When Intersectionality Runs Amok: The Underlying Misunderstanding that is Fracturing Society

When Intersectionality Runs Amok: The Underlying Misunderstanding that is Fracturing Society

By Don Hall

"Once these angry Rage Profiteers have kids, their kids will look at them and tell them what a mob of bullies they were. They'll be so disillusioned because they thought, by jumping in on the separatist dogma, by leaping into the public shaming online, they were making a difference."

I've had more than a few conversations lately that sound a bit like this. Thinking people who see the current level of Leftist backlash to Trump and the onslaught of Republican rule in this country as wholly negative. Like me, they see the term whypipo as just an attempt to come up with a white people version of a term that strikes offense in the same way that other racially derogatory terms heretofore banned in polite society accomplished for marginalized groups. Like me, they see the term to simply indicate that the users of it are merely assholes (just like those who continue to use gay as a pejorative).

The question becomes simply, why has the idea that one's political discourse is centered on their personal identity become so divisive?

The trend began with an academic trying to define a broader experience.  

Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw's work in the late 1980s introduced the term intersectionality. Intersectionality meant that the experience of a person who belongs to multiple identity groups cannot be captured simply by focusing on subordination based on one or the other identity, or even by adding them together.

According to her 1993 Stanford Law Review article, "Experiences of women of color are frequently the product of intersecting patterns of racism and sexism, and... these experiences tend not to be represented within the discourses of either feminism or antiracism." One of Crenshaw's examples is an immigrant woman whose legal status depends on her relationship to a battering husband does not simply experience anti-immigrant prejudice or sexist battering. Her statuses (as an immigrant and a woman) intersect to create a distinctive vulnerability.

This means that an identity can be and often is formed by the intersection of various group memberships, to create a distinctive experience. Being a Black woman is not just like being a Black man when racial issues arise. The intersections, while similar, are distinct.

By contrast, the informal (and now more accepted) sense of intersectionality means that various forms of oppression are linked, either as a matter of their actual practice or with respect to the justification for opposing them. To be intersectional in one's commitment to racial equality and gender equality in this sense of intersectionality is to see both racial and gender subordination as manifestations of an unjust white patriarchal power structure.

In other words, the root of the idea of intersectionality was both specific and complex but the newer, more accepted (and I'd argue misunderstood definition) centers on a single villainous umbrella that all subordination can point a finger to as its cause.

Thus, we see less empowerment based upon individual intersections and more embracing of victimhood in the face of an amorphous and almost impossible to pin down bugaboo: White People and the Toxicity of White Male Supremacy. Because it is difficult to fully define what is and is not a manifestation of White Patriarchal power, the default position becomes simpler: anything associated in almost any way with white males is the enemy.

Modern feminism becomes less about working to change the systemic inequities women face daily and more about centering outrage on white men who "man spread" and "mansplain," and proliferating the notion that white men are all predators. This notion immediately places women in a defensive position and grows the view of women as perpetual victims of white male dominance.

Modern civil rights becomes less about working to change the systemic and institutional racism baked into the American experiment and more on exaggerating the harm of microaggressions and the separatist need for safe spaces. As the concept of intersectionality becomes less about the public stance of empowerment, the rationale that racism is an incurable evil that must be destroyed rather than a series of legal barriers that can and should be remedied makes it an argument better suited for the superstitions of churches than the utilization of democratic solutions.

While both definitions of intersectionality have justification and merit, when the two types collide, the clash can result in serious mischaracterizations of the concept and push an already fractured Left into further segmentation.

The result is a Progressive (Regressive) Left hellbent on eating itself from the inside out effectively doing the work for the Right and ensuring their power grab is sustained.

Things get really dicey when the attempt to corral all "correct thinking people" under this umbrella.


