How The Lines Blur: Intersectional Feminism in Popular Media

How popular media spreads intersectional stereotypes and its impact on perceptions within society.

What is intersectional feminism, and how does popular media impact society's perceptions of intersectionality? Intersectional feminism is a multifaceted and inclusive approach to feminism that recognizes that a complex mixture of factors shapes people's experiences of oppression and privilege, including race, gender, class, sexuality, and more. Intersectional feminism goes beyond a one-size-fits-all understanding of gender equality. Instead, it addresses an individual's unique perspective and experience of discrimination based on their intersecting identities.

In this article, we will explore the concept of intersectional feminism as well as some basic terms to be aware of. We will also examine how intersectional stereotypes are portrayed in the popular media we consume and its effect on us.

To keep the conversation going, at the end, there's also a list of organizations, further reading, and important voices challenging multiple levels of social injustice across our planet.

What is Intersectional Feminism? (and how it affects everyone)

To acknowledge and understand intersectional feminism, it's first important to understand where the term "intersectionality" comes from. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, acknowledges that various aspects of a person's identity overlap and interact, leading to unique experiences of discrimination and privilege. As she puts it, "If you're standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you're likely to get hit by both."

Therefore, what is intersectional feminism? Firstly, it's a framework that addresses and challenges single-issue feminism, whereby privileged groups within the feminist movement neglect the struggles faced by those with intersecting marginalized identities.

Secondly, intersectional feminism strives for inclusivity and solidarity among people advocating for gender equality, recognizing that feminism cannot be truly effective without addressing the interconnected systems of simultaneous oppression that affect marginalized communities, causing double discrimination.

Failing to recognize intersectionality and how it affects policies and society affects everyone. When the intersections of race and gender, ability, class, and sex meet, intersectional feminism forces us to acknowledge the intricacies, biases, and harmful stereotypes that affect broader society. Ignoring these intricacies results in policies that fail to protect the rights and protections of people in our society and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes in popular media - ultimately affecting all of us.

Basic Terminology

In this article, there will be quite a lot of terminology to wrap your head around. As crossworders and cruciverbalists know, language is important. So, here are some basic terms to get you started:

  • Intersectionality: The recognition that various aspects of a person's identity intersect, influencing their experiences of privilege and discrimination.
  • Systemic discrimination: Discrimination ingrained in society's structures and institutions.
  • Gender-based violence: Violence directed at an individual because of their gender.
  • Gender: The Socially constructed characteristics of a person, such as identity, roles, and norms.
  • Sex: Biological anatomy, physiology, genetics, and a person's hormones.
  • Feminism: A social and political movement advocating for gender equality and women's rights.
  • Framework: A structured approach or perspective used to analyze and address complex issues.
  • Inequality: A disparity or unfairness in opportunities, resources, or treatment among individuals or groups.
  • Oppression: The unjust and prolonged exercise of power and control over marginalized or vulnerable groups.
  • Anti-racism: The active stance against racism and discrimination, advocating for equity and justice for all races.
  • Anti-discrimination: Efforts and actions taken to prevent and combat unfair treatment or prejudice based on various characteristics like race, gender, or disability.
  • Diaspora: the spread or migration of a community from their homeland to different places.
  • Tokenism: The superficial inclusion of a few underrepresented individuals to create an illusion of diversity, often without genuine influence or change.
  • Racism: Discrimination based on race.
  • Sexism: Discrimination based on gender. Xenophobia: Fear or hatred of foreigners.
  • Heterosexism: Bias favoring heterosexuality.
  • Ableism: Discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • Classism: Discrimination based on socioeconomic class.

Organizations and Voices Challenging Multiple Levels of Social Injustice

While diverse forms of social injustice disparity exist, there are groups, organizations, and passionate voices dedicated to dismantling unfair systemic barriers. From grassroots movements to global initiatives, these catalysts for change are at the forefront of challenging injustice at various levels.

Intersectional Feminist Organizations & Charities

List of worldwide organizations and charities.

