Intersectionality? Not while feminists participate in pile-ons

From The Guardian UK:

Mainstream feminism cannot comprehend that racism and sexism are not experienced separately but simultaneously

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Despite mainstream western feminism’s claims to embrace them, it is becoming apparent that the radical origins of terms like “identity politics”, “women of colour”, and, in particular, “intersectionality” – which were concerned not only with race but with overturning all forms of exploitation including class systems – are being betrayed and stripped of their interrogative nature.

As outlined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality is not so much something that someone “identifies” as, but a useful term that easily illustrates certain truths; namely that when multiple forms of oppressions meet, they create new, compound oppressions that are experienced acutely by those who belong to certain marginalised groups.

Unmoored from structural analysis, intersectional feminism is fast becoming a shallow buzzword that elevates the individual, stifles dissent, and, most worrying, is being weaponised to silence women of colour.

Representation and diversity, for instance, can be important indicators of social progress. In feminist discourse however, they are increasingly served as substitutes for such progress. The giddiness surrounding Hillary Clinton as almost First Female President™ and the silliness over Wonder Woman as First Female Superhero™ both fostered an atmosphere of hostility to any women who had the audacity not to feel “represented” by either.

You weren’t “With Her”? No, it’s not because you’re an Arab woman who balks at Clinton’s fondness for bombing the Middle East; you just have internalised misogyny. Think Wonder Woman was average and kinda sexist? Too bad; she empowers ALL women. And don’t even consider bringing up Gal Gadot’s pro-IDF sentiments, that makes you a “racist.”

For all its talk of intersectionality, mainstream feminism still cannot comprehend that racism and sexism are not experienced separately but simultaneously.

As such, for those of us negotiating these two particular intersections, enjoyment of, say, The Handmaid’s Tale was tempered by the gushing feminist accolades hailing it a terrifying glimpse into a future that might happen. Never mind that Aboriginal women continue to have their children taken from them by the state, or the hundreds of years that black women’s bodies were mined to perpetuate slavery and colonialism.

Meanwhile, the First Female Doctor Who™ was greeted so rapturously, you’d think she’d won the US election. It also completely overshadowed the casting of Arab-Canadian actor Mena Moussad in the upcoming live action Aladdin. Yes, Moussad is a man. But after decades of depictions as terrorists, religious fanatics, and barbaric illiterate extras in their own lands, an Arab is again a leading man.

This significant event for many Arab women living in the west, who also suffer as a result of these stereotypes, was deftly swept aside as feminism celebrated the apparently unusual practice of granting a starring role to a white actress.

This is how whiteness reasserts itself, by sweeping the concerns of non-white women aside on the mistaken assumption that we too can separate our gender from our race.

Nowhere is it more apparent than in internet call-out culture. As we’ve written before, feminism cannot be involved in collective, meaningful change that benefits us all as long as it considers the internet pile-on bonafide political activism. Piling on individuals until they submit, may be the easiest way to express solidarity, but, in the long-term, it is actually one of the least effective.

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