Recently, I started watching Dear White People and it made me think a lot about what feminism means to me. Broadly speaking, feminism refers to equality of the sexes, but I would like to draw particular attention to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s definition of intersectional feminism: “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity” . The female perspective is not merely influenced by gender or sex, there are many other factors that influence our lives and experiences as women.
In an era obsessed with media, equal representation and the presentation of intersectionality is vital because there is no singular female experience. As such, it is important for a variety of point of views to be offered: old, young, LBGTQ+, religious, BME; everyone must be represented. In the past few years, numerous shows with strong, female figures have taken the forelight, and I could not be happier about this. I will briefly discuss my favourite among these and how they present intersectional feminism.
Set in the ’80s, GLOW follows a group of women navigating through sexism as they venture into wrestling careers. At times it’s hard to tell if GLOW is challenging the male gaze or catering to it, but after the success of season three, I will argue in favour of this show on my list. The latest season took every opportunity to challenge and critic the stereotypes they had previously been reinforcing. For instance, season three episode six, saw huge character development for Melanie Rosen as she discussed the immigrant experience, a commonality between many of the characters. Typically, Melanie is presented as someone who doesn’t take life seriously. However, her tearful description of the “mass oppression” her family had experienced, and how humour is her coping mechanism, depicted how religion and ethnicity have influenced her life and made her the way she is (25:00 – 29:00).
Orange Is the New Black 
This (mostly) all-female show is an intersectional dream, it depicts a huge range of women, all of whom are confident with who they are. My favourite aspect of this show is the extensive character development and the insight we get into their lives before prison. For example, Suzanne Warren is initially shown to be judged purely on her mental condition. Labelled “Crazy Eyes”, she is avoided and mocked for her differences. As the show progresses, we are given an insight into her previous life and the way her mind works, allowing for our better understanding of her actions. Once we can understand why she behaves in this way we are able to sympathise with her condition. Presenting characters in this three-dimensional way is vital as it opens your eyes to topics you may not have experience with and issues within society.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is more obvious with its feminist ideals, depicting a series of strong female figures fighting against the oppressive religious system. Even the most traditional character, Zelda Spellman, progresses from blind allegiance to the patriarchy to questioning the motives of the men around her. Sabrina herself is shown to fight against repression in both the witch world and the mortal world. For example, she creates an alliance group for those who recognise themselves as female and together they tackle issues within the school system.
Jane the Virgin 
This hit telenovela is full of intersectional feminist ideals. Aside from depicting strong independent women within the show, it showcases how women can – and do – balance careers along with motherhood. Both Jane and Petra balance their roles as mothers with their jobs without being critiqued or presented as “bad” mothers. They are even able to improve their relationship, becoming a non-conformist family unit. Jane the Virgin illustrates these non-traditional families to open a dialogue about what it means to be a family and erase the restrictive lines of the nuclear family.
Dear White People 
Dear White People challenges the discrimination that occurs in the modern western world, particularly critiquing the treatment of black students in Ivy League schools. The first few episodes tackle the normalisation of cultural appropriation through the boycotting of a blackface college party. The shows primary agenda is not to raise awareness but to eliminate ignorance toward these issues. They ask not for acknowledgement but for change. One example of this is during an encounter between Muffy and Joelle in which Joelle describes the impossibility of black women showing anger. “Joelle explains the angry Black woman stereotype, which presents Black women as people who have no control over their rage or emotions. This label makes Black women feel like they need to be docile and quiet, even in the face of oppression and injustice, if they are to be taken seriously” .
These shows present real challenges women face and how their gender and/ or sex impacts the issues they face. They provide proof that feminism is still relevant in today’s society and preach for social reflection.