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​I Don’t Get Intersectionality in Feminism

By Jocelyn A. Tolpin

I support feminism. I support the Black Lives Matter movement. I support LGBTQ+ rights. I support a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine. I support equality. I think that each of these movements is incredibly important, but I don’t think that they should be connected.

Although intersectionality is prevalent in each of these movements, feminism is the one that pertains most to me. It is where my largest grievances lie, and I’ve identified as a feminist since learning what it was because it made sense to me. I am a woman and I want equal opportunity and treatment, so of course I am a feminist. However, I’m starting to doubt my role in the movement because my Zionist beliefs are not supported in the community. I will always stand up against any gender-based discrimination, but can I really do that under the label of a feminist? I say this because I’m not sure that feminism has a place for me anymore.

The politicization of the feminist movement has made it increasingly anti-Zionist. My support for a two-state solution is being challenged by a movement that I so heavily identified with. I used to think that the leaders of the feminist movement were women who were standing up on behalf of people like me. Yet, that’s where I was mistaken—they aren’t.

Linda Sarsour, an organizer of the 2017 Women’s March, explicitly stated in an interview with The Nation that Zionism and feminism are incompatible: “It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism.”

On March 8, for International Women’s Day, women around the world abstained from working in order to initiate a movement of international feminism. However, part of International Women’s Strike platform called the “decolonization of Palestine” an element of “the beating heart of this new feminist movement.” It goes on to say that they “want to dismantle all walls, from prison walls to border walls, from Mexico to Palestine.” This supposed unity of feminism is one that alienates people in the process.

The LGBTQ+ movement, combined with the feminist movement, was pushing an anti-Zionist agenda with The Chicago Dyke March of Summer 2017, in which two Jewish lesbians were ejected for hoping to walk with Star of David pride flags. Jews were not allowed to march for their LGBTQ+ identities without renouncing Israel.

I understand that intersectionality occurs in order to make movements stronger, and to align them with more people. But the devolvement of feminism comes in the opposite form. Instead, leaders in the feminist movement are starting to alienate people by drawing boundaries of who exactly can identify as a feminist.

As long as you identify with a given movement, I don’t think that you should be penalized on account of your other political beliefs—and this very belief was something that was challenged when I arrived at Harvard.

I met a girl that I really respected for her work with immigration and within the public service industry. We were having a conversation about feminism and about our frustrations with the movement when she disclosed to me that she’s anti-abortion.

Our previously fluid conversation paused for a few beats. I realized that her experience has been similar to mine. On account of her religious beliefs, she was excluded from feminist groups at her high school, she never felt completely comfortable identifying with feminism, and especially recently, she had started to feel really alienated by the movement.

I was at a loss for words because I was faced with my own unconscious correlation between body feminism and social feminism. But my definition in feminism is an overarching belief in equal rights. She believes in equal rights, therefore she is a feminist. I believe in Zionism, but I am a feminist too.

Jocelyn A. Tolpin ’21 is a Crimson Editorial comper in Pennypacker Hall.

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