Feminism and intersectionality: Not just for academics
This is not going to be a link-fest. I don’t have the energy for it, today. I would urge y’all to visit @amaditalks’ feed for some information and the appropriate sources to suss all this out.
Intersectionality isn’t hard. It’s life. There is privilege, there are axes of oppression. My experience is not your experience, your voice is not mine to co-opt but to include. We need to hear each other, and not have a dominant image of feminism that is far from being the dominant experience.
So, here’s a really quick primer: What are intersections? In any fight for equality, for human rights, one may be more than one thing. I am not just a woman, I am a woman who experiences class issues, but I’m also a white, cisgendered woman. I have the privilege of passing in terms of class and sexuality. I don’t identify as heterosexual even if that is my primary sexual and romantic expression. Life is messy, identity is messy. The messiness means something.
The experience of a white, middle to upper-class, heterosexual, cisgendered woman will be different than the experience of a white, middle to upper-class lesbian.
The experience of a WoC, with class privilege will be different from a WoC living in poverty.
The experience of a trans*woman will be different regardless of class.
The experience of a woman with a disability will be different from that of a woman without a disability.
To ignore any of the factors enmeshed in how one experiences the world, is to deny the impact they have. It says that all experiences are equal, and that is a false paradigm that does not need to be perpetuated.
if the life experience you have had is misogyny+racism+classism+ableism, it doesn’t make your experience any more or less valid than mine, but it makes it more complicated and often far more oppressive. The white, cisgendered, heteronormative, class-privileged experience is still going to be easier than any other experience of being a woman. When John Scalzi stripped down the default easiest setting of life, he gave us an incomplete thought. Straight, white female is the easiest setting of being a woman, and pretending otherwise is about as revolting as mansplaining and the casual misogyny society throws at us daily.
Reproductive rights are a really easy example of how intersectionality is ignored for expedience. Bans on birth control and abortion affect anyone with a uterus, not just women. Talking about trans*men’s rights to reproductive care is a surefire way to lose most feminists, though. Marriage equality is a torch to be carried, but the rights of trans*persons are a dirty little secret, even if what we’re talking about is the right not to be murdered. It’s obviously an intentional war on women, to try to control the sexuality and reproductive systems of uteri, but it is also a war on the gender transgressive, on rape survivors of any gender, on poor uteri…
We ignore this in order to stay on message. Given how many, “Feminists,” bitch and moan about, “It’s time for young women to fight for themselves, I’m not of childbearing age any longer, it’s not my problem,” blather I’ve heard on a regular basis, and given the fact that I’ve had a conversation where someone said, “I’m more interested in human rights than women’s rights,” I get the urge to keep the message focused when fighting a piece of legislation. I don’t get it when we’re talking about what feminism is. I don’t get it when we’re talking about what the issues feminism is trying to address are. I don’t get the desire to erase huge segments of the female demographic in order to… what? Are we really only interested in our own pocketbooks and vaginas? That’s not feminism. That’s narcissism. It’s Randian-style, “I’ve got mine, fuck you,” attitude that the patriarchy is made up of.
Intersections are simple, they are the pieces of what our experience is as a total human being. It’s not hard to understand them. It’s not hard to think of them as part of the feminist struggle. It’s not hard to learn about them. All it takes is will and the internet.
We all have that, right? Well, most of us do.
So, the choice to ignore intersectionality is laziness, bias, or ego. Newsflash: White women are not the center of the universe, and we need to stop acting like we are. Feminism is about demanding equality for women, full stop.