Feminist self-determination

The political project of feminism requires the subject ‘woman’, which turns out to be highly diverse: The oppression white middle-class women face differs from the oppression Black middle-class women or middle-class Women of Color or working-class women face. The oppression heterosexual women face differs from the one homo- or bisexual women face. The oppression cis-women face differs from the oppression transwomen or non-binary people face. The oppression old women face differs from the one poor women face. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a Black American lawyer, introduced the term intersectionality, which describes the intersection of different forms of oppression such as gender, class, race, sexuality. These intersections work together and produce injustice in the plural experience of being a ‘woman’. Such differences within the subject ‘woman’ are mirrored in the heterogeneity of feminist approaches.

     The history of feminist movements is shaped by Western European and Northern American white middle-class activists and theorists who draw attention to women’s struggles and general conditions in a system dominated by white men. According to the plurality of feminist concerns, other theories and analyses addressing specific needs developed too. The writer Alice Walker e.g. coined the term womanism as a result of the racism Black women were facing in white American feminist movements. The occupation with Marxist thought and theory resulted in a feminist analysis of the intersection of gender oppression, patriarchy, and capitalism, developing into material feminism and socialist feminism. Social feminists tend to hold economic dependence responsible as the driving force for women’s oppression in a capitalist patriarchal society. Further occupation with gender relations, desire and sexuality developed into queer theory. Queer theorists deconstructed further the normative notions of sex, gender, and desire which are based upon heteronormativity. All these feminist approaches consider the end of sexist oppression of women to be a necessary part of a larger quest for social, economic and political justice. Giving expression to those concerns by means of aesthetic production constitutes a central issue of works on gender and identity.