What the Hell is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality

What does it mean and does hearing this word make you go berserk?

by O Society August 15, 2019

In all seriousness, I believe intersectionality refers to the additive effects of being in multiple identity politics groups. For example, women are discriminated against, maybe even hated by misogynists. Black people are discriminated against, maybe even hated by racists. Homosexual people are discriminated against, maybe even hated by gay bashers, autistic people are discriminated by “neurotypical” folks, and so on.

So a black person expects a certain “social stigma” or “status retardation” coming from blackness. And a woman expects a certain amount from her biological sex.

However, what a black woman actually experiences (not sure if this only is meant to apply to America or which cultures) in terms of discrimination is greater than either racism or misogyny alone explains.

This results in an additive or synergistic phenomenon.

In other words being female is one strike, being black is two strikes, being both at the same time is three strikes, you’re out!

This is my crude understanding as someone who admittedly did not attend Sarah Lawrence. Yet…

Huey-p-Newton.jpg

Here’s an example randomly found in today’s news feed. A black gay female punk.

“We started that diversity shit, we just called it multiculturalism.”

~ Skin from Skunk Anansie

skin.jpg

The interesting part is where she says she believes “success” is being able to do “this” – meaning to make music – all her life. You know, without having to have a day job.

So at the intersection of race, homosexuality, nationality, disability, and male/female issues, we get broke. As in poverty. Being poor. Can’t do what you want to do. Have to do things you don’t want to do to survive. The inverse of freedom and liberty.

There’s an additive thing here, where all these states of being labeled “the Other” in the Conservative Moral Hierarchy sum up to an insurmountable level of discrimination for someone upon whom the baggage is piled. Which means, at the top of the pyramid sits the beneficiary of being “not the Other” in all these categories. He looks like this:

We could call this ideal person the king of the neoliberal food chain or the Apex Predator or American Psycho or Voted Most Likely To Succeed. As in he’s a heterosexual, white, Christian, American able-bodied/minded male. This makes the predator/ prey nature of the economic/ power/ control/ violence cycle in our “common sense” paradigm plain for all to see.

power-and-control-wheel

This person called “Skin”  – who I never heard of until just now – must have overcome a level of adversity I can’t relate to, can’t even begin to imagine, because I have not experienced it personally. It’s fantastic!

What I mean is the song/ music itself isn’t my cup of tea, nor am I a gay female black punk rock artist. However, I do have empathy and some understanding of or appreciation for what she’s done.

How Empathy Can Change the World

This is the meaning of intersectionality, best I can understand; however, it sounds like ideology-identity-speak and I don’t speak that language really. It’s a thing. You have to go to lawschool to speak legalese. You gotta get some education at a liberal arts school in genderqueerfeministracialculture theory to speak about this stuff in a politically correct manner. This is how they sell it. Its intrinsic linguistic complexity makes it an exclusive club.

Trump Voter Feels Betrayed After Reading 800 Pages Of Queer Feminist Theory

In a rather crude binary way, we could say “Intersectionality” is what you call this phenomenon when you understand it or like it, and “Cultural Marxism” is what you call this same phenomenon when you don’t understand it or don’t like it or simply don’t want to admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

everything-i-dont-like-is-cultural-marxism-the-polite-racists-15867678.png

What the Hell is Cultural Marxism?

And while we’re ‘splaining things at a highschool level, let’s think back to highschool. They had this thing called “Voted Most Likely to Succeed” right? Well, the flip side of this no one wants to think about is who is Voted Least Likely to Succeed? Yes?

If you asked me in highschool, I would say “Celie” from the Color Purple. She’s least likely to succeed because she’s behind the 8-ball in all of these ways. And yet, somehow the mustard seed finds purchase to grow amongst the rocks.

This is the “common sense” version of intersectionality anyone can understand: Celie in the Color Purple. Probably some intellectual/ emotional/ educational issues results from her status in society as a black, African, lesbian, and so on… maybe even resorts to violence to change her status. What else can she do?

Of course, the problem with all of this is what Skin refers to with what-sher-face… Beyonce. Which is to say, sometimes people mistake authenticity for an establishment tool. Punk is authentic. You may or may not like the music (I like Black Flag/ Henry Rollins and the Ramones as much as the next guy, but the Sex Pistols I just don’t “get”). However, it is real.

