This is one subject that I have been intending to write about for several years and have written a few drafts here and there, scattered around my notepads. The subject is so vast that every time I started writing I simply got lost in a maze of sub-sections, which is why I let it lag behind. But now I’m quite happy to give it another go.
Historically, intersectionality has come from men, in the 80s and 90s, with the purpose of persuading women that they could be oppressed by us too, that women were also oppressors of men and that the oppressed could all oppress each other. It’s an antifeminist mix between liberal male academentia and lefty male activism and forms a deadly weapon designed to undermine bonding of women against men.
In this oppression festival where everyone is considered both oppressed and oppressor, the definition of oppression is of course emptied of all meaning and this is exactly the intent of intersectionality: to erase and divert our eyes from the primary truth and fact that men are the only oppression-organisers of this human world, and that rape and impregnation of women is the fabric and central organising mechanism of men’s system of domination.
All forms of domination stem from and serve this purpose of maintaining men’s sexual access to women, globally: it is the first and final cause. There is no system separate from patriarchy because men are the sole rulers everywhere on the planet, and their tyranny is always and inherently sex-based, based on their sexual domination over women. Power-over is phallic and male, and men treat subordination as female and receptacle-shaped. Men’s dom/sub relationships and interaction with the world follow this male/penetrating vs. female/penetrated syntax, either literally or subliminally/symbolically. Being male, holding the rape-weapon between their legs, is what grants status in patriarchy, power to oppress and the privilege of being considered a subject. That is because at the very basic level, their oppressive power is both achieved and maintained with the use of their penis-weapon, through the raping, impregnation, capture and domestication of women globally. This is fundamentally why women will never share men’s power, but this is off-topic so I will discuss it more another time.
Intersectionality is liberal because it focuses on the particular, on individual agency and on individual perception of one’s condition at the expense of structural analysis and the reality of men’s oppressive structures. This is one major reason why it’s incompatible with radical feminism because our analysis is based on a structural, macroscopic perspective: we look at the structure of male oppression, at how all women, based on their sex, are held captive in a giant patriarchal cage.
So this is what I’m going to do here, I’m first going to look at the structure of men’s system in order to explain how intersectional analysis doesn’t fit the big picture.
Lie number #1: Women may oppress men.
(ie white women may oppress men of colour, etc.)
This configuration is not possible, as all men are oppressors to all women. If A oppresses B; B can’t in turn oppress A – otherwise B wouldn’t be oppressed by A. Oppression, as an institutionalised and organised form of domination by one group over another, isn’t revertible in any way. It’s by definition one-sided and unilateral, at the benefit of the oppressor group and detrimental to the oppressed. Men can’t be oppressed on the basis of sex and therefore can’t be oppressed by the sex class they themselves oppress, even on a racist or classist basis. For women to be able to oppress men in any way, men would have to no longer be our oppressors, but this is not true in patriarchy. Oppression can only go downwards in the hierarchy, that is, A oppresses B and B might oppress a third group beneath them, C. Although only men can be both oppressed and oppressors. Women are never oppressors because women as a group have no control-power whatsoever on whomsoever in male society. We only have token power-over. Which leads to the point #2.
Lie number #2: Some women can oppress other women when it comes to racism and classism or other isms
Sub-title: on the structure and function of difference in status between women, part I.
For the same reasons that women can’t oppress men, women can’t oppress women either. First because women lack the primary weapon of female oppression which is the penis, second because, as said above, women as a group have no autonomous apparatus of power with which to enforce any kind of oppressive system. Women’s status will always be a token one in patriarchy and the token’s only power will never exceed that of a subordinate executing the dirty work of the masters, policing women and undermining the spirit, solidarity and liberation potential of her own kind. Their condition is similar to that of a Kapo in the Nazi concentration camps, except that for women there is no outside world where there are no nazis, to which we can escape.
If some women may be exempt of certain kinds of limitations or violence, or may be individually assigned to dominate other women, this does not make them oppressors. To look at who the oppressors are, you have to step back and look at who is holding the reigns of the system of domination and who benefits from women dominating each other and from all forms of domination in general. It is evidently men. It is not difficult to see that men rule every aspect of this society and that women are excluded from any meaningful decision-making role. Second, it logically follows that the oppression planners are those who benefit from their own system of domination – that is, men. The benefits are intended and men’s oppressive system indeed increases their power over women in order to use them as reproductive hosts.
By contrast, women’s status in patriarchy never exceeds that of being owned or controlled by a privileged man (or its institutional representative). The reduced limitations or minor advantages certain positions might confer don’t benefit women to the extent that in and of itself, it doesn’t give the power to be free from the male owners (husband, father-state, religious institution or any form of male impersonation), nor does it protect us from men’s sexual/sexist violence. Men still conserve their right of ownership and sexual access to the token or assimilated women, it’s the whole point of the deal. It won’t protect her from sexual harassment, psychological conditioning, abuse by her husband, forced impregnation or domestic slavery. Exposure to men’s violence and tight control of our movement or thoughts is the very purpose of being granted pseudo-status in fatherland – it keeps us close to the masters. And the higher up we go in male hierarchy, the stronger their control will be, and the more dissociated and anti-woman we will have to act in order to survive in their midst, which of course is at our expense. If we chose to withdraw from men and men’s violence our pseudo-advantages or statuses would be greatly reduced or taken away. However only by withdrawing from men can we be free.
By submitting to the framework and rules men have dictated, assimilated women or token torturers work against the liberation of her own kind and therefore against their own liberation too – both are inseparable. Her escape from the fate of women is an illusion. Tokenism and assimilation to male institutions are not only useless but a crucial and deliberate strategy of men’s domination.
The analogy can be made between women’s situation and animal husbandry, even though it has its limitations. With domesticated animals, there are differences in degrees of violence inflicted to the animals according to whether they are farm animals, industry and battery farm animals, and domestic pets. According to animal-rights activists, farm animals are by far the most badly treated, especially pigs, but also other animals. Second in line are better-treated farm animals who live outside and are well fed but still destined to be killed and eaten eventually, closely followed by domestic pets, who are more likely to receive better treatment overall, even if most are punished and beaten too. With a stretch of imagination, we could imagine that the domestic pets have been groomed to believe in the superiority of their condition and show contempt or discriminate against their more unfortunate peers, as a way to show allegiance to their masters.
An intersectionalist would say that the domestic pets oppress the farm and industry-bred animals and are privileged traitors. But it’s perfectly clear here that none of the animals have any power to oppress any of their peers because they are all isolated from one another, and all are owned by their masters: they all share the same condition, only some have escaped the worst forms of torture. The only oppressors here are the human masters.
This logic equally applies to women’s situation. But as opposed to animals, there aren’t vast numbers of undomesticated and uncaptured women living in the wild. All women are domesticated by men and most individually or collectively owned, and subjected to varying degrees of torture according to which male group, individual or institution they belong to.
I made another drawing!
This is a very simplified diagram of men’s sex class / oppression system.
You can see that women’s status is aligned to those of the men they are controlled or owned by, which means that the woman who belongs to the man of class 1 will only set her slightly ahead of women from lower male classes, and so on, but it doesn’t put her in the male oppressor camp since she is still owned by a man / men. All women share the same condition albeit in different degrees. As you can see, the women are isolated from each other because they are shut in men’s homes, and are also divided by men’s class strates, but men aren’t – not on a sex class perspective: all men get to fulfill their sex-based right to possess (rape, marry, etc) a woman.
That’s it for now, the next part will continue my thoughts on the structure of hierarchies between women in patriarchy.