Intersectionality, continued: part III, reintroducing the start

I realise that my first part deserved a more in-depth clarification on my perspective on racism and classism beyond the definitions I provided in the first and second posts, lest it gave the impression that I consider racism and classism to be of secondary importance or that it doesn’t really exist compared to sexism, or something… Even if I haven’t said or implied any of these, I have no doubts that such claims might be used against me. Besides, there is always more to say about intersectionality, and as I said in my first post, getting lost in sub-sections was my regular fate whenever I attempted to tackle the subject. Consider this third post to be a reintroduction to the first.

I would like to stress that anti-racism, anti-classism and creating deep bonds with women beyond men’s wounding separations is fundamental in our flight and exorcism from male violence. However since racism and sexism necessarily target women in sexist ways, and that men are the common denominator for all forms of oppression, our anti-racist analysis needs to be precise, focused and above all, feminist. Female anti-racism/classism should always be a potential for deep re-connection with women and for connecting the dots.

Intersectionality is none of these: it’s obscuring, putrescent, leads us astray in a whirl of false directions and bottomless list of oppression-identities, and is poisonous to the women’s movement. It pulls us away from feminism, back into men’s hands, and it’s intentional. I obviously don’t have all the answers as to what we can do to replace intersectionality, and differences between women and class dynamics vary a lot from place to place. I find it all very complex to think about. But I definitely know what doesn’t work, and I know a few things that do work, which I will talk about later.

It is very unfortunate that most anti-racist analyses available in the mainstream or even in more radical spheres are insufferably liberal, individualist and male-centred. Intersectionality is academic, post-modern and Western at its core, very narrowly focused on day-to-day racist situations faced by female university students, women in academia or journalism, and always, always inclusive of men, putting men and women at the same level and assuming men and women benefit in similar ways from whiteness or economic wealth.

It is also insufferably US-centric, being originated in the US or North-America it is primarily a liberal criticism of certain forms of US-based racism, yet this perspective is uncritically propagated and applied in other continents with disastrous effects. For instance it is sadly ironic that feminist groups from non-western regions ardently positioned against white colonialism are colonised by this western, academic pseudo anti-racist theory, where you hear them quoting Audre Lorde in one sentence, and in the next, defending trans and sex-work inclusion and cursing “white feminists”, all in the name of intersectional theory – having themselves learnt this at university and not questioning its philosophical origins: white men, North America, the emperors of the emperors.

I know that some academic women from Canada, Ottawa University I think it was, have claimed the maternity of intersectional theory in the 90s (forgive me if I’ve forgotten their names, though last time I checked it was written on dickipedia), however their theory is not devoid of social context and their influences are very easily traced to post-modernism and lefty liberalism, both of which were the dominant ideologies of that period which had taken over women’s studies and social science departments as a form of backlash against the more radical years of the 70s. A quick look at the curricula in “gender” studies of some major Canadian universities suffices to show that it has completely souled-out to male shite.

On the male lefty strand, intersectionality stems from a very old male habit in (western) civil rights movements of punishing women with slurs of “classism” and “racism” for stepping away from their male peers, for denouncing the sexism of the movement and deciding to focus solely on women. Needless to say that it was very effective in disrupting the second wave of feminists, and no doubt must have been based on some truth, such as snobbery from part of some women, but as far as calling out all white feminists for being actively racist, hm. As far as I know, all of the prominent white radicalfeminist figures of the second wave weren’t racist (forget the liberal faux-feminist ones or women such as Lily Allen and Madonna, who have never represented feminism more that Disneyland has represented true adventure – ok the comparison is flimsy but you get the idea). Ethnocentric, (from their white-western perspective) certainly, but this is different from being racist or classist, as in deliberately ignoring race or class issues or deriding or putting down multiple-oppressed women.

The male-lefty dynamic of targeting white or bourgeois women is very similar to current male animal-liberationists who paint the white, bourgeois woman as the ultimate enemy to be publicly pinned down as traitor to the cause for supposedly wearing animal fur (most middle class women totally wear animal fur!!) and use this as a pretext for the most vile forms of woman-hatred in their campaigns. Yet it is a complete reversal since those who are responsible for such industries and economically benefit from the abominable treatment of animals are men, just as those who design those horrible fur scarves in the first place and decorate women with them like dead dolls: women have no decision-power whatsoever in men’s genocide of animals.

