In mid-May, I started pursuing a 6-week course on edX titled ‘Gender and Intersectionality’, offered by the University of Iceland and GEST (Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme under the auspices of UNESCO). It’s going well so far—I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 and has proven to be incredibly crucial in understanding the ways in which gender intersects with other realities/identities of class, race, religion, disability, nationalism etc., all of which affect one’s experience of being female in different ways. Simply put, analyzing gender without taking these aspects into consideration—early waves of feminism, for example, focused solely on the lives of middle and upper middle class white women, dubbed ‘white feminism’—merely leads to women from other marginalized communities remaining on the fringes.
Virginia Woolf’s work, of course, features in the course’s reading list, alongside other prominent feminist thinkers including bell hooks, Alice Walker, Rita Mae Brown, Betty Friedan, and others. Here is a striking excerpt from her essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own‘:
“..Here I would stop, but the pressure of convention decrees that every speech must end with a peroration. And a peroration addressed to women should have, you would agree, something particularly exalting and ennobling about it. I should implore you to remember your responsibilities, to be higher, more spiritual; I should remind you how much it depends upon you, and what an influence you can exert upon the future. But those exhortations can, safely, I think, be left to the other sex, who will put them, and indeed have put them, with far greater eloquence than I can compass. When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.Continue reading “Excerpt | A Room of One’s Own”