijab ban in sports

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France takes another step towards Islamophobia by trying to ban hijabs in sports competitions. The French senate has already voted in favor of this on late Tuesday but it is still unclear if this ban will be implemented in the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

The senate decided that the hijab affects the neutrality of the field play. The law that they are trying to pass states that wearing anything “of conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited” in the case of events and competitions organised by sports federations. In fact, the Senate clearly stated “the wearing of the veil in sport competitions” is prohibited because it can put the safety of athletes wearing it at risk. This is directly at odds with the French amendment that states that all citizens are free to practice their religion. The law says “no one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order. The free communication of ideas and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law.” 

The amendment proposed had 160 votes in favor while 143 against it. However, the amendment is not finalised and they will be meeting again to find a compromise on text, which means it can be erased. This isn’t the first law aimed to constrict Muslims. Another law was passed a year ago by President Emmanuel Macron which strengthened government oversight of mosques in order to counter the influence of the Islamist movement. In fact, the French soccer federation already bans women from wearing hijab in official matches and competitions organised by them. To tackle this blatant Islamophobia, a football group by the name of Les Hijabeuses that comprises Muslim women that wear hijab have been actively campaigning against the ban. 

This is another form of oppression dressed like a favour. The definition of oppression is “a situation in which people are governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom,” so banning women from wearing hijab directly influences the freedom of expression that they can have. Women have been wearing headscarves for centuries, so they know how to carry themselves with it without the need of the senate trying to save them. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Ukraine responds to Biden’s remarks

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted in response to the US President’s remarks that was put forth during a press conference on Wednesday that has created a huge uproar and has sparked a controversy. President Joe Biden said he expected Vladimir Putin to launch some kind of action against Ukraine and also mentioned in the press conference that the United States and its allies might disagree over the response if Moscow stopped short of a major invasion.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera,” the president said, adding that an invasion would be a “disaster” for Russia. The controversy had been stemmed from one remark the President made that suggested a lesser response in the event of a “minor invasion”.

However the President of Ukraine had tweeted over Biden’s choice of words that has sparked a row among the powers. “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power” the President of Ukraine had tweeted in both English and Ukraine.

The office of President Joe Biden and other officials of the United States of America had responded to the backlash and have taken matters into their hands in trying to dissipate the controversial situation. Biden’s administration and the allies quickly jumped into damage control mode and stressed their points on keeping a united front.

“No matter which path Russia chooses, it will find the United States, Germany, and our allies, united,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at a press conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during his visit to Berlin to meet ministers from Britain, France and Germany

In the same press conference Baerbock addressed the situation by saying, “We urgently demand that Russia takes steps towards deescalation. Any further aggressive behaviour or aggression would result in serious consequences,”

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said President Biden’s “minor incursion” comment was not a green light to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said: “Be in no doubt that if Russia were to make any kind of incursion into Ukraine, or on any scale, whatever, I think that that would be a disaster, not just for Ukraine, but for Russia.”

However Moscow was seen saying that the threats of sanctions given out by the US were not calming the situation.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Attempted coup d’etat overthrown by CSTO

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The protest against the increase in fuel prices in Kazakhstan that turned into a violent rising is beginning to settle down as Russia has started to withdraw its forces. Having lost more than 40 lives amid the unrest and detaining 10,000 people, The country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, announced in parliament on Tuesday, 11th of January 2022, that the acting Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov has stepped up as the new Prime Minister for the country. 

President Tokayev, speaking on the situation that developed in the country in last weeks, declared that “It was an attempted coup d’etat” led by a group of “militants” and “terrorists”. However, no supporting evidence for these claims has been provided yet by the officials. 

On Tuesday, President Tokayev also officially declared the withdrawal of Russian forces claiming that “The main mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed,”. The CSTO, Collective Security Treaty Organization, is considered to be a NATO equivalent and was called in by Kazakhstan amid the violent protests. About 2500 troops were sent to aid the country’s security forces. The decision of calling the CSTO by Tokayev had taken the world by surprise for this could not only alter the socio-political dynamic of the region but of the whole world.

One of the important factors that fuelled the protest was the people’s distrust and disregard for the influence of the former President of the country Nursultan Nazarbayev. Commenting on the influence of wealthy families on the country, President Tokayev in his statement said that: “a group of very profitable companies emerged in the country as well as a group of people wealthy even by international standards,”. He added, “I think it is time they pay their dues to the people of Kazakhstan and help them on a systemic and regular basis.”

The situation in Kazakhstan has emerged as a cause of concern for the powers of the region including China and Russia. The foreign ministers of both countries discussed the matter over telephone call where they both agreed that the situation in the country “ is a riot carefully choreographed by external forces” They also promised, “to provide support to the best of its capacity to help Kazakhstan tide over the difficulties.”

The situation in Kazakhstan and the role of Russia with its peacekeeping CSTO would be a subject of discussion in various global analyses to determine if this could aid Russia’s power status not only in the region but the whole world.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Judge declares sexual assault lawsuit to continue in case of Prince Andrew

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The sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew by Virginia Giuffre will not be dismissed, as declared by the New York Judge Lewis Kaplan on Wednesday 12th January 2022. This declaration came after the royal family member tried to get the case thrown out. 

