“Embracing an Intersectional Feminist Movement”
Jamie Quient, Lawyers Club President 2016-2017
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives”-- Audre Lorde
The New Year is a time for reflection, self-improvement, and resetting ourselves for the year to come. As we think about our New Years’ resolutions, I submit one more for consideration: as leaders of the San Diego legal community, let us commit to being social engineers in our practices and in our community.
The womens’ marches that took place in all 50 states and in 32 countries on January 22, 2017 are believed to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history with over 2 million participants. In San Diego, it is estimated that over 40,000 people marched for women’s rights. These marches marked the beginning of a resurgence of activism in the feminist movement. The marches also reveal an important evolution in the feminist movement towards a more varied and inclusive agenda focused on a broad cross-section of issues.
In the weeks leading up to the marches, the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington set out a list of Unity Principles, which are focused around: ending gender and racial violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice. The Guiding Vision of the march helped build the broad coalition of over 200 groups, large and small, that signed on as supporting partners. It may mark a turning point in our fight for equality – as we recognize and embrace the intersection of women’s equality with the other social justice, civil rights and human rights issues of our time.
Intersectionality – coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 – recognizes
the ways racism, sexism and other inequalities work together to marginalize people in our society. Although the term was originally used to describe how race and gender intersect, the concept has broadened over time
to encompass a number of additional social factors – including sexual orientation, nationality, class, disability, and much more.
Almost thirty years since the term was first coined, intersectionality has now emerged as a component of social movements that takes a global look at social issues and recognizes how they intersect with one another. The result is a new social movement that invites diverse groups fighting for equality to work together to advance their shared values.
As San Diego’s feminist bar association, Lawyers Club has a critical role to play in this social movement. Lawyers Club, founded in 1972, was born out of the Women’s Liberation Movement and engaged its members around the need to address the issues facing women like sexual harassment and gender discrimination and the desire to create equal opportunities in the workplace for women.
Intersectionality can help us understand these “women’s issues” from a lens that looks beyond gender to the other societal forces at play such as racial disparities, power dynamics, and structural inequalities. To better understand our positions in society and how inequality impacts us, we must recognize that the components of our identity are intersecting. For example, an African American woman cannot determine if she is being paid less than her white male co-worker because she is a woman or because she is African American. The answer is both – a person cannot separate being a woman from being African American or middle class, or heterosexual, etc. To state it simply, the intersecting components of our identity impact the privileges, oppressions, and inequality we experience in all facets of our lives, including the workplace.
As we move forward in our fight for women’s equality, will have a greater impact in the fight for equality if we join forces with the other burgeoning social movements of our time. We are already doing this by working closely with our brother and sister bar associations and supporting their work. Lawyers Club recently convened a dialogue among the leaders of San Diego’s diverse bar associations and the County Bar to identify opportunities for collaboration and mutual support. Lawyers Club also formed a working group to provide Lawyers Club input on how we can better support our LGBTQIA members and address barriers to advancement they face.
As Kimberlé Crenshaw once said,
“We simply do not have the luxury of building social movements that are not intersectional, nor can we believe we are doing intersectional work just by saying words.”
Jamie Quient, President of Lawyers Club practices insurance coverage and intellectual property litigation at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP.