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Intersectional feminism

(184 Posts)
Fauchelevent Sat 11-Mar-17 19:21:44

This is my first FWR thread but many of you will know me from the transactivism threads and posts about race and here and there.

On the Rachel Dolezal thread, quite an interesting discussion began about race, feminism and intersectional feminism with Quencher especially raising some very interesting and informed points. But this isn't a TAAT.

The question is intersectionality, intersectional feminism - the movement as it was intended and the movement as it stands.

I'm black, and I feel that discussions with some white women feminists often ignore race or I feel like when race is discussed, there are a lot of issues. Sometimes discussions go down the line of black women setting feminism back by being too hypersexual, muslim/orthodox women seen as backwards and so on. I see on MN a lot of people comparing gender issues to race and saying that if it were race, it would get dealt with but women are on the bottom of the heap. As a black woman i certainly feel shat on for my race as much as my gender. So intersectional feminism seems like the natural destination for women who want and need feminism but feel like mainstream feminism excludes them. Equally, intersectional feminism makes a point to make spaces accessible for disabled people, tackle homophobia and so on.

Yet intersectional feminism has also become a toxic space. It has become a space of stifled debate, regular misogyny and very orwellian. Women who disagree with the party line are blacklisted and sometimes sent death threats. Women who do not toe the party line are also guaranteed to lose any friends in this circle. For example, with student activism becoming increasingly intersectional, it also means there's less room for debate and very little dissent because anyone who disagrees will be ex communicated. So lots of people in their early twenties and younger will have this way of thinking.

I also hear from a lot of feminists who are white that they feel they cannot get involved in intersectional feminist debates because they're shut down as being "White Feminists" even by other (lower case) white feminists.

How do we balance the need for feminism that is aware of racial matters, sexuality, class and so on, because poor women, gay women, and women of colour should not feel shut out of feminism. We have to also understand that women tend to navigate their own cultures and communities differently, we all have different histories and so our feminism may look different and we may need to look outside our experience (making sure disabled feminists can access events and so on)

What we have at the moment is a post modern choice feminism where everyone is included and nothing - including the words woman, female and feminism - has meaning. It means tackling male violence and female oppression takes a back burner and in its place comes discussions of liberating oneself with make up and selfies, whatever you find on everyday feminism, and silencing and violence towards anyone who doesn't agree with absolutely everything in the ideology. Lots of young female feminists are also identifying as non-binary, possibly because they don't have the "feeling like a woman" experience that MTT speak of so assume they must not be women. Occasionally "cis scum" and "white feminists" will be told to shut the fuck up. So its currently full of a lot of issues - but a lot of aspects are it are necessary.

I'm not sure what I hope to get out of this thread really, other than a few thoughts from others. I'm happy to answer any questions - I'm black and early 20s so i have a lot of direct experience with extremely cult like intersectional feminism. Unfortunately I am spartacus though so I get very silenced. Posting on MN is a massive relief. This international womens day was like international virtue signalling day with everyone declaring that its international womens day for everyone who identifies as a woman, non binaries, and all non-cis men and anyone who disagrees should fuck off - so a bit tiresome!

Anyway - no real questions, just hoping for some thoughts and a discussion on intersectional feminism and its issues on the back of the RD thread.

Datun Sat 11-Mar-17 19:56:41

I'm not well read enough about feminism, let alone intersectional feminism. But i've noticed several times on these threads that it is clouding a lot of issues.

The Critical Sisters event in Cheltenham today talked about it though. prawn touches on what was said at the end of this thread.

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/2874499-Critical-sisters-event-this-Saturday-anyone-else-going

Fauchelevent Sat 11-Mar-17 20:50:13

I agree that it does cloud a lot of issues. FGM, as touched on on the linked thread for example is a tough one to bring up as it seems to, firstly, only be allowed to be discussed by women from cultures which practice FGM (lest we speak over them/cultural imperialism - even though we're all equally outraged and together we could get some shit done) and also the fact it happens to females seems to piss off the transactivists who don't want vaginas equated with womanhood

VestalVirgin Sat 11-Mar-17 21:26:51

I'm allergic to the word "intersectional" by now.