Virginia Giuffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts filed a case against Prince Andrew by stating that he sexually assaulted her in 2001 when she was a teenager. Prince Andrew, however, has denied the abuse and dismissed the lawsuit. After hearing the arguments from the lawyers representing the royal member, Judge Kaplan wrote in the ruling “Ms. Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous,'” adding “it alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.” The lawyers representing the Royalty dismissed Giuffre’s claims because she signed a $500,000 settlement agreement in 2009. The judge explained more in the document “moreover, the defendant’s assertion that he cannot reasonably prepare a response to plaintiff’s allegations plainly contradicts the content of his moving papers, in which he denies Ms. Giuffre’s allegations in no uncertain terms.” The document was 46 pages long and in short, the attempt to dismiss the case was “denied in all respects” . After the ruling, Ms. Guiffre’s lawyer, David Boise stated, “it is only one step in the process, it does not resolve the case but it rejects certain legal defenses Prince Andrew was putting up to avoid the trial.” 

According to Ms. Giuffre, she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein another convicted sex offender, when she was 17. She is accusing Prince Andrew of “sexual assault and battery” in Epstein’s private island located in the US Virgin Islands. Her lawyer says that she “wants to achieve justice,” by bringing this case to light. The trial is set to take place later this year if it is not settled before that. The Prince’s reputation has already been tarnished due to his friendship with the late Epstein and his former partner who was also convicted in December for aiding in his offenses. This has led to the Prince stepping away from royal duties since 2019. Buckingham Palace denied making any comments after the recent changes in the case, saying “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.” 

The royal status of the Prince should not shield him from being properly charged. Therefore, hopefully, the judge’s effort to not let the lawsuit go under is not wasted in the trial as well. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Kazakhstan turmoil reaches new heights as violent protests continue across the country

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Brokev03, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Protests in Kazakhstan that started due to increased fuel prices had much deeper underlying issues that came to the surface after a few days of protest. Due to the intensity, the government declared a state of emergency following the upheaval on Wednesday.

This was the worst protest in Kazakhstan since this oil-rich country received independence 30 years ago. The main reason for this was the sudden increase in the prices of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) which was the main fuel source used by the people. Soon the protests escalated and the demonstrators torched government buildings, looted businesses and vehicles, and also toppled statues while the officials used violent means to control them. To control the protests that started on 2nd January, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dropped the fuel prices again but the protests continued. Mainly because what started as a fight for simple cause soon revealed greater discontent that people had with the country. Another main reason for the protest was the control the former President, Nursultan Nazarbayev who led the country for three decades, had on the government and its decisions. The underlying issues for the protest were definitely much deeper like the increasing social inequalities as the rich keep their wealth safe and the poor have to suffer.   

To help restore the peace, troops from countries like Russia were sent in while the country was left in lockdown from Wednesday with strict curfews and no internet. According to the Interior Ministry on Monday, almost 8,000 people have been detained throughout the country as protesting is still illegal there. Moreover, on Sunday evening a statement was posted by officials on Telegram social media app stating that 164 people had died in the recent unrest. However, this statement was soon retracted as it was due to a “technical error” and until now only 44 deaths have been confirmed. The security forces apparently had to kill the rioters to restore peace in the country as President Tokayev gave them the order to “fire without warning”.

Seeing these protests, the Ukrainians also took to the street to not only defend their independence but to also fight for the rights of Kazakhstan. The protest included drones that flew with the flags of both countries. One of the drone operators, Vitaly Shevchuk explained his stance “we condemn violence in any form, but we also oppose foreign military intervention in Kazakhstan under the guise of a peacekeeping operation, which is more like punitive action and risks becoming an occupation.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Russia sends troops to Kazakhstan

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As the violence in Kazakhstan has increased over the course of two days, the prime minister of the country has appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alliance for help. Paying heed to that, Russia has sent its paratroopers to Kazakhstan as a means to end the violent riots that had been plaguing the country. The general secretary of the ex-Soviet alliance – the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, told RIA news agency that the overall peacekeeping force sent would be around 2,500 personnel and would be strengthened if necessary. RIA also quoted him as saying that it was expected to be a short mission of “a few days or weeks”.

The anti-government uprising is due to the government’s new rule to lift the price cap of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which sent prices soaring to more than double their original value. People started to protest the sharp rise in fuel prices over the weekend which has taken international observers and also Kazakhstan’s authorities by surprise. But the protests also expressed the people’s discontent with their country’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, since 2019, and his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev who personally chose Tokayev as his successor.

The city of Almaty has been the worst affected due to the riots as violent protestors set fire to many of the country’s infrastructures  all around the city. The local news agencies quoted that a spokesperson from the police stated that dozens of people were killed during attacks on government buildings. However Almaty city authorities claimed on Thursday that 353 police personnel and security forces personnel had been injured and 12 were killed.

Reuters witnesses said that on Thursday morning, shots were fired as troops entered Almaty’s main square. Several armoured personnel carriers and dozens of troops moving on foot also arrived on Thursday morning, firing shots as they approached the crowd. Kazakhstan’s state television reported on Thursday that the National Bank of Kazakhstan had suspended all financial institutions. It was said that the internet in the country is mostly down as well as mobile phone reception which is said to have affected cryptocurrency mining as Kazakhstan is one of the biggest contributors to the mining of cryptocurrency.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted and called for a “peaceful, rights-respecting resolution” and mentioned that he supports “constitutional institutions and media freedom”. The US has also said that it will be watching for human rights violations.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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