Intersectionality is a concept that’s having an incredibly powerful effect on the world but yet is understood by only a relatively small number of people. And the unfortunate reality is that many of the people that do understand this concept are often firm believers in what I refer to as the ‘religion of intersectionality’, and aren’t seeing or understanding the concept, its implications and inevitable outcome in an objective way. So, this begs the questions, what is intersectionality and what are its implications?
Intersectionality is fairly easily defined, it can be surmised as a concept that states that people are marginalized/disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class and a myriad of others.
Intersectional theory breaks people down into smaller and smaller groups of the oppressed forming what could be considered a hierarchy of victimhood with the most oppressed, in the eyes of a follower of the religion of intersectionality, at the top and the least oppressed at the bottom.
Unlike feminist theory which argues that gender is the most influential factor in determining a woman’s fate, intersectional theory argues that individual experiences and identity markers shift the narrative and break down the idea that all women fall into a homogenous category.
In 1989, Kimberle Crenshaw, an American professor at the UCLA School of Law, wrote the paper ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’. This paper marked the first time ‘intersectionality’ was used within the context of feminism and discussed how her being black and a woman couldn’t be looked at independently as the two identities interacted with each other.
The paper delves deeper into the concept and breaks it down into three areas that effect what she calls the visibility of women of colour: structural intersectionality, political intersectionality, and representational intersectionality.
Structural intersectionality refers to how women of colour (the term women of colour refers to any non-white female) experience rape and domestic violence in a different manner to white women.
Political intersectionality refers to how certain laws and practices have negatively affected the visibility of women of colour.
And representationally intersectionality which refers to the way the media, movies, music and pop culture, blur, distort and shift the lived experiences of women of colour.
An example of this would be the belief held by some intersectional feminists that Asian women are portrayed as submissive or exotic in essentially all movies which further marginalises them. Each of these three categories possess ideas and topics that could be broken down further and discussed at a greater length, these are mere summations.
If you’ve ever heard the term “straight, white, male”, you’ve heard a term derived from a category within intersectional theory. On the hierarchy of victimhood, straight white men are right at the bottom, often perceived to be the perpetrators and protectors of the institutions that oppress those at the top of the hierarchy.
Interestingly, there isn’t a group that sits firmly at the top, there are multiple groups that could potentially claim that prestigious position. But, after conducting a significant amount of research it is clear that the group that would logically occupy the esteemed position of the most oppressed would be made up of gay, disabled, non-English speaking, older, poor, trans, women of colour (as ridiculous as that sounds).
Intersectionality is a flawed concept. The basic premise often generalises an entire group of people and doesn’t account for individuality. For example, according to intersectional theory if you’re a successful black immigrant, you’re still oppressed, it doesn’t matter that you’ve worked hard, put in the hours and made smart decisions you still fall into that category, which is incredibly patronising.
And the opposite is also true, if you’re a poor, unemployed white Australian you’re still privileged over other Australians who possess far more than you. This sort of thinking can lead to a mentality of victimhood and hate on a community and even nationwide scale that doesn’t sort out a single problem, it simply exacerbates them and further divides an often already divided country.
Intersectionality, when following a logical timeline, should lead to what many here in the West hold up as a fundamental tenet of our civilization, Individualism. There is no smaller category than that. Individualism basically argues that everyone should be seen as an individual, with race, religion, gender and all other identity markers being irrelevant.
Unfortunately, however that simply isn’t the case. Intersectional feminists don’t adhere to such a liberal idea, they appear to be far more interested in generalizing entire groups of people and promoting a mentality of victim-hood.
This concept has gone from a relatively fringe radical feminist idea to something taught in University’s throughout the world, especially here in the West. It’s even made its way into many governments and unfortunately Australia hasn’t proved immune, with intersectional theory manifesting itself, unsurprisingly, in Victoria in the form of the ‘Diversity and Intersectionality Framework’, which can be found here. Which states that intersectionality and diversity will be applied to a framework attempting to reform Victoria’s Social Services.
Whether or not the reforms will amount to much or even make any significant changes is yet to be seen, but considering the flaws and discriminatory nature of the diversity brigade and intersectional theory it is very doubtful.