Intersectional Feminism: Focal Point for Women’s Wave 2019

by SHANNON GLEBA & ALEXA SCHMIDT, Staff Writer & Features Editor

In preparation for the 2019 Women’s March, Manhattan College’s Campus Ministry and Social Action, Multicultural Center, and Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center (LWGRC) collaborated to host an Intersectional Feminism workshop on Jan. 18.

Held in the Social Action suite, Kathleen Von Euw, Jacqueline Martin and students August Kissel ‘20 and Samantha Monfils ‘19 led the workshop. Initially, Von Euw came up with the idea to organize something that would provide more context to the marches.

“We all wanted to organize something so we could go to the march together. We didn’t want to just meet somewhere and go, we wanted to incorporate an educational and interactive kind of aspect so that people are going with a good state of mind, and with information so they can make their own kind of choices. So we’re just here to provide resources to have you guys make your own decisions,” Monfils said.

The workshop was attended by approximately 20 students who participated in large and small group conversations about the importance of participating in inclusive feminism in light of recent disputes within the women’s movement.

screen shot 2019-01-22 at 9.57.20 am
One of the many signs that were held at the Women’s March on Jan. 19. ALEXA SCHMIDT / THE QUADRANGLE

This year, disagreements between the organizers of the Women’s March NYC about inclusivity of all races and religions led to an additional march being planned by Women’s March Alliance on the upper west side of Manhattan to bring attention to the exclusivity felt by many women, with fierce opposition to anti-semitism. In addition, a non-march event was held at Grand Central Station by Rise and Resist with support from Women’s March NYC to raise support for disabled women.

Associate Professor of philosophy and co-director of the LWGRC Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D, said, “One of the other things I think is sort of fascinating about this is that there is this split and there has clearly been between the organizers of the two marches a lot of distrust and conflict. But, they seem to be doing really well as using it as a teaching moment to think about what the internal struggles are within feminism and within political movements more broadly.”

She continued.

“We are trying to learn from that and build on that with some of the work we are doing by giving students some spaces to talk about where they feel included and excluded from feminism and what it means to be part of an inclusive feminist project, since obviously inclusivity is a central Lasallian value.”

Pascoe noted that the women’s march has drawn in women that may not have normally thought of themselves as feminists, or even as people who march and protest.

“The Women’s March in 2017 was the single largest worldwide day of protest in human history and that means a lot of women showed up to it who normally wouldn’t have, and men too. So, we think that the women’s march, despite the disputes this year about inclusivity is one of the ways that we can bring people into this conversation,” Pascoe said.

Lasallian values and intersectional feminism go hand-in-hand, and both are centered on inclusivity, solidarity and building community.. But Pascoe also points out that the Lasallian values include solidarity with the most vulnerable and most marginalized groups.

“An ongoing critical problem for Lasallians is the question of ‘who is most vulnerable and most marginalized, where should we be aligning ourselves?’ I think that is interestingly the dispute at the heart of the split between the women’s marches and that’s a reason why I think it’s really important that we as Lasallians pay attention to this dispute as a learning opportunity to think of what it means to identify the most marginalized and vulnerable,” Pascoe said.

Monfils also spoke about the connection between the feminist movement and the Lasallian values, and how it can impact the community at MC.

screen shot 2019-01-22 at 9.57.29 am
Junior Thomas (Tommo) Dugan was one of several MC students who participated in the Women’s March. ROSE BRENNAN / THE QUADRANGLE

“One of the five points of the [Lasallian] star is on social justice and concern for the poor. And that’s awesome, we definitely want to advocate for the poor. But not just the poor; there are intersections to consider. So that’s one way we can connect it to the Lasallian mission is that social justice should be more encompassing. We need this kind of feminism and thinking to critically analyze the existing structures that are already here, like Christianity and Catholicism, Lasallian faith, etcetera and we want to be able to use these tools to examine them. And break them down and unpack them,” she said.

Freshman Priya Varanisi attended the Intersectional Feminism workshop and finds the inclusion of all women in the movement to be very important.

“I got into the work after the inauguration and realizing that my place as a woman in society was being attacked. I hadn’t felt this personally before. But the intersectional women’s movement also came with being a woman of color myself, but also just listening to artists and writers who were trans, people of color, of the LGBT+ community who were calling against the idea of being a trans exclusionary feminist. Or a feminist that does not understand how racial issues can play such a large role in our emotional health, as individuals and as a nation,” Varanasi said.

She continued.

“I think the workshop went really well. I myself put in a fair amount of work to understand intersectional politics, but I think this was really a great place to start for a lot of people to join in, and just get a basic understanding of what intersectionality is. It’s a big step to first of all, bring that to the conversation, and second, say ‘Hey, let’s make sure our politics are intersectional.’ It’s crucial. And I think it’s just great that it happened in the first place.”

screen shot 2019-01-22 at 9.57.37 am
Other marchers who showed their support through signage. The march was attended by several notable feminists including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Gloria Steinem. ROSE BRENNAN/ THE QUADRANGLE

After the workshop wrapped up after two hours, many of the attendees stayed in the Social Action Suite to continue discussions and work together on posters for the marches.

Pascoe said, “We found last year that it was really nice having collective spaces for poster-making and you can brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other; it’s fun.”

All attendees were also invited to travel together and make their own decision on which of the two marches to attend on Jan. 19, meeting either on campus or in midtown Manhattan.

While the marches may be done, the organizers of the workshop at MC do not believe the discussions about making feminism more inclusive should end.

Pascoe said, “We have run several intersectional feminist workshops over the course of the fall, this is an ongoing project for us and we are very excited to have awesome student leaders who are really taking this and rolling with it, but this question of what it means to be engaged in an intersectional feminist movement is an ongoing conversation that we will continue to build on over the course of the spring.”

Editor’s Note: August Kissel is a web editor for The Quadrangle.