When one considers that, according to Gallup, only 25 percent of the entire country even consider themselves liberal politically, it's hard to justify the idea that everyone not white is feeling that particular burn or is looking to destroy things. Given that conservative views tend to favor the status quo, 36 percent are thinking that things aren't that bad and an additional 34 percent aren't that dissatisfied with things.

This either means that things aren't quite as intersectionally oppressive as we believe or we're just shitty at getting the word out. Regardless of which, the most strident of the Rage Profiteers label 70 percent of the country as immoral and unworthy of anything but disdain and destruction.

One could assume that all 70 percent are white and bolster the oppression intersectionality perspective. One would be wrong.

The concept of oppressive intersectionality does not take into consideration that "...47 percent of blacks identify as liberal and 45 percent as conservative..." [SOURCE] or that white women voted for Donald Trump in unusually high numbers but not much more than 50 percent. The broad cloth of oppression politics simply does not account for the possibility of differing opinions within identity groupings and those who do not fall in line aren't listening, need to check their privilege, are racist, sexist and are thus labeled the enemy of the Righteous.

The Big Umbrella approach to intersectionality accomplishes a lack of context in the very identities that intersect. It likewise creates and allows a mindset among the self-righteous best exemplified by the current rash of online mob mentality.

Someone posts that someone else is a racist/sexist.
Five others pipe in agreeing.
Fifteen more who have neither read nor experienced this accused racism comment "I can't believe that person is a racist/sexist!"
Forty more who have even less knowledge of the specifics jump on digitally calling for the accused racist/sexist's head (or job).

The simple accusation, with no context or fact, based entirely on the opinion of the original accuser goes viral and we have a full-blown public bullying, all in the name of good intentions yet all proliferated under the Big Umbrella mindset of those who are rewarded for claiming to be victim to the villain of White Supremacy and Patriarchy.

Add to this model a very well known accused party like Joss Whedon—white, cisgender, heterosexual male with billions of dollars—whose angry ex-wife decided to deride, and the virality of the shaming can reach the hundreds of thousands of completely uninformed, disinvolved people with strong opinions nonetheless.

I am not advocating for victim shaming but approaching every accusation with a measure of skepticism. In a court of law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It should be no different in the court of public opinion especially as that court, via social media, now has real life consequences. Your opinion does not equal proof any more than the opinion of a GOP Senator about climate change equals fact.

Back to intersectionality, the embrace of oppression intersectionality rather than the intersectionality of identities is also marginalizing the understanding of the country's multi-cultural potential. In a Reuter's Poll taken at the University of Virginia just days ago, it becomes obvious that folks just aren't getting the message.  

According to this poll:
• 59 percent agree that "Political correctness'' threatens our liberty as Americans to speak our minds.
• 55 percent agree that Racial minorities are currently under attack in this country.

The disconnect is that identity politics and the idea of politically correct speech are at odds, in conflict, and seen as opposites in the spectrum of change. In the parlance of the political, most people agree with the precepts of identity intersectionality but disagree with oppression intersectionality and confusing the two pushes the middle, which, face it, is most of the voting voice, to the right.

As we progress forward, it is those who have been most marginalized who tend to push the boundaries past a point of reasonable persuasion.  

"All white people are white supremists."  
"I wish all white people were dead."
"White history is the history of colonization and genocide."

Propaganda begins with oversimplification and then cements itself in repetition. The cries of almost non-stop oppression politics by the Rage Profiteers might feel good for them to yawp out but is one of many reasons why these issues are doomed to be ignored in a longer game. And we cannot afford to ignore these issues of systemic racism, fundamental sexism, and the economic destruction of whole identities any longer.

"Once these angry Rage Profiteers have kids, their kids will look at them and tell them what a mob of bullies they were. They'll be so disillusioned because they thought, by jumping in on the separatist dogma, by leaping into the public shaming online, they were making a difference."

Notes from the Post-it Wall — Week of September 17, 2017

Notes from the Post-it Wall — Week of September 17, 2017

Julianne's Money

Julianne's Money