It seems mostly a silencing tactic. I am of the opinion that some things are universal, and that I am not "whorephobic" because I am of the opinion that women's bodies shouldn't be for sale, or an arrogant "white feminist" because I assume that no girl ever really wants to have her genitals cut off.

I have some capacity for empathy, and I want to get to use it. "But it's their culture" sounds so suspiciously like "Well, they're subhuman, they don't feel pain as we do".

I'm always willing to listen if someone wishes to tell me that, say, girls who haven't had their genitals mutilated can't find husbands and why this matters.
But I fucking hate people who try to tell me that I'm wrong to assume that others feel pain the same as I do.

joystir59 Sat 11-Mar-17 22:25:24

I am not a big respecter of culture when culture= abuse. So for example I see FGM as a feminist issue- for all feminists, regardless of whether we belong to a culture that practises FGM. I think its racist to dismiss abuse such as FGM as 'just their culture'.
I'm for women's liberation; a TERF who has lost patience with liberal feminism that refuses to acknowledge the damaging and dangerous misogyny of transactivism. I think much can be done if we stick to what is important- freeing ALL women from the oppression of the patriarchy. And leaving other people's issues alone.

QuentinSummers Sun 12-Mar-17 00:20:23

You know what I think fauch wink
Bit pissed now so following to post some thing when I'm sober in the morning.

DJBaggySmalls Sun 12-Mar-17 00:20:48

Fauchelevent my views match those of joystir59. I'm white, working class, left wing and disabled. I am very concerned about all inclusive feminism, it seems very right wing in its methods. And there seem to be an amazing number of white peni in there.
As far as I'm concerned a group with an agenda has hijacked intersectional feminism for its own ends. I dont know how to reclaim it; I think we have to look at moving on and forming a new group.

PerspicaciaTick Sun 12-Mar-17 00:40:42

Intentionally or not, intersectionalism seems to have become a means of dividing, distracting and silencing women. It is concept that is being manipulated so that women argue amongst themselves, preventing any useful progress towards equality for all groups of women.

YetAnotherSpartacus Sun 12-Mar-17 00:42:51

No insights yet, but that was a brilliant post Fauch and I hope that it does not get lost amongst all the trans posts. I've been thinking along similar-ish lines. What has been bothering me is that intersectionality seems to be limited to feminism - I've seen few cases where black men / anti-racism activists have been warned to think about women / sexism and where men of the left have been warned to think about multiple other oppressions (just as examples). And rich, white, able-bodied men are rarely called on their privilege at all.

VestalVirgin Sun 12-Mar-17 00:49:04

What has been bothering me is that intersectionality seems to be limited to feminism - I've seen few cases where black men / anti-racism activists have been warned to think about women / sexism and where men of the left have been warned to think about multiple other oppressions (just as examples).

Now that you mention it, it seems obvious.

While I do not have much insight into the anti-racism movement, I do know that communist men tend to be just as sexist as any other, and feminists have long complained about being told that sexism will just vanish magically when capitalism is abolished. (Which, looking at Russia ... not exactly happened.)

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 12-Mar-17 01:01:30

If feminism cannot get it's head around intersectionalism, then I don't think it can be for all women. Because women are intersectional and failure to acknowledge that is wrong.

theothercatpurred Sun 12-Mar-17 01:12:10

Did anyone follow the Guilty Feminist Facebook debacle? If it's a typical example of anew intersectional group I can't see how the movement can have any kind of positive future?

The Facebook group started off to support the podcast, byt grew into a large group of intersectional feminists. The makers of the podcast tried to moderate it, I think at first they must have been pleased to be supporting discussion between so many feminists. But it became a hateful place, full of people calling each other out, basically bullying people who didn't toe the party line. Also loads of TRAs.

The makers of the podcast recruited extra mods, changed the group's name to "Intersectional feninism" then suddenly a week later pulled the plug completely, turned off all commenting and made it just a page for the podcast.

