the youth are in the streets!
I’ve paraphrased the iconic words of my title from an amazing Tiger Beatdown blog, and although that was referring to feminism, the message is central to the legitimacy of every movement. At times, the left can be guiltier than middle class white feminism of sidelining its marginalised members in order to focus on the ‘main problem’.
I might not be being cynical enough, but perhaps it partly has something to do with confusion around the term. To me, intersectionality is not a difficult concept to get to grips with at all, but I’ve heard many knowledgeable comrades struggling with the term.
Intersectionality is the not-so-new, not-so-radical idea that all oppressions intersect and that to be successful in fighting any one oppression, the others must be taken into consideration and fought alongside.
Comrades need to stop excusing their passivity in liberation efforts by claiming ‘come the revolution, there will be equality’ and therefore all efforts should focus on fighting capitalism. For those of us who live in the present and suffer oppression or discrimination daily, that is of little comfort. I acknowledge that the end goal for many comrades involves a society in which everyone is liberated, and that there cannot be liberation without the downfall of capitalism, but capitalism will never fall whilst groups remain oppressed.
I’ve heard vague arguments against intersectionality about divisiveness: that if we all categorise ourselves in terms of oppressions, we’ll split off into different directions, and harm any greater cause. This argument comes from a poor understanding of intersectionality. It’s not about turning away from those who are not suffering the same oppression as you; it’s very much the opposite. Capitalism promotes racism, sexism, disableism etc. to maintain its existence, as ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Intersectional activists directly fight this and work to pull different groups back together.
Intersectionality recognises complex identities, and allows me to say: “Don’t make me choose between being a woman, being black and being queer.” As civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Perhaps people fail to be intersectional because it is difficult. Intersectionality makes you call out friends, family and comrades. In some circles it may mean you’re the one who always brings gender into the discussion, in some you’re always making it about race. Intersectionality means you complain about inaccessibility of events that may have been fantastic in every other way. It means you find faults in people’s favourite songs, films, books, or fashion items, because they perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, trans*phobia, disableism, islamophobia, or other oppressive attitudes. Intersectionality means people may start to find you very annoying.
Intersectionality is especially difficult if you don’t face much oppression. It means being an ally to a lot of people, and it means recognising your own privilege and educating yourself on problems some people face, that you may never have to.
But as difficult as it is to be intersectional, it is so necessary. So long as the left is splintered and incoherent as we all struggle individually, we can never build the kind of strength we need. As a movement, we have to challenge and fight each facet of capitalism simultaneously and with equal amounts of energy and commitment.
Our movement must be open and accessible to every oppressed or marginalised group, but we must also remember that that does not mean the privileged few extending patronising invitations to others. The movement belongs to everyone in it equally, and that means we have a duty to be informed and active allies in everyone’s respective battles.
By Wandia, LUU Revsoc
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