So here’s my final post for IBARW, which resulted from me storming around this morning thinking about all the things which piss me off. I’m sure you’re beside yourself with excitement.
I’ve spoken with a bunch of people lately about intersectionality, and I realize that not everyone is familiar with the concept. So just in case you haven’t been introduced, here’s a redacted Wikipedia quote about one part of what intersectionality is:
Intersectionality holds that the classical models of oppression within a society, such as those based on race/ethnicity; gender, religion, sexuality, class, disability and other markers of difference do not act independent of one another. Instead, these forms of oppression [interrelate].
When the intersectionality penny dropped for me (which pretty much consisted of me saying “Hey, Jane, what the hell is intersectionality?” and her in-depth answer), it opened up a whole new world. Because I care about all this stuff—racism, sexism, classism, anti-semitism, homophobia, body politics, ableism, and so on—but this was the first time I really started to pay attention to the way they fit together, and the first time that I ever entertained the idea that in resisting one, it was vital for me to also resist the others.
And here’s the thing, about activism, about resistance: I had largely been bred to the kind of activism that works just fine for white folks, and it never even occurred to me to question that. I didn’t find out, for example, that the roots of feminism in the US are essentially racist roots until somebody clued me in and I did some digging. The history of women of color in the American feminist movement (said history including up to, oh, today) can make steam shoot out my ears. I won’t go into too much detail, but one illustrative example is that women of color have been continually told by white feminists that there’s no room to address issues of racism (or issues of racist feminists) because sexism has to be dealt with first.
Now, does learning crap like this make me not a feminist anymore? No. It makes me a really angry feminist—even more so than usual. But that’s just one example. I have lots of others, many many examples of the ways in which people of color have been additionally oppressed, dismissed, disenfranchised, discounted or just plain invisibled within the work being done in the areas of feminism, queer activism, class activism etc., but I’m trying not to belabor the point… the point! Right! Once upon a time I had one! Really.
This is basically it: learning about intersectionality changed the way I do activism. For one thing, it made it a whole lot harder, fraught with complexities (granted, this ‘fraught with complexities’ statement is from someone who considers it a grass-roots feminist action to punch out a drunken asshole guy when he’s sexually harassing random women), and basically requiring some real thought, not just the instinct of my lower belly (Cimmerians smash!).
But the part of this that is about faith, well, I’ve got that down. I wholeheartedly believe that a victory on behalf of oppressed white folks which is only fit or structured to or welcoming to or represented by those particular white folks (whether those folks be women or queer or poor or disabled or pinko commie bastards or whatever,) is no real victory at all.
And I want my activism to matter—I want to make a contribution to the kind of victory that we can all get excited about.
NB: This post interacts with only an eensy little bit of intersectionality, which is actually huge and far-reaching and really, really amazing and much, much bigger than the tiny bit of it I’ve talked about here. Also, intersectional theory is… well, it’s just fucking awesome. If I were writing for Schoolhouse Rock, that would be my song topic of choice.
And finally, here's a link to IBARW. Now I shall go back into listening mode...