Intersectionality being a branch of post-modernism, it is closely linked to queer theory and as such, both have proved to be deadly weapons of reinforcing male surveilling presence in women’s movements, in the name of anti-discrimination. Notably by persuading women that we could oppress men on the basis of their “trans”sex (cis-shit, etc.). So much has been said on tranny and queer bullshit that I have no insight to add on this matter. You can check Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, Gallus Mag, Davina Squirrell and many more writers for further information.

Most of the solutions suggested by intersectional proponents are liberal, that is focused on token inclusion of class/race-oppressed women in male grounds, and as means of social change, requiring of white feminists useless individualistic navel-gazing and self-flagelatory behaviours such “privilege-checking”, with little or no mention of the wider structures, as if “internalised stereotypes” were the primary enemy in racism / classism (remember: it’s men).

This logic of tokenism may go as far as complaining about the lack of adequate representation of black women in pornography, advertisement or male media. The implication being that women in general would benefit from sexist dehumanisation, torture and rape once the racist element has been retrieved, and it implies also that white women are class-privileged for being over-represented in sexist imagery. This twisted logic thus promotes the equal dehumanisation and sexual torture of all women in the name of anti-racism. Such ill-logical woman-hatred is the logical consequence of adopting men’s perspective on racism, that is anti-racism without the centralising feminist focus on men’s specific sexual and reproductive harms against women. It leads to complete dissociation from our condition as women and causes us to treat men’s sexual and reproductive violence against women as inexistent non-problems – which is what they are from men’s perspective. See how it works? Adopting a male perspective on anything is necessarily detrimental to all women.

Male media is indeed horribly racist on top of being sexist and it is undeniable that the degree of erasure and violence against women increases along race and class lines, but intersectional theory misses the point that both women of colour as well as white women’s presence are erased in men’s foreground world – that the foreground appearance of white-woman-centredness is an illusion, since misogyny erases and excludes all women.

Not to belittle the harms of racist biases, snide comments and subtle digs, humiliations, exclusion and insults which permeate the wider western racist culture which are absolutely undermining and corrosive to the soul – but by focusing only on this aspect, it’s much easier to lose sight of the primary racist mechanisms which operate on institutional levels: state and institution-enforced acts of violence and control by the men in chargea systematic violence which is completely beyond women’s reach. This can be state decisions that grant secondary status to immigrants and excludes them from certain rights, restricts their movements, opportunities and liberty, persecution of immigrants, second or third-generation migrants or native people by the state and state officials, systematic geographic and economic ghettoing, and on a wider level, continued imperialism, colonialism, military occupation and invasions of global South countries by Western countries, which continually regenerates masses of expropriated, enslaveable, pliable, exploitable, rapeable peoples.

Once we see racist oppression in the big picture, it’s very easy to see how futile privilege-checking of some white feminists is to prevent this. However what privilege-checking is extremely efficient for is stifling women in paralysing guilt, thereby blocking our lucid understanding of both racism and sexism, and for crumbling down collective after collective. It works to undermine our liberation.

Intersectionality treats racism/classism as distinct from patriarchy, as if men weren’t the string holders of it all.

Moreover, by focusing only on the cultural and stereotype aspect of racism, it is far easier to see white women as the primary enemy and vehicle of racism, and to forget how it is the racist patriarchal institutions, the men on the top, who put certain women down and against other women for patriarchal reasons, and how this increases all men’s power over women as a result. This is made clear when we look at prostitution and pornography: not only women don’t benefit from the raping of multiple-oppressed women but widespread pornography and prostitution affects all women, even if in different degrees.

After all, men are the ones using women as vessels for racial reproduction – either for containment or expansion reasons – who are obsessed with the genetic “purity” of their offspring.

 

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1 Response to “Intersectionality, continued: part III, reintroducing the start”



  1. 1 Sonia Johnson…Lifestyle Activism? | formulationsofoppression Trackback on March 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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