My Special Group of One: The Problem with Intersectionality

Years and years ago, when I started my first round of grad school, I got a tiny, simple tattoo that made the tattoo artist laugh because it was the easiest money he’d made in a long time. I’d wanted an important reminder, and did a ton of research to find the perfect symbol for that reminder. The reminder was that I had a tendency to overthink and overcomplicate things and I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out which steps to take. My dithering was stressful, and in graduate school, there is enough stress from external sources that you don’t need to add more of your own.

The symbol was historically and scientifically important, and to me, signified the idea that simple solutions tend to be the best way of going about things, even when problems are complex. I haven’t always heeded my reminder, but I have saved myself some grief because of it. And it has stayed helpful in many areas of life – it wasn’t just useful or applicable in my grad school world of scientific inquiry.

I approach feminism in this way, too. Although many of the problems women face in this world are complex, the best way to approach them is actually incredibly simple. And a non-intersectional, radical feminist approach is one that works the best. It starts with a basic, true, inclusive premise that all women need to be liberated from the sex-based oppression of all men.

All women, women as a class – the XX people – no matter where in the world they live, what language they speak, what colour their skin is, how much money they have, how attractive or intelligent or able they are, or what they are wearing

Are held against their will and nature, through violence and the threat of violence, under sex-based oppression

By all men, men as a class – the XY people – no matter where in the world they live, what language they speak, what colour their skin is, how much money they have, how attractive or intelligent or able they are, or what they are wearing.

But all of those details aren’t necessary. The basic premise includes all of that by definition. By all women, we mean all women. And by all men, we mean all men. Period.

One of the worst and most divisive things to happen to feminism, and which likely made men laugh, relax and order up another beer from the bar wench, was the introduction of intersectionality. You see, there is nothing like focusing on our differences to break down solidarity over our very important commonalities. Feminism is, at its root, about men’s oppression of women. With the introduction of intersectionality, women stopped focusing on male oppression and started pointing fingers at their fellow women as their major enemies. Very basically, women, in their fight to stop doing men’s dirty support work for free, ended up doing even more of men’s dirty support work for free.

And we saw horrible things happen. And it is getting worse and more violent towards individual groups of women as we speak.

  • White women became solely responsible for racism
  • Rich women (who are all apparently white) became solely responsible for homelessness, poverty, illness, capitalism, the poor education system
  • Able women became solely responsible for the prevalence of mental illness, the cost of medication, lack of health services, misdiagnosis
  • Educated women (who are all apparently white) became responsible for the Pink Ghetto, the rising cost of education, grammar snobbery, learning disabilities and dyslexia, massive and sudden male failure in school, and lack of job opportunities for the uneducated
  • Single women became solely responsible for the breakdown of the family and the ’emasculation’ of entire nations of men
  • Childless women became solely responsible for the race war (the race that produces the most children wins!!!), declining birth rates (like that’s a bad thing???), and posing threats to working women with children
  • Atheist women became solely responsible for natural disasters (magical religious thinkers have told us) and the breakdown of entire societies and social orders

In short, every single problem that has actually been caused and exacerbated and maintained by men suddenly found an easier blamable target cause: some specific group of women. Through intersectionality, women were able to ‘other’ other women and blame them for their problems. Attacking other women a) was safer since women generally aren’t violently retaliatory, and b) garnered huge support and ‘rewards’ from men. For example, black women who demand that black men become accountable for and actually stop raping them might find themselves in further danger at the very hands and dicks of black men. But by making up a story and blaming a powerless group of women, such as white women, for black male rapeyness, they garner support in all communities, including confused, over-guilt-burdened, activist, white women, themselves. White women, in fact, have nothing to do with black men raping anyone, but it has become a popular way of saving men from taking responsibility for anything they do. And besides, it makes great press. Men control the press. And it is very hard to stop the domino effect of delusional and persecutory thinking once it starts.

