On ‘Intersectionality’

Here are two sentences from Lakshmi Chaudhry: The problem isn’t that we are more sexist than racist as a society. It’s that race and gender are far too often pitted against each other, and one can be used to justify sins against the other. A sentence from me is that the point of understanding ‘intersectionality’, multiple oppression, and so on is not to enter into a sterile competition about who is the most oppressed.

When the invocation of ‘intersectionality’ in fact serves to pit categories like race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and class against each other, as opposed to show how they work together, or when it is used as a mechanism through which to assert power over the next person, it becomes a tool of the Right.

Axé.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “On ‘Intersectionality’

  1. When the invocation of ‘intersectionality’ in fact serves to pit categories like race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and class against each other, as opposed to show how they work together, or when it is used as a mere tool to assert power over the next person, it has become a tool of the Right.

    Exactly, and that is the point I balk. I feel oppressed more. The true color/sex of the face of my oppressor does not matter because the new race and sex becomes “the” face of the traditional oppressor. When tools used by the traditional oppressor become tools used by the currently oppressed, it simply changes (eventually or in process) the who of the oppressor, but not the system of oppression. Therefore, anyone, ANYONE who uses the same tools can indeed be part of a process that is “morphing into the oppressor.”

    Changing the appearnce of the players does nothing. The structure must change.

  2. N.B. Spotted Elephant’s comment, posted on Country Joe is actually about this post. See
    http://profacero.wordpress.com/2007/03/27/475/#comment-2931

  3. Just an aside. Can you believe the Nation had the nerve to ask for a donation? HAH!

  4. Yes, the Nation calls me on the phone about this. I subscribe, and I am too broke to subscribe to many magazines, and I give them a lot of free advertising, so they should be satisfied. When they phone me, I say I need my last $20 for gas to visit the death row prisoners I am dealing with, etc. And what I say is even _true_. But it makes them feel guilty. I should come up with a nicer, firm way to say no, but so far this has been the only technique that works.

    On the main issue – it is also simply uncool to use supposedly good causes like fighting racism, improving ‘academic’ standards, etc., as excuses for attacking people on the Internet.

  5. 03 29 07
    “A sentence from me is that the point of understanding ‘intersectionality’, multiple oppression, and so on is not to enter into a sterile competition about who is the most oppressed.”

    Yes preach on! I get so mad when people talk about how their ancestors were Irish and ‘Irish need not apply.’ The reason why I get mad is not that bad things didn’t happen to the Irish in America and in Ireland, but that yet and still they were the beneficiaries of White privilage once they came to America. Yet and still these types of people go on long litergies about how oppressed their ancestors were by the British and how Black people weren’t slaves for as long as blah blah blah blah blah…

    Those types of conversations sadden me because such people are entering into a competition with me about who got hurt the most and they are claiming victory and brandishing it like a weapon to prevent legitimate discussions of racism from taking place.

    You are right in that those with impure desires use past oppression as a tool of divisiveness.

  6. Exactly, profacero! Intersectionality actually was a response, at least in part, to the way anti-racists could be sexist and anti-sexists could be racist. But it gets invoked in ways which are contra to those intentions.

    Heart

  7. Yes, great post. To me, the concept of intersectionality is closely tied to the value of personal narratives: it’s important to hear how different social markings (race, class, gender, etc.) appear and combine in an individual’s story. Such stories are not in competition with other kinds of solidarity (solidarity against sexism, for example) — rather, they serve to demonstrate the complex grounding of oppression in everyday life, and to prevent the issue of oppression from being conveniently abstracted.

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