Image by Miriam Dobson.
Intersectionality 101 Readings
For a solid intro to what intersectionality is and why it matters, read on.
My Feminism Will be Intersectional or It Will be BULLSHIT
This viral bog post really exploded the idea of intersectionality across the feminist blogosphere. Not sure what it’s spread was beyond those realms, but a good intro to why so many people caught under various oppression are so angry.
The Point of Intersection
A fairly thick read, but a good analysis of intersectionality, it’s importance and impact.
Intersectionality: Challenging Though Essential to Liberation
A white, Jewish, gay man explores how he grew up with intersecting oppressions and privilege, and why only through intersectionality will oppressions and atrocities be defeated.
Insurrections at the intersection
I include this for the brief history of intersectionality, though the criticisms and anarchist view of the movement is also well worth reading.
I am a white, cis gendered, polyamorous, Jewish, kinky, mentally ill woman. Take a look at that list and try to total up all the different privileges and oppressions I get to deal with. First off, I’m white. The privilege I get from that in America can’t be overstated. cis gendered – that means that I agree with the gender assigned to me at birth, I don’t need to fight to have other people accept and recognize my gender identity. I probably get more privilege from that then I get from being white. Polyamorous. When I was in a committed relationship with two men, I had to pick which one I wanted to marry. When I went to court on a custody case, my children were taken from because of relationships I had been in the past, in spite of the fact that the children’s therapist saw my relationship orientation as no danger to them. Jewish. In America today, that puts me up for fairly mild oppression, though if the Christian right keeps trying to legislate their religion onto me, that may change. If I lived in Israel like my parents, I’d get a fair amount of privilege out of it. Kinky. ’nuff said. Mentally ill. Having real problems dismissed as ‘all in my mind,’ people insisting I should just ‘get over it’ or ‘try harder’. The pity, the rejection, being asked to leave a religious event I went to for solace because I was bringing people down. Being called a ‘Debbie downer’ and told people don’t want to have anything to do with me because I’m such a drag and damn it I just need to get laid – that’ll perk me up! Woman. No, women’s lib didn’t magically solve the gender gap. Why yes, rape culture is a real thing and does affect me EVERY DAMN DAY. No, my body does not exist for your pleasure, thanks for asking though.
Wow, that’s a long paragraph. I am a walking intersection of privilege and oppression – and guess what? So are you. So is every damn one of us. And none of those oppressions, none of those privileges is more important than any other. Some may be more urgent than any other (such as the way cis gendered privilege has led to the death of hundreds of trans women, which I feel is a matter of slightly more urgent need of being addressed than the gender wage gap*). But they are all important. And so did the ones I didn’t list (I’m bisexual, or at least that’s the closest label I have that will be familiar to most people, it’s just not a part of my identity I really think about).
This is intersectionality, the way on both cultural and individual levels, oppression and privilege of different groups interact and connect to great the messed up world we live in. I used myself as an example of the individual level, but it goes beyond that. Just because I am white, i don’t get a pass at fighting racism because it ‘doesn’t affect me.’ Everything interconnects, everything intersects. To sanction oppression of one group is to sanction oppression of us all.
To paraphrase an old quote,
If I condone oppression of anyone, I have no right to complain when that oppression is turned on me!
*Did you know that there is a race wage gap? And it’s lots bigger than the gender wage gap? Yeah, it is.