In May of this year, Taylor Swift had an epiphany. In an interview with Maxim magazine, Swift discussed societal ingrained misogyny, the sexist double standards permeating the media and the lack of proper exposure of feminism to younger generations. Effectively siding herself with a movement that is, in her words, "just basically another word for equality," the third-wave earned another crucial person to add to the list of famous feminists. Since then, the media has lauded Swift, praising her for her elementary statements on sexism. What would later culminate in an exchange of tweets between herself and rapper Nicki Minaj about the intersection of race and sexism, Swift's lack of awareness on issues regarding her feminist sisters of color was revealed. Since that exchange, a much louder dialogue on intersectionality and exclusion of trans and non-white women from the feminist movement have ensued, causing many to question the validity and comprehensiveness of mainstream feminism.
Feminism is typically defined as the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. This broad definition makes feminist enrollment much easier. What sane person despises equality for everyone? But, solely using this terminology, especially as a way to recruit new feminists, is contributing to the growth of white feminism: the exclusion of women who do not identify with the gender binary, non-Western women and women of color from the mainstream movement. Self-centeredness and self-preservation is something deeply embedded in our society. So often, we are only concerned with our own realities, neglecting to recognize the marginalization other women (who are not akin to our own identity) face on a daily basis. Due to these oversights, be it intentional or unintentional, millions of women are left out in the cold, omitted feminism because their intersectional identities are not properly recognized nor are they advocated for. Because the face of mainstream feminism is largely white, solely defining feminism with the word (equality) is extremely problematic because it unintentionally overlooks people who are marginalized by more than just the patriarchy (i.e. racism, transphobia, albeism, etc.). In action, the mainstream movement becomes murky. The voices and faces most often heard neglect to acknowledge or campaign for issues outside of sexism. This exclusion has caused many women to reject feminism, flocking to movements that will formally recognize their other identities despite the sexism that may exist within that particular movement.
Defining feminism with one word also creates another problem: the co-option and homogenization of civil and political rights movements. Because feminism has morphed into a catch-all ideology, many are quick to declare anything aimed for equality, as a feminist issue. However, this mis-categorization erases the identities and efforts of the people who are most impacted by the inequality the movement is trying to uproot because it forces the progress they have made under the ideological banner of feminism, a movement that frequently neglects its own women due to its inability to grasp a comprehensive definition of equality. Feminism should not be a catch-all phrase, it should be synonymous with both equality and good allyship. Instead of labeling a movement as a feminist issue, it should be considered as an issue that concerns feminism. Forcing movements under feminism forces the homogenization of movements. Individual hetero-identities must never be lost; they should be heard and respected by all. By making feminism synonymous with both equality and allyship, both the ideology and the activist work can reach new heights: providing a hub for good allies who are concerned with the specific marginalization women and men face. Because, after all, none of can truly be liberated until we are all liberated.