Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Why You Should Not Be An Intersectional Feminist


The Wikipedia description of the concept of intersectionality begins as follows:
Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, KimberlĂ© Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of what Crenshaw contends are overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities. These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity.  These aspects of identity are not “unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather…reciprocally constructing phenomena.”  The theory proposes that we think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one's identity.
On the face of it, this is not an unsound concept.  So what is so wrong with intersectional feminism that you should not be one?  The devil is, as he so often is, in the details.

An an insightful article critiquing of intersectional feminism, author Helen Pluckrose describes the philosophical and ideological shift that took place as intersectionality became the party line in organized feminism.  And, by extent, the state religion of all first world nations.
Liberal feminist aims gradually shifted from the position: 
“Everyone deserves human rights and equality, and feminism focuses on achieving them for women.” 
to 
“Individuals and groups of all sexes, races, religions and sexualities have their own truths, norms and values. All truths, cultural norms and moral values are equal. Those of white, Western, heterosexual men have unfairly dominated in the past so now they and all their ideas must be set aside for marginalized groups.” 
Liberal feminism had shifted from the universality of equal human rights to identity politics. No longer were ideas valued on their merit but on the identity of the speaker and this was multifaceted, incorporating sex, gender identity, race, religion, sexuality and physical ability. The value of an identity in social justice terms is dependent on its degree of marginalization, and these stack up and vie for primacy. This is where liberal feminism went so badly wrong. When postcolonial guilt fought with feminism, feminism lost. When it fought with LGBT rights, they lost too.
Pluckrose details how cherry picked postmodern philosophy enabled the jettisoning of universal liberal and egalitarian values as underpinning feminist theory and replacing it with moral and epistemological relativism.  I detail elsewhere both the strengths and weaknesses of postmodernism, and how it has, on balance, been a negative thing for leftism.   Long story short, postmodernism asserts that metaphysics and epistemology - the nature of reality and the nature of man's means of knowing reality were, to a considerable degree, socially constructed and subjective.  At the very least, it rejected the idea that there are singular overarching "metanarratives" applicable to all people at all times.  Claims to objective reality were to be broken down or "deconstructed" to reveal that their foundations are little more than self serving biases.  Implicit in this was a cultural relativism that urged people to not be so judgemental of other cultures, even if those cultures appeared on the surface to be less advanced and prosperous than our own.

This is not so, so bad.  But it can be problematic if carried to a natural, logical extreme.  If cultures and morality are truly culturally subjective, than on what grounds could it be asserted that cultures that stressed racial and gender egalitarianism are truly preferable to racist or patriarchal cultures?  How could claims that universalistic liberalism was a western social construct that could be shown to implicitly favor white males be reconciled with racial and gender equality being values belonging exclusively to western liberalism?

If such questions were posed, they were no doubt deemed taboo.  The claims of critical race theory and feminist theory seemed strangely immune to postmodern deconstruction, and tended to be treated as if they were eternal truths binding on all people at all times.  Metanarratives, for lack of a better word.  It was just implicitly assumed that theories built around marginalized identities were infallible.  Best not to say anything, though.  It's not wise to point out the cherry-picking when the people doing it could make or break your academic career.

Thus began the move into intersectionality that Helen Pluckrose describes above.

Add Peggy McIntosh's knapsack of privilege dogma that was adopted into the women's studies canon in the late 1980s, and the prejudice plus power encyclical that also became canonical, and the foundations for the most toxic regressive left theory since Lenin were set.

Intersectional feminism in any kind of practice inevitably becomes a complete trainwreck.

People are all inevitably placed on several abacuses of privilege vs. marginalization:

  • Male vs. Female
  • White vs. P.O.C (person of color)
  • Heterosexual vs. LGBTQ
  • Cisgender vs. Transgender
  • Thin vs. Fat
  • Able bodied vs. Disabled
  • Christian vs. Atheist vs. Non Christian vs. Muslim

With identities falling to the left being considered privileged compared to identities on the right.  The tendency in intersectional feminism is to assume that incontestable moral and intellectual authority is conferred by the possession of marginalized identities.  Those with fewer marginalized identities are generally expected to shut up and feel guilty about their privilege.  At the very least, they are not to challenge people with more marginalized identities on anything.  Those with more marginalized identities are implicitly expected to resent their more privileged counterparts, and are given full license via the prejudice plus power rationalization to abuse them as much as they want.  

