Update: She’s unblocked me, we’re talking.
I’m a little bit confused by your recent Guardian article about why women need feminism. The first half is OK, but the second half swiftly descends into a bizarre diatribe against intersectionality.
First you say this:
“One of the problems with the jargon of intersectionality is that it splinters.” Now, I’ve covered this before, but ultimately intersectionality is not at all alienating to women who experience intersectional oppression. Indeed, it’s often a relief to be given the language to articulate their oppressions, a language which does not exist in older feminisms.
Then you follow on to say “Much “on trend” feminism has lost touch as it is over-determined by sexuality. Whether we are discussing “sex workers”, trans issues or porn, the overriding differences between women are far less “sexy”. They remain largely to do with class.” Well, not quite. Class isn’t everything. Ever heard of, for example, the cotton ceiling? Class is, of course, a really important issue too, and intersects with these problems. This does not make it the only factor.
“A meaningful feminism would not split us into mothers and non-mothers, or privilege sexuality above all.” I think I’ve made it clear now that intersectionality is not about this. In fact, it isn’t about splitting at all: far from it, it’s about uniting. It’s about acknowledging that women will have a different experience of oppression, and achieving liberation without throwing any of our sisters under the bus.
Let’s give an example of how this works with the next thing you said, where you’ve analysed a problem. I’d like to put into practice an intersectional analysis of this same problem. “It would also understand that globalisation has produced homogeneity for women at a basic level. We are all to be Caucasian with lifted bottoms and long hair. Even differences in appearance are now deviant in all-encompassing celebrity culture.” So, there is a homogeneity of beauty standards. Whiteness is valued, and femininity is valued. This is a product of both white supremacy and patriarchy. They interacted and produced this beauty standard, and globalisation fed it to more and more women. Can I just ask why you’re saying “Caucasian” rather than white? Have you been in the US?
“We don’t all think the same, we don’t all come from the same place or have the same amount of money, but we remain locked out of the all-male cliques that run the world.” Ultimately, intersectional feminism is about acknowledging exactly this, and being sensitive to this. On top of this, we must strive to minimise our own contribution to an oppressive power structure, and work to overcome oppressions that other women face that we do not directly experience. Far from being divisive, it is in fact the only route we have towards unifying.
Happy to talk about this more if you unblock me!
Many trans* women don’t use the phrase “cotton ceiling”; it’s been picked up and run with, because it’s catchy on one side and because it’s easy to use against us on the other (by representing it as the idea of breaking through underwear). I’m not aware of an equivalently catchy alternative name for what we’re talking about, but you could call it the implicit/crypto-desexualisation of trans* women, or something like that. Either way best not to just call it “cotton ceiling”, leaving it at that. Thanks! :)
(this is nothing against Roz and others who do/did use that phrase; it’s more about accurately representing the diversity of trans* women’s opinion/thought, including how we choose to frame things, than making only a single representation. the fullest truth of trans*feminist thought is in the diversity/complexity of all our thought, not in any one part of it.)
Fundamentally, the law has often failed to call the problem of discrimination by a real name—say, white supremacy or male dominance. It has instead used more neutral terms like “racism” or “racial classifications” or “race,” or “sexism” or “sex classifications” or “sex,” terms that fail to specify who is doing what to whom. As a result, while many conditions of actual disadvantage are obscured, situations in which the affected and agentic groups appear reversed can easily be made to look like discrimination. Abstractions (are you treated the same or differently?) may be inverted far more readily than substance (are you victimized by white supremacy or male dominance or both?).
Catharine A. MacKinnon, Sex Equality (2001).
I find it interesting and sad that radical feminism and ecofeminism are so commonly described as essentialist, given that to my knowledge they are the two feminist tendencies with the most explicit critiques of “essences”. Radical feminists challenge the existence of a female “gender essence”, which encodes women’s oppressed condition, and argue instead that women’s situation is created through social structures and women’s own resistance to those structures. And ecofeminists challenges the existence of a special “human essence” that inheres most strongly in white men and is linked to rationality, transcendence and control over the nature realm (understood as the realm not possessing that essence).
[D]evelopment… like the colonisation Plato describes in terms of the creation of the perfectly uniform and smooth geometrical figure of the globe, is the project of reforming the world to the master’s rational design, creating uniformity and regular pattern, especially the straight line, which as the shortest distance between two points, admirably expresses the instrumentalisation of nature.– Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (Routledge, 2003), p86
– http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/under-duress-agency-power-and-consent-part-two-yes/ (via sexandsocialism)
If we want to talk about [sexual] rights and responsibilities, we must consider how much freedom a sex partner has to execute on the responsibilities we’ve assigned them, and to consider our own responsibilities to offset the pressure we are able to place on consent through the systems of domination in which we participate in a dominant position over our sex partner. If we want to create a situation where a “yes” is most likely to mean “yes”, we must work, first to understand and then to defuse, the potential consequences of a “no”. This work can be done cooperatively, but the responsibility for it falls on the partner with more power. If they’re not doing that work, we have to assume that they don’t care about consent and act accordingly.
With great power, comes great responsibility.
Spiderman knows it – do you?
Can a man read Intercourse? Can a man read a book written– Andrea Dworkin,Preface to Intercourse (via dworkinclasshero)
by a woman in which she uses language without its ever becoming decorative or pretty? Can a man read a book written
by a woman in which she, the author, has a direct relationship
to experience, ideas, literature, life, including fucking, without
mediation— such that what she says and how she says it are
not determined by boundaries men have set for her? Can a
man read a woman’s work if it does not say what he already
knows? Can a man let in a challenge not just to his dominance
but to his cognition? And, specifically, am I saying that I know
more than men about fucking? Yes, I am. Not just different:
more and better, deeper and wider, the way anyone used
knows the user.
Be aware that our words are very often part of conversations we’re having within our communities, and that we may be participating in overlapping conversations within multiple communities, e.g., our trans communities, our scholarly communities (both interdisciplinary ones and those that are disciplinarily bounded), feminist communities, queer communities, communities of color. Be aware of these conversations, our places within them, and our places within community and power structures. Otherwise, you won’t understand our words.–
(Written by Jacob Hale, with thanks to Talia Bettcher, Dexter D. Fogt, Judith Halberstam, and Naomi Scheman.)