In response to #ReclaimIntersectionalityIn2014 and #StopBlamingWhiteWomenWeNeedUnity #F
This post originally appeared on January 3, 2014 written by founder, Tara L. Conley. This was Hashtag Feminism’s first post of 2014.
My short response to #relcaimintersectionalityin2014 ? No, I will not be reclaiming intersectionality in 2014. Thanks though!
So I propose a new hashtag campaign for women (and men) tired of the misguided cultural relativism called #stopblamingwhitewomenweneedunity. It is not acceptable anymore to ignore white privilege and intersectionality in feminist discourse but at the same time let’s stop blaming white women for issues that clearly effect them too. Issues such as marriage, physical safety and autonomy, access to good family planning and health care, pregnancy, abortion, rape, domestic violence, slut shaming, denial of opportunities in work and education and so on still effect women across all cultures, races and nations (albeit in differing ways). If we allow race and ‘culture’ to divide rather than unite women then the patriarchs have won. On the other hand, women united can never be divided.
My short response to #stopblamingwhitewomenweneedunity ?
No, actually I’m over re-centering white women, or white liberal feminism via hashtags to understand what inclusion means because, at this point in my life, oppositional politics, no matter how you slice and dice it, or dress it up as critique or solidarity, hasn’t done much for me spiritually.
Longer response below.
A friend of mine recently reached out to me asking what I thought about Ani DiFranco’s re-apology, and to get my perspective on what might be the best plan of action that we, particularly allies can take towards healing.
I admit that I really haven’t given Ani DiFranco or her multiple apologies much thought before my friend reached out.
But I’m glad my friend did reach out because in responding, I was able to think through how I feel about intersectionality and allyship currently emerging within mainstream and public critical discourse.
My response is below the jump (tweets added for emphasis).
Thanks for reaching out.
As I was reading your message, a few quotes and a movie reference came to mind.
The first quote comes from Jasbir Puar in her discussion about intersectionality and why assemblage as a concept is as, if not more, necessary than intersectionality to consider when theorizing difference and critiquing the status quo.
“What does an intersectional critique look like—or more to the point, what does it do–in an age of neo-liberal pluralism, absorption and accommodation of difference, of all kinds of differences? If it is the case that intersectionality has been ‘mainstreamed’ in the last two decades—a way to manage difference that colludes with dominant forms of liberal multiculturalism–is the qualitative force of the interpellation of ‘difference itself’ altered or uncertain? […] Has intersectionality become, as Schueller argues, an alibi for the re-centering of white liberal feminists? What is a poststructuralist theory of intersectionality that might address multicultural and post-racial discourses of inclusion that destabilizes the WOC as a prosthetic capacity to white women?”
Then there is the line from the movie Malcolm X, when Malcolm X (played by Denzel Washington) was walking out of Columbia University, a white woman approached him and she asked: “What can I do to help?” Malcolm responds coldly, “Nothing.” Then he walks away.
To address your question about what will it take to heal the wound, I’m inclined to respond similarly to the way Malcolm responded, but for different reasons.
I think there comes a moment in critical discourse when some, like myself experience fatigue with critique, especially intersectional critique. While in the midst of the call outs and apologies, some of us with semi-public platforms prefer to reflect for a moment. Log off Twitter, don’t publish any critical or ally pieces for mainstream publications, or on Facebook.
Even though this makes us look like we’re not “producing” anything, or that we’re being “silenced”, what actually happens in these moments of reflection is that we stop participating in Otherizing discourses.
When Jasbir writes about the “mainstreaming” of intersectionality, and the subsequent critiques that are informed by well-intentioned allies, she’s saying that when we discuss inclusion and allyship, we end up, as always, re-centering white liberal feminism, only to render Women of Color as ‘subverted, resistant, and grieved’ bodies.
Intersectionality helps us to understand the multiple ways our bodies live, particularly within structures and systems but what it doesn’t do particularly well is de-privilege the body. The organic body isn’t all there is to our human circumstance. When we start from the position of the body, when we critique from the position of/against white woman (or white liberal feminism), we remain in a perpetual state of seeing difference as different. We’re unable to genuinely imagine what inclusion looks like, or what healing looks like because we reside is a stagnant state of resistance without ever really considering the alternatives. When doing this, we also fail to think about what might actually happen after the shift, after the healing, or after transformation takes place. We’re unable to envision, as Puar states, “what is prior to and beyond what gets established.” Our visions for inclusion therefore become shortsighted, if at all visible.
I recognize fully the unpopular perspective of my critique of critique. However, I’ve realized over the years that I can call out, resist, and write 1,000 amazing articles about status quo and allyship, but in the end, these critiques of the status quo do nothing for me spiritually, but to simply re-center the status quo.
What can/should Ani DiFranco and allies do to heal? Right now, nothing. Just reflect. If you must write something publicly, keep it short, and tell us that you’re going to do nothing, for now, because you need a moment. And while reflecting, be very thoughtful about every public and private action you take thereafter. Ask yourself: Who’s who am I aligned with? Is performing a public benefit concert or writing another public statement in the next month necessary for my personal well-being and for the spiritual healing of the collective?
You, we need to pause. We need time to re-imagine.
Also read the following books and essays at least twice:
Lorde, Audre: “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference“, in: Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Berkeley 1984, pp. 114–123.
Keating, AnaLouise (2013). Transformation Now! Toward a Post-Oppositional Politics of Change
Anzaldua, Gloria (2007). “now let us shift“
I hope this helps, if not challenges you more.