Sharing our unique life stories connects us as women
By Feminista Jones
When Kimberle Crenshaw accepted my friend request on Facebook, I squealed and posted the screen shot on Instagram.
I was so excited that the woman who gave us the term “Intersectionality” was now my friend … on Facebook, at least.
I first learned of her work several years ago, and I am glad to see that more people are using the term in conversation and putting the idea into practice, even if they are not completely aware of the roots and history. Crenshaw maintains that each category of one’s identity plays a key role in defining one’s unique womanhood, and when we work to liberate all women, we must be inclusive of all of the things that make us who we are.
I want you to know me and know that I’m a Black, queer, feminist, working mother. It took me a long time to come into a full love and appreciation of everything that makes me who I am.
My hope is that you then understand why I won’t extract any part of my identity to fit into any all-inclusive idea of solidarity. If there are any groups or movements that seek to erase any parts of my identity for the sake of being “all” anything, I’m not interested.
I tend to think long and deeply about various intriguing topics, and when I’m passionate about something, I articulate my points of view emphatically, intelligently, and directly. I am, for example, passionate about the lives and experiences of Black girls and women around the globe.
This does not mean that I don’t care about men or women who are not Black; I simply focus my attention on us because we’ve long been denied our claims to womanhood and Blackness as the full human beings that we are.
I talk about what I know. I was born in the inner city of New York City to unwed parents, like many Black children. Though they were married when I was still young, they divorced shortly thereafter.
I went to public school until my mother realized it wasn’t cutting it, and busted her butt to put me in private school and keep me there. When she passed in 2007, I realized the greatest gift she gave me was in sacrificing so that I could have the best education possible.
My first experience with sexual assault happened when I was four and the most recent was when I was 27. I began experiencing street harassment at age 11, and I’ve been involved with more than one man who has been abusive towards me. The more I opened up to other women, the more I realized I was not alone, and that these experiences were entirely too common.
Through blogging, I found a way to connect with readers who were either Black women themselves, or who might want to learn more about Black women’s experiences. I began writing about sex and sexuality as a way of helping me work through my own negative experiences, and as a way to help other women find liberation and healing in a safe space that allowed them to be who they were.
I also struggled with reconciling my own sexual desires with all of the bad experiences I’d had, and sharing my stories helped me understand that X didn’t necessarily cause Y, but if it did, I shouldn’t feel ashamed for things over which I had no control.
I’ve come to be known as a storyteller. It is through sharing my stories that I’ve been able to connect with thousands of people around the world. The more open I am, the more opportunities I have to work with people who, like me, want to make the world a better place.
It isn’t always easy, as there are those who want nothing more than to silence me and women like me, but I remain steadfast and do what I can to take care of myself.
Whether it is through creating a global hashtag like #YouOKSis to help support victims of street harassment or writing pieces about Black women’s experiences with domestic violence, I believe I’m doing my small part to facilitate conversations that foster understanding and create valuable learning spaces.
I can’t and won’t apologize for centering on Black women and girls, because most people do not value us enough to make our unique issues primary focal points. I willinvite all those who are interested in learning more to join in the conversations, read my work, and support my efforts to raise awareness about our experiences.
When the least of us are free, only then will we all truly be free.
This July, SheKnows and BlogHer will present #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us, for which I am on the advisory board. We are committed to continuing the conversation about the importance of practicing intersectionality in our feminist work.
Yes, we want all women to be liberated. We will not see that happen, however, if we continue to ignore how one’s various identity categories shape one’s daily experiences as a woman. The Storytelling Builds Bridges: I Want You to Know Me track at #BlogHer15 is aimed directly at this conversation. Each session in this track is designed for women who identify in traditionally undervalued categories to share their own stories, and for you to listen, receive, understand, discuss.
The sessions focus around stories from women of color and the hashtags we've created to address racism (a panel I'm on myself), LGBT women and their experiences, women talking about mental health issues, and women living with special needs, whether they have disabilities themselves or are parents of special needs children.
I urge you to go: The panelists are phenomenal; these conversations will be excellent and interesting. Knowing people better, learning about people's lives, is the very first step toward change.
And with this post, we're also launching a series of #KnowMe conversations on BlogHer and SheKnows, so that you can hear the stories of a wide range of people … and tell your own, too. Stay tuned for more, and I urge you to listen and share your own.
I look forward to meeting you online and at #BlogHer15, and learning more about who you are and how we can build bridges to a better tomorrow.
What's your story? Share with us in the comments and on social media using #KnowMe and #Experts.
Feminista Jones is the Love & Sex section editor at BlogHer and is the primary blogger at FeministaJones.com, a blog devoted to promoting sex-positive discussions on social media, deconstruction of social norms/restrictions, challenging standard feminist theory (and making feminism accessible to more women in the process), giving voice to man-loving feminist women, exploring alternative sexual identities like the BDSM lifestyle and pansexuality through a feminist lens, teaching and advising, and all around fun.