Intersectional Feminism and Maya Angelou

This post was written by Colleen, a high school student and new Minnesota NOW volunteer.

When discussing feminism, intersectionality is a very important aspect to consider. Intersectionality, or the study of intersections between oppressions/dominations/discriminations, is a key component to making feminism accessible and applicable to everyone. Feminism, at its core, is accessible and applicable to everyone; however, that fact is too often lost in translation, leading to harmful sects of feminism like “white feminism.” Intersectionality means that we, as feminists, fight for things like racial equality, LGBTQA+ rights, economic justice, disability rights, etc.  Intersectionality is a friendly reminder saying, “yoo-hoo! Feminism really is for everyone!” (side note: if you have not read Feminism is For Everybody by Bell Hooks, please do so immediately. It’s wonderful, enlightening, and a great example of the inclusivity intersectionality promotes.)

When I think of intersectional feminism, I think of Maya Angelou. For those of you who are not familiar with Maya Angelou, she was an incredible poet, writer, actor, dancer, and singer. In my eyes, she is one of the best examples of intersectional feminism to date. Her work– particularly, her poetry– radiates pride and love while advocating for the advancement of women and people of color simultaneously; her poem “Still I Rise” is a great example. Angelou draws on her own experiences of abuse and her insecurities to communicate the importance of raising awareness about all forms of abuse and body-image issues, as seen in her heart-wrenchingly beautiful essay collection named Letter to My Daughter. In her masterpiece poem “Phenomenal Woman,” Maya addresses the insecurities so many women and girls face and cites the individual spark and beauty found in every woman, simply because they are a woman.

It has been nearly a year and a half since Maya Angelou passed on, but her spirit and contributions to feminism, society, and the world will always live on. Appreciating, sharing, and spreading Maya’s works not only pays homage to a wonderful feminist, activist, and writer, but also encourages and promotes intersectional feminism. Share some of Maya Angelou’s works this week with friends and family– look up new poems, share your favorites, or discuss her books. Let’s honor an amazing woman and an amazing movement together.