That said, we know the commercially-successful identity fetish is usually just another neoliberal simulation of authenticity for cash and prizes, as in Beyonce or Kamala or whomever the tool is we are being sold today in our “common sense” market, where conformity is sold as “radical.”

In other words, it’s fake “woke” to assume just because someone is black or female or gay, or has been abused, this person is virtuous. It is also fake “woke” to argue about whether or not Ghostbusters should be women or whether or not the Super Bowl halftime show has any meaning beyond shallow entertainment, just as the SB commercials have no meaning beyond selling stuff us don’t need.

These people aren’t woke; these people just want your money…

3 thoughts on “What the Hell is Intersectionality?

  1. Intersectionality can never be the basis of a leftist politics because it replaces the struggle for universal principals with a hierarchy of virtue rooted in race and gender. If you are an autistic, lesbian, black woman you are more virtuous than a ”neurotypical”, heterosexual, white man because you are victimized on multiple levels. This makes you inherently better qualified to lead or guide a movement struggling against oppression.

    But intersectionality goes even further. It posits that, while a white working class person and a black working class person, for example, are both exploited by the ruling class, because the black worker is also discriminated against because he or she is black and receives less pay and fewer benefits on average than the white worker, this means the white worker benefits directly from the oppression of the black worker and also bears personal responsibility for the black worker’s added exploitation. But that’s not all! Intersectionality also says that a person who isn’t a black, working class, lesbian woman can never truly empathize with, or relate to, her because his or her life experience will be fundamentally different from hers. Therefore, there is a yawning gulf between people with different “identities” that can never be bridged.

    It is really really difficult (i.e. impossible) to craft a politics with mass appeal around a political philosophy that pits various “identity groups” against each other in a zero sum game, while creating, and emphasizing, insurmountable divisions between them and ranking them according to a biologically determined hierarchy of virtue.

    There is an excellent piece at Open Democracy by Tony McKenna that delves into this in some detail. It’s a bit heavy on the Marxism but that doesn’t alter its validity or accessibility. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/broken-mirror-intersectionality-and-loss-universal/

    But it’s not enough to simply mock identity politics/intersectionality because clearly the issues it grapples with are real and need to be addressed. It is also the case that most of its influential proponents are women and it seems to resonate with women more than with men. Perhaps some of the prominent tensions in our society at the moment are a result of women’s increasing role in society clashing with a more male-centric way of doing things. Were it not for the multiple existential crises ripping our society apart, and the media gleefully pouring accelerant on every smoldering point of contention, these frictions might well resolve themselves as people interact and work to come to a consensus.

    But these aren’t “normal” times and in the current clusterfuck of a milieu, intersectionality’s flaws fuel animosity and resentment that the racist right very successfully leverages to increase its appeal and to pound the left in the court of public opinion.

    In short, the left needs to come up with a philosophy that unites people from disparate backgrounds around a universal cause or struggle. Easier said than done, I know…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric ~

    We are on the same page. On one hand, I admire someone like Greta Thunberg who has Asperger, which she says keeps her from being part of the mainstream “group,” allows her to remain unbiased by the social pressures most people feel, yet somehow gets people to follow her nonetheless with the Climate Crisis situation.

    On the other hand, identity politics seems to me to be a way of changing the subject. Deflection. The old…

    hey —> look over there! trick

    What I mean is go to Washington DC. We did. We stayed in a hotel right across the street from the Capitol building where the Senators and Congressmen meet. Do you know what we saw and heard?

    Homeless people. Everywhere. Sirens. Cops. Ambulances. Couldn’t sleep. The damned politicians come to work every day with this horde of homeless people surrounding their building like those zombies on the Walking Dead leaning on the fence.

    And amongst these homeless people are veterans, Asians, schitzophrenics, women, children, gays, if there’s an identity group, their represented somewhere in this horde, know what I mean?

    Nobody even talks about it, much less fixes it.

    But hey, look —> over there. WE GOT A BLACK PRESIDENT!!! WOOHOO!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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