I can't say I blame them. They obviously tried to support the intersectional group but it just became toxic.( I suspect that there's more to the story behind the scenes..this is my perspective as a bystander! )

How can intersectionalality get anywhere if the culture if the movement surpresses debate?

theothercatpurred Sun 12-Mar-17 01:17:36

DioneTheDiabolist I don't think it's the idea of intersectionality that's the problem. It's the culture of the movemennt: stifling debate, calling people out, "centering" trans women (i.e. telling women to STFU about their issues), telling women we can't wear "pussy" hats in direct protest to Trump advising someone to "grab her by the pussy".

It's so fucking ridiculous it's like we're living in a political satire.

APlaceInTheWinter Sun 12-Mar-17 01:30:19

I think the motivation behind intersectionality is good but in practice it is used to silence women. On social media, I often see TRAs aligning with 'intersectional' feminists to shut down women. Somehow intersectionality has been skewed to create a hierarchy that seems to believe white transwomen are amongst the most oppressed.
I'm also not entirely convinced (although am happy to be persuaded otherwise) that feminism was leaving all these 'sections' behind. Personally I can tick 2 other minority boxes (any DD could tick 3). My feminism didn't ignore those intersectional oppressions. It was informed by them.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 12-Mar-17 02:00:12

Theothercat, you're right. At a time when feminism is centering trans activists and bemoaning being told they can't wear pussy hats, instead of dealing with real intersectional feminist issues, then it has become ridiculous and satirical.

ethelb Sun 12-Mar-17 07:57:44

There are two points that bother me with 'intersectional feminism' in practice, but not theory.

1. While I agree that people from the cultures where FGM exists need to be heard, I wonder how many of these women are are actually from the cultures affected by FGM, or are just black, middle class metropolitan women who are conflating race and culture.
2. What exactly is meant by white middle class feminism. I have had that flung at me when discussing:
Maternity pay (specifically how unions don't fight for it)
Gender pay gap
Reproductive rights

But surely lack of all of those things contributes to economic disparity that results in the violent oppression of women. And the impact of economic disparity is a large part of looking at the role of class in intersectional feminism surely confused

QuentinSummers Sun 12-Mar-17 08:07:40

Yes! I love all of you.
We need inclusive feminism, we all need to stand up for all women regardless of the sexuality, race, disability, class etc etc
What we don't need is silencing of women's voices because they are "wrong" (too white, too rich, too thin, too educated). That's how it became acceptable to not support Clinton in the US election and look how that ended up.
We certainly don't need to put issues into a hierarchy where a woman needs to STFU because she might offend a "less privileged" man.
Intersectional feminism to me has turned into a pure social justice movement. The "feminism" in the name is a red herring and appears to mean it's the bit of social justice women do, rather than it's for women.
I'm done with anything labelled "intersectional"

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Sun 12-Mar-17 08:25:25

Thank you Fauch, for starting this thread.

I agree with the distinction made so far between "in theory" and "in practice." In theory (and indeed in practice, as correctly understood), we desperately need it. For instance, we had an international woman's day event at my work, and the thing which leapt out at me was a room with about 40 women and maybe half a dozen men - and I saw one woman who wasn't white. Yes, we (the organisation I work for ) are doing things wrong, vis a vis sexism (we have a sex-related pay gap as identified by management's own audit, there are areas where women are seriously under-represented) but it looks to me as if we are doing even worse when it comes to race.

But now we get to the "in practice" in left-wing political circles, and it is, as pointed out, used as a silencing technique. And a particularly insidious silencing technique. When you silence "middle class white educated feminists", as who it is exactly you are silencing? Well, focusing on the middle-class and educated bit (because as the thread on Chimamamnda Ngozi Adiche and the backlash she's already receiving shows), you're silencing exactly those women with the amounts of power and platform needed to be heard and the expertise and insider knowledge of the system likely to mount effective arguments and campaigns (there are of course many remarkable campaigns which have been led by working class women - but they have to fight ten times as hard because they're starting with a bigger mountain to climb).

It strikes me as damn convenient for the misogynists on the left to have a stick to beat down some of their potentially most effective opponents with which enables them to say "calm down dear" while simultaneously appearing terrible inclusive and looking as though they're fighting the good fight.