Your D + I

Dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion across the workplace, Your D + I partners with businesses. They take token inclusion by offering high-level workshops, consultancy support, and audits to examine where businesses fail and what they can do better.

Womankind Worldwide

Pushing intersectional feminism further, Womankind Worldwide supports women's rights organizations and movements across the globe to make female-identify women's experiences and opportunities equitable.

Girls Get Equal

Plan International's Girls Get Equal movement is for girls and women everywhere. The movement pushes boundaries and creates new rules, calling time on inequality.

African American Policy Forum

AAPF promotes frameworks and strategies that address the intersections of race, gender, class, and barriers that disempower society.

Women Enabled

Working at the intersection of gender and disability, Women Enabled works with bodies worldwide to advance the rights of disabled women, girls, and gender non-conforming people worldwide.

Inclusive Minds

Working with publishers and children's book authors to ensure that kids' books authentically represent society and challenge stereotypes so all kids can access diverse literature.

Intersectional Feminist Podcasts

If podcasts are more your thing, listen to these and gain new perspectives on how social dynamics come together.

Intersectionality Matters by the African American Policy Forum

Hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and a hugely important scholar of critical race theory. Each episode explores a different topic around intersectionality, like Why Kids Should Learn About Racism and Mass Media´s compliance with spreading disinformation.

I Weigh by Jamile Jamil

Join British activist, podcaster, and actress Jamile Jamil as she interviews guests to challenge what society believes, thinks, upholds, and lets slide.

Just a Girl

Where feminism and music meet is the Just a Girl podcast. Each episode explores topics like canceling culture, unlearning one's internalized misogyny, and diversity in the music scene.

Asian Bitches Down Under

Though around 17% of the Aussie population identifies as having Asian ancestry, representation in TV, film, radio, and literature is severely lacking, according to the Asian Bitches Down Under podcast. Each episode is seen through an intersectional feminist lens, discussing issues relevant to people living in Australia and abroad.

Black Feminist & Bookish

Cafe con Libros, a Brooklyn-based, intersectional feminist bookstore and coffee shop space, has an archive of episodes from its monthly podcast Black Feminist & Bookish hosted by Kalima DeSuze and guests. While the podcast has finished, the episodes are still available to listen to. It also hosted another podcast called Leyendo La Diaspora, exploring the stories of Latin American people.

List of Intersectional Feminist Activists

Want to learn more about inclusive feminism? Leave it to the experts and leading scholars in intersectional feminism.

  • Bell Hooks - leading author and activist.
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw - coined the term “intersectionality” and critical race theory scholar.
  • Audre Lorde - womanist, writer, poet, radical feminist, and professor who talked about life as a black lesbian in the U.S.
  • Maya Angelou - poet, civil rights activist, and memoirist.
  • Imani Barbarin is a writer who uses her Instagram page @crutches_and_spice to discuss social justice.
  • Maria Ressa - Filipino-American journalist and CEO of Rappler, known for her work on press freedom and women's rights.
  • Loretta Ross - co-founder of the Reproductive Justice movement and an advocate for women of color.
  • Tarana Burke -  American activist who started the #MeToo movement.
  • Patrisse Cullors - co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, speaker, and activist.
  • Ai-jen Poo - activist for domestic workers' rights and founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and gender equity.
  • AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) - U.S. Representative known for her progressive stance on various social issues.
  • Emma Watson - actress, activist, and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.
  • Soraya Chemaly - writer and activist addressing issues related to women's rights and online harassment. Founder of the Women's Media Centre.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg - late Supreme Court Justice known for her work on gender equality.

Further Reading

Delve deeper into intersectional feminism with the following resources and further reading.


About the Author

Sarah Perowne

Sarah Perowne is a language and education specialist with over 10 years of experience in teaching and content creation. She has worked with students of all ages in various teaching methods, including those with disabilities and ASD. She sports an acute knowledge and skillset in teaching English as a second/foreign language (ESL) English Language Arts and creating content for online teaching resources, articles, and podcasts.

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