No intersectional feminist will admit to the above paragraph, but that is the observable truth of it in action.  The problems have become so glaring that even that even Everyday Feminism - the spiritual successor to Pravda if there ever was one, has speculated that its ideological structure lends itself to abuse.  Not that intersectional feminists would deal with such an accusation directly, mind you.  If you are more privileged than they, they would simply point this out and, as far as they're concerned, this would shut down the argument.  

An exaggerated example to illustrate the way this works in practice: In a disagreement over math, wherein a white male asserted that 2+2=4 and a queer woman of color asserted that 2+2=5, typical intersectional feminist sophistry would not take the form of coming out and saying that the answer was five.  Instead, they'd point out that the math textbooks of the past were written by white males, and thus the queer woman of color experienced oppression while being taught, most likely by a teacher who was white, cis and straight, that 2 and 2 made 4.  Claims made under a marginalized person's experience of oppression in intersectional feminism can only be compared to outright divine revelation and command in fundamentalist religion in terms of being absolute in all conceivable ways: moral, metaphysical, epistemological and otherwise.  These claims supercede any and everything else and to contest them is evil with a capital E, beyond even heresy or treason.

The white male would then be chided and told to check his privilege for arguing with the queer woman of color on the matter in the first place.  His insistence that 2 and 2 made 4 would, most likely with some canned formulaic copy-pasta response, be attributed to an unwillingness to relinquish privilege, because "when you are privileged, equality feels like oppression."  Expect lots of reference to "angry white dudes" or the like, often some witty portmanteau: "mansplaining" or "whitesplaining", and some likewise clever and satirical misspelling of  "dewd" or "wypepo."  These kinds of vacuous signalling are, for whatever reason, prized in intersectional feminist circles.  

They've also made an artform of other kinds of disingenuous and deceptive argumentation.  Expect lots of bulverism - short and vague responses that imply that you've crossed some unseen line placing you beyond the pale of reason, morality or respect.  "Wow!  Just Wow!" is the ur-copy-pasta here.  Greenwalding - intentionally taking parts of opponent's statements out of context and making them say something very different than what they were intended to say, is also common.  As are more common logical and referential fallacies including slippery slopes and moving goalposts.  True Scotsmen are unheard of among intersectional feminists.  Two wrongs making a right is the basis of much of its "prejudice plus power" moral system. 

Showing that you "get it" is of paramount importance.  Dogpiling on nay-sayers is one of the very, very few actions that privileged sympathizers (that for reasons I can't fathom, are vast in number) can be almost assured of approval of from their more marginalized superiors.  Appeals to authority come with the territory here, with the "experience of marginalized people" and the theoretical dogmas underlying this kind of thinking being considered infallible.  Emotional reasoning is rampant - a marginalized person being "triggered" is considered oppressive, no matter the intent behind the action that caused said triggering.  Bootleg videos of SJW meltdowns, of the kind so often captured at Milo Yiannopoulos lectures, are a result of this.  

Catastrophization underlies the dogma of the "microaggression", where even the most innocuous actions or gestures on part of the privileged are taken as indicative of privilege and oppression, and therefore just grounds to trigger a marginalized person.  The privileged, of course, are completely responsible, regardless of intent, and cannot argue for reasons outlined above.

The ends always justify the means with intersectional feminists.  As with Lenin and his historical idea of "Kto Kovo" - "Who, whom?" actions are judged not on the basis of whether they are right or wrong, but by who benefits and who suffers as a result of them. There is no recourse or appeal for the "privileged."  

Another Leninist trait is vanguardism.  Intersectional feminists make bold statements on behalf of entire demographics of people.  Are they really speaking for all blacks or all women, or are they speaking for the women's studies department or the black studies department?  They represent themselves and their ideologies, not all people who share their demographics, whatever they may tell you.

Suffice it to say, this is hardly a recipe for mental health or satisfactory relationships.  I do not think it out of the question that there is a disproportionate prevalence of cluster B personality disorders within intersectional feminist ranks.  Like fascism, fundamentalism and Stalinism, intersectional feminism is a completely closed and completely authoritarian system.  This has been shown, with such examples as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Shock Experiment, to bring about blind obedience to authority regardless of who is getting hurt, and can even attract outrightly sadistic personalities.  As Nazi and Stalinist examples demonstrate, absolute power combined with a legitimizing ideology is the formula for atrocity.

Of course, intersectional feminists are guilty of nothing on the scale of the holocaust or the holodomor.  But honestly, the only thing holding them back at this point is not having absolute power.  But they are given carte-blanche in most media and academic environments.  This should be troubling for everyone.  No idea should be above criticism.  Sacred cows walk the road into regressive darkness.

