Ithaca College Interns Write

From imperalism to gender liberation, Feminism’s Empire by Carolyn J. Eichner

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For more than a decade now, Ithaca College students have interned in the Cornell University Press marketing department, where they have learned valuable on-the-job skills and, for some, where they kick-started their careers in publishing.  Welcome to the latest edition of our new blog series, Ithaca College Interns Write. This post is written by Sarah Moon, a senior majoring in writing and minoring in English at Ithaca College.

The Women’s March on Washington in 2017 protested the inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth US president. This public protest later inspired similar events worldwide in the five years to follow. The Women’s March and many other events like it are examples of intersectional protests. In 2017, the March provided a gendered perspective of Donald Trump’s policies.

The term “intersectionality” was created by advocate and professor Kimberlé Crenshaw nearly three decades ago. It’s used to describe a perspective that encompasses different areas of identity and how they influence one’s position in society. An example of intersectionality is examining how race and gender intersect to create a different experience than either one alone. Intersectionality is often used as a lens to try to both understand and dismantle oppressive systems of power.

One of the oldest oppressive systems is the patriarchy. The movement that has arisen to counter this system is feminism, which seeks to create gender equality. The historical evolution of feminism is best understood in waves, each progressively including a more intersectional perspective. In the nineteenth century, the first wave was about women’s rights, but only included white women. The second wave of the mid to late twentieth century began to make connections to the Civil Rights movements and war protests. The third and fourth waves were most similar in that they became more intersectionality-conscious and were particularly critical of “white feminism,” a subdivision of feminism that excludes the experiences and perspectives of women of color from the movement.

In understanding both past and present politics, race and gender are inexorably linked. Carolyn J. Eichner makes these connections in her book, Feminism’s Empire. Eichner expands upon her previously published work about nineteenth-century France feminism to include race and imperialism. Eichner suggests that a feminist viewpoint offered unique criticisms of imperialism and the French empire. She identifies the link between the politics of different kinds of oppression and uses them to dismantle the binary way of thinking about imperialism.

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