Now that I have your attention…
“Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Anti-Racist Politics”, a 1989 paper by legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, introduced the phrase “Intersectionality” to describe the ways in which Black women faced the dual burdens of racism and sexism. Nearly thirty years later, Dr. Crenshaw’s ideas have taken off with a vengeance. As she expounded further in a 2015 article:
Intersectionality is an analytic sensibility, a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power. Originally articulated on behalf of black women, the term brought to light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members, but often fail to represent them. Intersectional erasures are not exclusive to black women. People of color within LGBTQ movements; girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse — all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more. Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion.
We can see in the photo above that our protestor happily includes everybody in xyr Feminism: xyte just as happily dismisses everyone who doesn’t share xyr awareness of all the various ways in which we can piss in each other’s cornflakes. But as xyte has lovingly catalogued axes of oppression, let us untangle this web and map out the spaces where they intersect — and where they conflict.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “feminism” is:
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
This appears to be a pretty commonsensical definition. Feminism concerns itself with women: it deals with women’s lives and women’s concerns, always asking “what does this mean for women?” and “how does this impact the lives of women?” All other issues are relevant only through that lens. (Think of the way a biochemist sees life as a series of molecular engagements or an economist as a series of financial engagements). This may seem narrow, but that is by design. By focusing their efforts on a few important issues and disregarding extraneous distractions, they have triumphed on issues ranging from suffrage to Roe v. Wade and beyond.
But according to our enthusiastic protester, feminism is “bullshit” unless it takes into account every form of oppression. Feminists must “own their privilege” and confess all the advantages conferred upon them by being (as applicable) White, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered and heterosexual. They must acknowledge the struggles faced by Muslims, bisexuals, homosexuals, fat people, undocumented immigrants, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, intersex people, pansexuals, the elderly and non-human animals. And then, when we have solved their problems and become properly inclusive of “aces” and “aros” we can return to the problems faced by plain old “females” and dismiss their “White woman tears.”
“Wait!” I hear you asking. “What are ‘aces’ and ‘aros?'” (OK, I don’t know if you’re asking that — but I certainly did!) A bit of Googling reveals that ‘aces’ are asexuals, people who do not experience sexual attraction: ‘aros’ are aromantics, people who experience sexual desire but not romantic attraction. At first I was unclear as to what sort of oppression asexual and aromantic people experience. Then I found Tumblr:
asexualmew: As a 26 year old multi-romantic asexual, I’m so thankful to the older biro-bisexuals who’ve been seeing the parallels between the treatment of ace and aro individuals with the treatment of bi individuals, even when they’re not on the aro or ace spectrum themselves, and actually saying something about it. There’s a lot of biphobic and panphobic arguments concerning the exclusion of aces and aros, but you’re not even stopping there but talking about how arguments against aces and aros are almost word-for-word with your own lived in experiences with biphobia, and I really, really appreciate your allyship.
gender–traitor: Bigots: Asexuals need to stop invading lgbt safe spaces.
Bigots: invade asexual/Aromantic safe spaces, by posting negativity in our tag
While I hate to sound cold, unsympathetic or aro/acephobic, I’m still not clear on how one’s disinterest in sex or committed relationships can lead to unemployment, eviction, loss of scholarships, or anything other than personal problems which are better handled in a support group than a political arena. Neither am I convinced that only vegan women can be “real” feminists. And as far as avoiding “violence of any sort” goes, I have two words: Valerie Solanas. In xyr zeal to bring everybody under xyr umbrella, xyte appears to have redefined “feminism” to mean “good feelings and supportive gestures toward everyone like me.”
You may accuse me of shooting fish in a barrel, and it’s true that this picture represents an extreme example of identity politics. But the fringe calls into sharp relief many problems we see throughout the contemporary Left. Sexual assault is a very real problem for women: according to RAINN, one out of six American women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Sweden, once famous for its low crime, has become notorious for sexual assault. Between 1975 (when the Swedish Parliament unanimously decreed Sweden to be a multicultural country) and 2015, the population rose from 8.2 to 9.7 million: the number of reported rapes rose from 421 in 1975 to 6,620 in 2014. Yet Sweden’s feminists have largely stayed mum about any correlation between the rising immigrant population and the spike in sexual assaults. Indeed, in 2016 Tiina Rosenberg, founder of Sweden’s Feminist Initiative, cautioned that:
There is a lot of [similar] racialized talk in the making today that is anti-migration, and we should be very careful about that. We should talk about all the harassment against women. We should object and protest, but we should not make the distinction about people from another ethnic background that they are more violent than we are… because otherwise we find ourselves in a place of saying: ‘I’m not a racist, but…’”
To Sweden’s southwest, British feminists are busy looking the other way as their child grooming and rape crisis continues. Ian Tuttle of National Review noted in 2014:
Released Tuesday, August 26, the “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham,” commissioned by Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council, details sexual abuse, including sex trafficking and gang rape, perpetrated over nearly two decades by older men against children in Rotherham. News outlets have released horrifying supplementary details. The U.K. Mirror, for instance, reports that “Emma,” a Rotherham-area girl, was raped once a week beginning when she was 13 years old. When she provided to police the names of 250 men she claimed had raped her, police ignored her. Hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in Rotherham and throughout England probably experienced the same.
In Rotherham there is a real-life “rape culture.” But you will not learn anything new about it from Salon, the Daily Beast, Jezebel, or Slate. It has gone unmentioned at Feministing, Bitch Media, or the Feminist Majority Foundation. There have been no outraged op-eds from Jenny Kutner, Jessica Valenti, or Samantha Leigh Allen.
These are, apparently, not the rapes they are looking for.
Groups with shared goals and shared obstacles can and often do work together for mutual benefit. The most successful groups do so whilst hewing close to their core mission. Ignoring one’s peers to avoid injuring a hostile group does nothing to ensure victory: rather, it leads to defeat. When you compromise your principles on behalf of some ill-defined greater goal, you put your enemy’s needs above your own. And any aspiring revolutionary who doesn’t understand that needs to put a shirt on and go home.