Not all intersectional feminists are malignant psychopathic nutjobs.  Many, if not most are well meaning people who genuinely want to give voice to the downtrodden.  The problem is not that every intersectional feminist is a bad person.  The problem is that intersectional feminism as a belief system is both tightly closed and - quite ironically - extremely hierarchical.  And this does attract antisocial people.  Many too deal with psychological problems stemming from abuse, bad upbringings or a general lack of self esteem that they find easy to project onto other people or society as a whole via intersectional feminist rationalizations, as opposed to the challenging work of seeking therapy and healing via challenging themselves.  

Beware of psychologizing people, however, unless you have good cause to do so - you've observed clearly bizarre behavior or, as they do surprisingly frequently, the intersectional feminist just comes right out and tells you they have issues.  I see this in blog posts and magazine articles quite consistently.  Or you are a trained psychologist.  Keep poor mental health as a possible explanatory factor for truly unhinged behavior in the back of your mind, as opposed to it being a go-to response that you can use to easily and conveniently handwave claims you disagree with.  

It also bears mention that economic inequality is regarded as being of lesser importance to intersectional feminism, and class is treated as race, gender and so on are: as an identity.  This is a distortion of the nature of economic class as a vector of identity.  Class is attributable to relations of production, not an immutable genetic trait.  Another problem with intersectional feminism is that in attributing privilege to genetic factors such as race, gender or sexual orientation, the real halls of power: big business and big government, escape scrutiny.  Perhaps that is why media and academia likes intersectional feminism as much as it does.  And libertarians have no less reason to balk at intersectional feminists than Marxists do.  The smallest and most marginalized minority of them all is the individual, who turns out to be completely invisible in intersectional feminist praxis.

If at all possible, do not deal with intersectional feminists unless they show you that they are at least open to other points of view.  Especially steer clear of them if they demonstrate abusive or manipulative behaviors.  Do not allow yourself to become subject to their authority.  A common intersectional feminist strategy is to assume positions of influence and authority in organizations and use them to impose their will.  Stop them if you can, or leave organizations wherein this happens, if you can.

And for the love of God, do NOT let them convince you that they are within their rights to control, manipulate or abuse you in any way simply because they have more marginalized identities than you, and because guilt by association and collective responsibility, you owe this to them.  You don't.  Let me make that crystal clear.  You don't owe it to anyone to be a doormat.

On the other hand, listen with an open mind to claims intersectional feminists make regarding the realities of life for marginalized people.  They can be valuable repositories of knowledge regarding specific social issues.  Not uncommonly, they advocate for good reforms, if you can sort the moral absolutism and panic from the legitimate claims.  Resist the temptation to "whataboutery" in a vain effort to establish moral equivalency.  You will not convince them. Sometimes, agreeing with them, especially when warranted, can disarm them.  Sometimes.

I do not condemn intersectional feminism because, as a white dude, I get short shrift from it.  That is sufficient reason to condemn it, but that it not its greatest sin.  What is truly damning about intersectional feminism is its betrayal of the core values of racial and gender equality.  It turns all of our backs on the reasons we abandoned racism and sexism in the first place.  Because people are more than their genitals, their skin color or who they're sexually attracted to.  And people want to be, and deserve to be, evaluated on more than just those characteristics.  People told to "check their privilege" rightly feel objectified, reduced to bare biological characteristic, by the praxis of intersectional feminism.  

White people can, and should, have opportunities to enjoy healthy and mutual beneficial relationships with people of color.  Men can, and should, have opportunities to enjoy healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with women.  Straight people can, and should, have opportunities to enjoy healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with LGBTQ people.  Poor and working class people should have opportunities to benefit from a progressive movement centered around economic inequality and keeping money out of politics, and the opportunities to rise as high as their talents and efforts allow them.  These opportunities benefit everybody.  Guilt and shame for the marginalized together with resentment and self righteous entitlement for the marginalized benefit no one.  For a fleeting sense of self righteousness, the "marginalized" people who accept intersectional feminism's faustian bargain loose all of the above opportunities.

As I write this, the greatest threat to these opportunities comes not from the Ku Klux Klansman or the homophobic and puritanical fundamentalist preacher.  Rather, the greatest threat now comes from those who have usurped the mantle of the good causes that brought us to the brink of victory over the Klansman and the fundamentalist.  That victory begins to slip away.  We must snatch it back.

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