Another major problem with intersectionality is the competitive atmosphere, and the derailing and thought-stopping behaviour that it creates in discussions of reality. No longer can a group of women come together to discuss female oppression without things going off track as soon as someone says something unpopular. People lose focus of the fact that they all have a common experience and begin to form groups, ‘other’ each other, and focus on individual feelings and individual experiences. These individual experiences are held up to a measuring stick of oppression and it becomes a typical male pissing contest over who has been hurt the most, and even worse, who is allowed to speak given their level of bona fide hurt. Those who are perceived to be less hurt or less oppressed lose credibility and even status as a woman. A white woman’s rape becomes less important than an aboriginal woman’s rape. A middle class woman’s beating becomes a joke next to a poor woman’s beating. A mentally healthy (whatever that means) woman’s workplace harassment becomes infinitely less significant than that of a woman with autism. It is disgusting to watch unfold, and unfold it does. The nastiness, slurs, hatred, silencing tactics, and sometimes outright banning or banishing can spring forth in the blink of an eye. It’s so gross that I’ll wonder to myself, how can you determine the relative horribleness and validity of two women’s victimizations? How can you deny compassion to one woman simply because you don’t like her supposedly ‘privileged’ status? Oftentimes, the privilege we *think* a woman has isn’t quite what we want it to be, if it even exists at all. Not that we’ll ask her. Her truth might humble us and destroy our vendetta/agenda. Stereotyping hurts and perpetuates ignorance and violence. But men and their institutions (media, law, etc) work to keep sister-hate going. The play that men give to women’s ‘problems’ in the news has nothing to do with women oppressing women, even thought it might be presented or interpreted as such. Women who care about women don’t downplay other women’s realities, traditionally. Men do. Don’t forget that. All men oppress all women, directly and/or indirectly, and we need to bond over that fact alone. We need to believe each other, listen to each other, and support each other. Accusing and blaming women serves men, not yourself and not women as a class.

And yet another problem with intersectionality is not knowing when to stop dividing. At some point, we all find ourselves in groups of one according to our unique disadvantages. It is important for data collection and research purposes to know what women face on a detailed level. Complex issues should be studied and approached while armed with this knowledge. I’m not advocating for group blindness or erasing. I have my own pet groups that in my world, deserve more of my attention than others. Personally, I am quite concerned with the oppression of elderly women and of single, childless women, and I believe they are two of the most vulnerable groups in the world, regardless of culture. They are also two groups that get almost NO attention. But I won’t derail a feminist discussion or effort or activism in order to demand their immediate attention by all. If I want to call attention to oppression of elderly women or to that of single, childless women, I will either form my own group, or I will join a group focusing on these populations and their issues. All while also being part of general feminist groups/discussions. And I would ask the same of any other sub-group member. You’re a woman first, and you are also part of other groups that can be of equal importance TO YOU. To date, things have not worked like this. Established groups are infiltrated and shamed, derailed and forced to deplete already limited resources in order to be ‘inclusive’ to every single sub-group of women (and sometimes of non-women, i.e., MtTs). I believe these derails weaken feminism, which is supposed to work to benefit all women by focusing on the common oppression. It is unreasonable to demand that sub-group interests take precedence over general interests – and that applies to anything, not just feminism. General mandates apply to all members; group-oriented, specific mandates only apply to a few, and suddenly you find you have several mandates and a broken, distrusting, self-protective group of groups. No solidarity is possible when everyone is too special and self-involved to focus on a very clear, central mandate.

Divide and conquer. Maybe not the original intention of intersectionality, but it is certainly the outcome. Ask a male ‘feminist’ how much he loves shaming women with perceived ‘privilege’ instead of focusing on what he and other men gain from oppressing women. When we’ve got men enthusiastically on board with showering particular groups of women with hate, then you know that’s not feminism you’re doing.


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Posted on February 1, 2016, in Anti-Feminism, Feminism, Stereotyping, White Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on My Special Group of One: The Problem with Intersectionality.

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