It’s your lucky day. I’ve just been reading the European Journal of Women’s Studies (2006; 13) and I’ve whipped up a tl;dr version for those of you without the time/journal access/interest to read it for yourselves. Frankly, that really ought to cover all of you.
‘Intersectionality’ seems perfectly fine, and actually quite handy, as a broad, catch-all term, provided everybody involved with the discussion in which it is invoked is actually a sociologist. Even then, Judith Butler would prefer that Kimberlé Crenshaw just stop talking, while Nira Yuval-Davis screams ‘Why don’t you BOTH shut up?’ after which, I think, Dr Marvin Monroe enters and gives everybody electric shocks.
Seems when intersectionality is adopted by the masses, though, there’s a tendency for things to devolve into an oppression-pissing contest, whereby the words of the most underprivileged necessarily become the most privileged by those desperate to publicly demonstrate the depth their compassion for those less privileged. Which is fine—about time they had a win!—unless the group’s multi-race queer transgender land mine survivor also happens to be a complete fucking nitwit with terrible ideas, and nobody is willing to acknowledge it for fear of being called a racist, ableist homophobe who needs to check their cis-privilege.
Which they absolutely would be.
Happens every time.
Because people who make a point of telling the world how intersectional their views are (typically by means of a hashtag in their Twitter bio*) tend not to be about good ideas or workable solutions; more often they’re about everybody knowing how racist/sexist/ableist they DEFINITELY AND CONSPICUOUSLY AREN’T, and pointing their finger at (or ‘calling out’, the more publicly the better) those whom they have determined ARE.
They also tend to constitute the majority in any discussion, resulting in their unique ability to both gang up on those with a dissenting opinion, while also claiming to be the victims of bullying because, after all, they are the Allies of the Oppressed, doncha know.
Intersectionality is identity politics rebranded, to make dullards sound smarter while simultaneously giving them a handy ranking system, so they can tell to whom they must defer.
<sarcasmfont>Because, obviously, ALL knowledge must come from lived experience. It’s like that history teacher I had who had the nerve to try to tell me about the Napoleonic Wars, only for me to find out later HE HADN’T EVEN BEEN BORN THEN.</sarcasmfont>
Privilege doesn’t have a monopoly on stupidity, and a lot of those bandying ‘intersectionality’ about could lay a pretty convincing claim to a sizeable chunk of it.
*The contents of these parentheses do not necessarily appear in the Journal
Oh, and then read this very good thing on trigger warnings.
(Disclaimer: I am a white, heterosexual male, so be sure to mention that you’re not and thank me for whitemansplaining in any criticism you might proffer, a courtesy that allows other readers to know how right-on you are and what a typically butthurt MRA-who-clearly-views-your-liberation-as-a-threat-type I am.)