I’ve often heard that politicians will throw crumbs to the masses. The masses then fight each other for the crumbs and have no time to see or fight what the politicians are doing. Additionally, the various groups are so busy fighting each other for what they perceive to be their share of the crumbs, that it never occurs to them to band together to fight the politicians for MORE than crumbs.
In my opinion, this is what some recent start-up groups are trying to fight when they urge women to put party affiliation aside in order to fight together against the sexism and misoygny in our culture. In other words, stop standing with the boys on your side of the aisle to fight for your particular political party (which doesn’t have your interests at heart in the first place), and instead become more woman-identified, stand with women regardless of party affiliation, and fight for your own rights – for women’s rights. Joined together, we’re 52% of the population. Separated by ideology, and in political parties run by men, we simply have to wait for men to decide to take up our cause. Well, it’s been a loooooong wait. The best we get are promises that don’t come to fruition.
Now, I realize that some ideas on the left and on the right aren’t shared by all. But I’m certain there are enough shared beliefs to make coming together a worthwhile endeavor. I haven’t done any research on the numbers, but I’m sure substantial numbers of women, across the aisle, believe in equal pay for equal work. I also think that substantial numbers of women, across the aisle, believe in putting an end to misogynistic marketing, particularly advertisements which feature seductively dressed 5 year old girls. In addition, I also imagine that most women support serious punishment for rapists.
Continuing with this topic of groups fighting amongst each other, rather than working together to effect real change, we come to 3rd wave feminism. Now, many (not nice) things can be said about 3rd wave feminism – but I’d like to limit my focus to one: intersectionality.
Many moons ago I was a women studies minor at a large, liberal university. Sitting in classes of diverse women, we were united in our womanhood. We learned about the rights women had fought for, and the rights still ahead to be claimed. We learned different approaches to peacefully fight for our rights, to work towards the passage of laws. Flash forward many years, five years ago from now, and I’m feeling nostalgic for the feminist movement of my youth, the sisterly solidarity, the feeling of working together to move us forward. To get another taste of it, I took another women’s studies class.
Or so I thought.
The “women’s studies” class was about everything BUT. Yes, you guessed it. It was all about intersectionality. For those who may not yet be familiar with this third wave contribution, intersectionality focuses attention on all of the subgroups of women (race, class, religion, sexuality, culture, etc, etc, etc). What’s more, it even included environmentalism and animal rights. Because, you know, women must solve EVERY PROBLEM on earth for everyone else. The h*ll with our own issues.
It never occurs to them that the groups working on racism aren’t worried about women’s rights, that the groups working on the environment aren’t fighting for women’s rights, gay male groups aren’t fighting for women’s rights – hey, they’re all staying focused on their OWN issues. So those groups are working on their own singularly-defined issues, and women’s groups are ALSO working on those other people’s issues (and as icing on the cake, many women’s studies programs are now turning into GENDER STUDIES programs). Oy! Who is focused on fighting for women in general?
Now someone might say, but women are involved in those other categories! Yes, that’s true. But the splintering effect is in full force. The advancement of women as its own category has been going nowhere, and to me, this is a big reason why. These third wavers will fight for (or anyway, TALK about) racism or environmental rights or this or that, but when it comes to the subect of “women in general”, they just sit around and talk about their different experiences, and play “I can top your oppression”. (Uh – hello? Sitting around doing “consciousness raising” was supposed to be the FIRST step, not the GOAL, of activism!!!!) Matter of fact, I wandered into a website I had never heard of before, and it was all about intersectionality. Anyone who wanted to focus on women as a whole were racist oppressors, and weren’t admitting to their white privilege (even though some of them weren’t even white). Well, IMO, they were all having a pity party, going in circles, and not advancing the cause of women at ALL.
To me, (one of the ways that) women will advance is when we work together to enact LAWS. And guess what – this IS 2011 (although most of the women on that website were stuck in their ancestors’ time, perseverating about slavery or reservation life none of them have experienced themselves) and any laws we make for women will affect ALL women. It’s NOT like they’re going to pass a law which says ONLY affluent white women are entitled to equal pay! If we band together based on our SIMILARITIES, we will have power to effect change, to pass laws. And those laws will affect ALL of us. ALL women will rise. And isn’t that what we WANT?
So, to me, all this talk about intersectionality just amounts to a bunch of women sitting around trying to sound oh-so-academic, and getting nowhere. Maybe they should go to the other groups they want to help. Try going to a black power group and see how much they want to work for women’s rights. Try going to a environmental group and see how much they want to work for women’s rights. Try going to a gay male group, and see how much they want to work for women’s rights. Try going to an animal rights group and see how much they want to work for women’s rights. Try going to a la raza meeting and see how much they want to work for women’s rights.
All of these groups undoubtedly have environmentalists in them, they have people of different classes in them, they have people of different races in them, etc., etc. In other words, they are also diverse groups, but they focus on their shared cause, and work to get things done!
So, to me I see these three options:
- Get mired in intersectionality, have fun trying to one-up each other’s oppression, tak about fighting against racism, classism, etc., and get nothing done for women
- Go to the singularly-focused groups which are accomplishing things, and beat your head against the wall getting them to adopt the cause of women, as well
- Join together with other women, focus on your similarities instead of being distracted by more superficial differences, and use your combined power to effect real change for ALL women by passing laws which affect ALL women
I’d wager a bet that a huge percentage of these intersectionality third wave women voted for Barack “This is what a feminist looks like” Obama. Seriously. Because IMO their priority is not actually women. We all have different parts of our identities. Woman. Older/younger. White/black/ asian. Rich/poor. Gay/straight. More education/less education. Able-bodied/handicapped. Environmentally friendly/unfriendly. Animal rights/animal welfare/animal killer/animal eater. Religion 1 or 2 or 3 or…… But if you’re ostensibly fighting for women’s rights, which part of your identity should take precedence in that fight?
Of course, everyone has different opinions. As for me, I’d like to see CHANGE. I want to see MOVEMENT. I don’t want to sit around getting nothing done. I want to see all women band together, to pass laws that benefit ALL women. It’s so simple. If other diverse groups can focus on their shared primary concern and make progress, why aren’t WE allowed to? Why must our younger generation sit around, muddying the waters, and move us BACKWARDS? Our rights as women are slipping away, and these intersectionalists want to put their identity as women as their lowest priority and get nothing done for women.
I think the women driving in circles around the “intersection”, getting nowhere, fighting for crumbs, talking just to themselves (and sounding oh-so-good as they do it ha!), accomplishing nothing, are in dire need of a map (and perhaps a suggestion to “get over yourself!”).
I, myself, don’t want to be stuck driving in circles around the intersection. I want to drive THROUGH the intersection, drive straight through, and move forward with ALL women to the goal! THAT is progress!
(To our newby third wave intersectionalists: do you have any idea how many gains we’ve lost since you’ve hatched? Oh, and the right to be proud to be a pole dancer? We could have done without that one. Do you have ANY idea how far backwards you’ve taken us? We worked SO hard to minimize how much women were objectified. And the advertising ads out these days? Pure objectification. Don’t blame US when Obama and the other republicans take away your ability to do family planning.
Maybe it’s time to stop the endless consciousness-raising and navel gazing and start taking action. Think legislation. Stop whining – we’re ALL oppressed. Get over yourselves. Start getting empowered by joining TOGETHER (you’re obviously doing this consciousness raising stuff WRONG!) Stop yakking. Start doing. But…. you might want to get off that pole first.)
Filed under: Another reason America is falling apart, Barack Obama, Equal Pay, ERA, Sexism and Misogyny | 119 Comments »