Yesterday I tweeted briefly with the author of the article, "The Problem With Intersectional Feminism" that appeared on Aero Magazine (Read the article here). The article made so much sense, especially since I had been told twice in three days that I couldn't be a feminist because I was white. Ms. Pluckrose had this to say as a response:
There is a trend going around: if you're a white woman, you can't be a feminist. It's a really curious thing considering most feminists are white women and a lot of black women are refusing to identify as feminists. Gina M. Florio writes:
In an essay for Salon, Brittney Cooper, professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, puts it into perspective. She points out that feminists are concerned with equality, while feminists of color (especially black feminists) are battling injustice. She says, "One kind of feminism focuses on the policies that will help women integrate fully into the existing American system. The other recognizes the fundamental flaws in the system and seeks its complete and total transformation."
Until we can all understand this difference and find a way to bridge these two goals, many women of color will refuse to identify themselves as feminists. (Read the article here)
In other words, it's not a feminist issue, it's a race issue. Until Americans finally get a grip and give up their racist attitudes, black women don't want to have anything to do with feminism. But who is the real culprit here? Who creates the racist policies that perpetuate racism? Who controls the resources?
You got it! White men.
Because of intersectional feminism, white men, who control the resources and the collective narrative, feel comfortable enough to tell women what kind of feminism they are allowed to engage in: a feminism that takes the focus off the men and points the finger at white women. But while black and white women fight among themselves, who will fight patriarchy?
Three days ago I was told that women's humanity is too low of a standard for feminism. This flabbergasting statement erases the countless centuries when women were told they were inferior beings, when their inferiority was codified into laws, customs, philosophy, and theology, from Homer to Aristotle, Pandora's Jar to Ovid, Augustine to Calvin, Schopenhauer to Matthew Henry and every man who has ever thought that women should be silent and submissive. This idea that we should recognize the identities of black women, queer women, disabled women as the fundamental foundation of feminism ignores the history of women's rights, why women began to fight for equal rights and why we still haven't gained equal rights on a global level.
By the way, why does intersectional feminism center feminism around woc, queer women, and the disabled? Why not the working poor? Could it be because Americans are proud of their capitalism. It is easier to talk about identities than to confront the economic system that perpetuates the injustices that created racism in the first place. To be truly intersectional in their efforts, Americans would have to embrace a different model of economics that would erase poverty. But how many are willing to do that? Tellingly, in the 1960s, black women's financial independence was said to be a problem. Laura Miles explains:
In the 1960s, the contrast between white middle-class and Black women’s oppression could not have been more obvious. The same “experts” who prescribed a life of happy homemaking for white suburban women, as documented in Betty Friedan’s enormously popular The Feminine Mystique, reprimanded Black women for their failure to conform to this model.17 Because Black mothers have traditionally worked outside the home in much larger numbers than their white counterparts, they were blamed for a range of social ills on the basis of their relative economic independence.... Socialist-feminist Stephanie Coontz describes “Freudians and social scientists” who “insisted that Black men had been doubly emasculated—first by slavery and later by the economic independence of their women.” Many in the African-American media also accepted this analysis. A 1960 Ebony magazine article stated plainly that the traditional independence of the Black woman meant that she was “more in conflict with her innate biological role than the white woman.” (Read the article here)
So it's about gender roles. Black women didn't conform to the rigid gender roles prescribed by patriarchy by sheer necessity and were therefore seen as hostile towards black men and patriarchy in general, for financial independence dismantles patriarchy. White women who accepted the gender roles were stuck in financial dependence, which they later rejected, causing talks about white privilege as white women joined the work force in large numbers and improved the financial situations of their families.
Oppression is felt in different ways, that is true. But focusing on identities is not going to fix the systematic oppression that is codified in our institutions. You may be proud of your identity and wish it to be recognized and that is your right. But the affirmation of one's identity does not give equal rights if the law does not recognize those rights. The fight should not be found among the people, but at the courthouses and political arenas. We need to work separately but simultaneously to dismantle discrimination on all levels and it has to be as systematic as the oppression itself.
I am fully aware that I don't know what it's like to be anything other than a white woman living in the western world. I will listen to other women when they talk about their oppression, but to say that I can't be a feminist because I'm white and therefore privileged is to say that my humanity as a woman shouldn't be an issue for me because of financial privilege. That in itself invalidates every woman's humanity, for it says money gives people worth, that if you just have enough money, you will never be discriminated against. I wonder what Oprah would say about that. Instead of intesectional feminism, we should talk about intersectional discrimination. Any person can be discriminated against in multitude ways and those often intersect: a woman can experience racism and sexism and classism, or only of the three, or another kind altogether. We must, however, realize that feminism can't fix racism, or classism for that matter. The idea that women are people too cannot convince white people to treat black people with respect or convince fast food chains to raise the minimum wage. The arch that connects all of the forms of oppression is not feminism, it is patriarchy. And behind patriarchy hides capitalism.
Ms. Miles continues:
Many of today’s third-wave activists thankfully reject the separatist, essentialist, gender-binary and trans-exclusionary ideas of some elements of second-wave feminism and have asserted (sometimes over-asserted) more social constructionist approaches to understanding women’s oppression. Queer theory, associated with Judith Butler and others, was one attempt to move away from this assimilationist essentialism in order to reassert an element of radicalism and a rejection of heteronormativity and later homonormativity, an attempt which itself has in recent years been critiqued for its individualist idealism and rejection of class as the defining relationship in capitalism.
When intersectional feminism makes the white woman the black woman's oppressor, it ignores the hierarchy of class that creates the main oppression. The fight for resources keeps everyone busy discriminating against those they see as the reason for their poverty. It's the same phenomenon we see with anti-immigration sentiments: the banks stole our money and told us to blame our newfound poverty on the immigrants. And so we have. We must all recognize our role in every form of discrimination, but we are not going to get anywhere as long as we deny the true source of the struggle.
And it's not the women.