Fauchelevent Sun 12-Mar-17 08:39:14

Sorry I disappeared - had a long chat with DP. Lots to reply to here

Vestal: I agree, more than a silencing tactic I also see it as a superiority tool. That you can do NO activism whatsoever but since you're intersectional you're the holiest feminist. Unlike people who question whether men should be able to pay for access to women's bodies - our feminism is bullshit. And that's all you need to do. Shout a lot about intersectionality and say "support all people who identify as women and non-binary" babes and you're changing the world.

Joy: I agree - on the one hand i think women from cultures who practice FGM know more than us about the issue and we should take our cues from campaigners in those cultures otherwise it becomes very "let us westerners liberate you" BUT the problem is that we can't even have opinions. For example they complain about non-muslim women having an opinion on women in Islam. I got slammed once when someone posted a picture of a muslim woman in a hijab with that style of make up that's very popular now. They wrote "If muslim girls are oppressed - DO I FUCKING LOOK OPPRESSED?" and i mentioned that putting on make up is not exactly liberation, so yes. I was slammed because as a non-muslim, I have no place to comment on Islam.

Quentin Hi ;) would be great to hear from you on this thread

Dj and perspic absolutely. The issue is the method. The main means of liberation seems to be not only argue amongst themselves but creating hierarchies and silencing people, watering down feminism until nothing gets done

YetAnother thanks, I hope so too. That's correct it is only feminism that has to do EVERYTHING. I wonder if this has anything to do with women having to do and be everything for everyone? I do think that the leftist movement - especially recent ones coming up amongst younger activists is being more "intersectional". Seen a couple leftist events making efforts to be genuinely inclusive. Mostly ones hosted in universities though so. On the one hand I think it's vital we listen to all women not just rich white ones, and we work to liberate all women, we have to ensure it remains a women's liberation movement and when the primary concern is no longer liberating women but actually trans men, trans women, non-binaries and women are no longer allowed to speak because cis privilege, thats when there's an issue. I think that really thats the only way feminism has become a movement for everyone else - i think so far it hasn't had to put its goals aside to deal with racial police violence or the class movement or homelessness amongst gay youths but the one where solidarity isn't enough, is the trans rights movement. And it's strange to me. The argument is trans women are women so trans issues are feminist issues. Lesbians are women but they're happy to have their fight for liberation be one facet of the movement not the whole thing.

.Aplace I would agree, but I personally do feel like - in the same way class/race movements can be sexist, womens rights movements absolutely could and can still be homophobic and racist. Even intersectional feminism can be very homophobic - especially to lesbians. Telling lesbians they are transphobic for not wanting penis and harassing them, telling them they're wrong to not try, telling butch lesbians they're really trans men is extremely lesbophobic. Likewise Betty Friedan (i think? Lavender menace?) and a few others were homophobic and as a black woman with aspergers I've felt left behind in certain discussions.

YetAnotherSpartacus Sun 12-Mar-17 08:50:52

There is a very large part of me that thinks not only that diversity and an inclusive feminism are one thing, and criticism from outside of any feminist as being white and middle-class as a silencing tactic is another, ... but that those supposedly advocating for oppressed minorities and claiming that they are silenced by big, evil, white, 'cis', middle-class feminists are only actually able to hear what these minorities say when they echo what they want to hear. Thus, old-school transexuals are silenced. Women (black, white and other) talking about men's violence are not heard. Survivors of prostitution who want to talk about the exploitation and violence they faced meet a wall of silence. And the actual oppressor wears a cloak of invisibility that they have woven from their own power to hear, listen, silence and hide behind.

Fauchelevent Sun 12-Mar-17 08:57:08

I wanted to make a post in response to theothered and a few others who made comments about the idea being great but the movement being toxic.

I grew up and became a fourteen year old lesbian rad fem and back then the only backlash was boys calling me a lesbo bra burner (now i'm older and in a relationship with a guy but still bi, anyway) but there was space for me to do that. Anyway as I hit my student years the popularity of tumblr and tumblr activism grew, and confronting my belief that I wasn't transphobic just because I'm not trans, that hating white people was racist etc - I became heavily into intersectional feminism, introduced myself by saying my pronouns, defended die cis scum and so on. I eventually hit trans peak quite quickly because I was always very anti-porn industry and anti-sex work industry and those go hand in hand with gender critical thought and all the things intersectional feminism hates

My time as an intersectional feminist was bewildering. You already know that woman has no meaning but neither does abuser. Abusers are anyone who doesnt agree with you. This is especially worse on tumblr where there's ass kissing for internet popularity and student movements where everyone's vying for a sabbatical role or NUS job.

