Dispatch #44 September 8th 2018
Day 681 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny
Day 606 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
I am so DONE with the term intersectionality being flung about by so many movement analysts and activists to support their rallying cries that ‘every issue is related’ and ‘we need to work on everything together’ and ‘all issues are similarly important.’ Intersectionality has become some sort of shorthand, like populism, but for what exactly?
This casual appropriation betrays a deep misunderstanding about the revolutionary power of the intersectionality lens as well as how/why this radical analytic/political tool emerged.
Beginning in the early 1960’s, black women in US began to see understand their oppression as a function of interlocking oppressions based on race and gender. Black feminist activists faced deeply embedded patriarchal/misogynist attitudes from their black culture and community. Sonia Sanchez publicly called out the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam for their misogynist treatment of black women. In 1962, during an address at a mosque in California, Malcolm X said: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman”
The Combahee River Collective (CRC), a trailblazing group of radical Black feminists, began meeting in 1974 to create the political/revolutionary space to address this soul-crushing movement dynamic. While the phrase intersectionality was coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the Combahee River Collective established the foundational thinking when CRC
…articulate(d) the analysis that animates the meaning of intersectionality, the idea that multiple oppressions reinforce each other to create new categories of suffering.
The CRC described oppression as “interlocking” or happening “simultaneously,” thus creating new measure of oppression and inequality. In other words, Black women could not quantify their oppression only in terms of sexism or racism….but it was the merging or enmeshment of those identities that compounded how Black women experienced oppression.
…..Black feminist activists like Frances Beal described the oppression of Black women as “double jeopardy,” which also recognized the specificity of their compounded oppressions. HOW WE GET FREE Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective Edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor 2017 Haymarket Books. Introduction by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor pages 4-5.
The Combahee River Collective Statement of 1977 introductory paragraph:
We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. HOW WE GET FREE Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective page 13.
Intersectionality isn’t a user friendly term; one thinks of interoperability and inanimate entities such as computers and phones. However, we owe the Combahee River Collective and the legacy of black women leading the fight for social justice and equity to educate ourselves and our movement comrades. [Here are a few illustrative references in case you want more inspiration about black women-warrior-ancestors!]
The language and discussion around intersectionality should be designed to call up more powerful, instructive and compelling analyses, strategies and images, e.g.:
Interlocking Systems of Structural Oppression!
Synergistic Symbiotic Systems of Institutionalized Injustice!
Structural Oppressions that Simultaneously Reinforce Each Other!
Intertwined Systems of Oppressions that Nurture & Multiply Their Collaborative Power!
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective demonstrates movement work that reflects a deep understanding of intersectionality as interlocking and simultaneous oppressions. SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice/
Additional elements of their RJ lens include:
RJ is about access, not choice. Mainstream movements have focused on keeping abortion legal as an individual choice. That is necessary, but not enough. Even when abortion is legal, many women of color cannot afford it, or cannot travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic. There is no choice where there is no access.
RJ is not just about abortion. Abortion access is critical, and women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more.
All oppressions impact our reproductive lives; RJ is simply human rights seen through the lens of the nuanced ways oppression impacts self-determined family creation. The intersectionality of RJ is both an opportunity and a call to come together as one movement with the power to win freedom for all oppressed people.
To achieve RJ, we must analyze power systems and address intersecting oppressions. Reproductive politics in the US is based on gendered, sexualized, and racialized acts of dominance that occur on a daily basis. RJ works to understand and eradicate these nuanced dynamics. Marginalized women face multiple oppressions and we can only win freedom by addressing how they impact one another.
Because intersectionality is now used like an umbrella to connect all social justice movement issues, the myriad symptoms of interlocking structural oppressions – symptoms such as poverty, controlling women’s bodies, disenfranchised communities, environmental abuse – become the focus of movement work while the roots of structural oppression – white supremacy and misogyny that enable capitalism/classism – are overlooked. Consequently these systems of structural oppression will not be dismantled/uprooted. Instead some of the symptoms will be ameliorated somewhat for some communities for some of the time.
I am more than impatient with the recent emergence of Gender Fluidity/Gender Diversity/ Non-Binary Gender under the intersectionality umbrella. Arguing for the individual right to choose a non-binary category of gender does nothing to challenge the structural oppression of Misogyny. Regardless of one’s individual choice, one’s gender is either perceived to be male or female or perceived as a challenge to the patriarchal mandate for binary-gender-dominant-male. We all live in the structural oppression of Misogyny. My beleaguered brain revolts when movement leaders trumpet their intersectionality bona fides with lists of social justice issues that include trans/homo/gender-fluid/non-binary/LGBTQI, but, that exclude Misogyny. REALLY?! Yeah, really….
Even in death, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Apotheosis of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women, had to put up with the Misogyny of black men. The typically bad behavior included:
minister groping Ariana Grande’s right breast; pastor delivering eulogy bad-mouthed black women and Black Lives Matter; old men dominating the stage and the speaking. https://qz.com/quartzy/1378557/all-the-controversies-at-arethas-funeral-ariana-grande-black-lives-matter-and-more/
Just in case you think I have no business dissing black churches and black ministers:
I think it’s important for us to recognize that although historically black communities have been very progressive with respect to issues of race and with respect to struggles for racial equality, that does not necessarily translate into progressive positions on gender issues, progressive positions on issues of sexuality and in the latter 1990s we have to recognize the intersectionality, the interconnectedness of all of these institutions and attitudes. Angela Davis www.azquotes.com/quote/1299189