Ultimately trans women reign and black trans women reign supreme. Despite Janet Mock's genuinely shocking book its considered she cannot do any wrong and any criticism is considered disgustingly transphobic. And women who are transphobic are treated worse than misogynist men who are let in and allowed to speak for women time and time again. TERFs are told to die, throw themselves in the bin/fire, lose all their friends, may lose their jobs and much more. There's a lot at stake for young feminists and until that changes women aren't going to risk it all and speak out. You can't even ask questions. It's The Fear. You see what happens to other terfs so you might as well only ever voice your opinions under subterfuge. I have quite an important position in a feminist space, and it's very libfemmy. I am fairly sure that many of them know my views because I've said them a few times and other women have come forward privately to ask "um... you.. you, i'm (whisper it) gender critical are you"... but no one has taken action because i'm pretty popular (but not indispensible ;) )

This is the movement as it is. It's... really rotten. Rotten orwellian shite. And that's the face of new feminists. Second wave feminists, gender critical feminists, radical feminists and so on are dinosaurs who will die out, and us younger ones will just be silenced and silenced. Women as a category will mean men who have transitioned and non-binary will mean adult human female. And i feel so hopeless.

Fauchelevent Sun 12-Mar-17 09:13:49

Ethelb: white middle class feminism... I don't even know, as a middle class black woman. Granted the actor that said now that gays and black people have all their rights its just women now was shocking, but i think the accusation of white feminism often goes back to the idea of hierarchy? And that white women have no place to speak and complain under issues that affect us all because someone has it worse. And I don't know if that helps anyone. There are issues that affect us all and we need to tackle them together. We can't be divisive and say, well when i was assaulted he was also racist because it doesnt serve anything. I think that we can talk about how it's possible white middle class women can act in racist ways and classist ways to poor and brown women - it's necessary - but what's happening is white women and men silencing other white women.

Quentin - as I said above to ethel but oh my god the nail was hit on the head as "a bit of social justice women do" ABSOLUTELY THIS!! There IS no feminism in it!! In fact it's patriarchal in many ways - making make up, heels and clothes front and centre of the feminine identity, centering males and their wishes, that sexuality is more liberating than activism... great point

Mostly yes exactly. It's a misogynists greatest tool. For a feminist movement it's alarmingly patriarchal. The problem is that yes it's an error to silence the women with the power to make change but its not a movement concerned with a lot of change for women? Change for everyone else but issues that hit at the core of all females? Not so much.

Yet exactly!! I remember a woman who is transsexual in the old school sense, says she is male, has this same issue. She was called "very transphobic for a transgender person" and a "terf" and silenced. Likewise the transgender youtuber who is called alt right. No one wants to listen to her but rather assumes she is faking or assumes she has issues for not swallowing the bullshit. Former sex workers and porn actors who speak out are called SWERFs. They only listen to the ones who go along with their view.

almondpudding Sun 12-Mar-17 09:17:10

Fauchelevent, are there younger women finding ways of communicating and organising around feminism and in opposition to racism outside of the kind of environments you've described?

PlectrumElectrum Sun 12-Mar-17 09:20:48

Just place marking - might not add anything as I'm not clued up on this as those who have already posted & want to learn more.

makeourfuture Sun 12-Mar-17 09:49:19

While I do not have much insight into the anti-racism movement, I do know that communist men tend to be just as sexist as any other, and feminists have long complained about being told that sexism will just vanish magically when capitalism is abolished. (Which, looking at Russia ... not exactly happened.)

Russia is not the only example of socialism in action. Capitalism functions on the basis of advantage. It inherently seeks any way possible to increase income, boost "productivity" and lower costs.

Any talk of fairness, morality, equity or equality must be secondary within Capitalism.

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