The Problem With Intersectional Feminsm

The concept of intersectionality was introduced into academic theory and social justice activism in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School and founder of Critical Race Theory.

It gradually became the dominant social justice framework. Crenshaw opposed the mainstream liberalism of the time for its aim to look past categories of race, gender and sexuality, thereby levelling the playing field and enabling all people to succeed by their own abilities. She felt this neglected identity and identity politics which she argued to be personally and politically empowering.

.. “We all can recognize the distinction between the claims “I am Black” and the claim “I am a person who happens to be Black.” She advocates the former as positive, powerful and celebratory and rejects the latter as striving for a universality that is less likely to be productive.

.. In reality, women of color, the LGBT and disabled people are to be found along the whole range of the political spectrum and subscribe to a vast array of ideas, whilst intersectionality is decidedly left-wing and based on a very specific ideology

.. intersectionals see themselves as radical reformers of a liberalism which was too mainstream or too centrist.

.. The problem with positioning an ideology on the far-Left and claiming it to represent women, people of color, LGBTs and disabled people is that this requires all members of those groups to be far-Left which they simply aren’t.

.. Americans identifying as liberal reached a record high of 24% in 2015 in comparison to the conservative 38%. [1]

Britons are almost evenly divided between Left and Right. [2]

  • Women are generally somewhat more likely to be left-leaning than men [3] but very many are not.
  • 47% of African Americans identify as liberal and 45% as conservative. [4]
  • In the UK, the Conservative party claimed 33% of Black and Middle Eastern voters in comparison to Labour’s 52%, with Black Britons being most likely to vote Labour,
  • whilst among the Asian community, Hindus and Sikhs are more likely to vote Conservative and Muslims to vote Labour.[5]
  • British LGBTs are as likely to be right-wing as left-wing [6]
  • whilst American LGBTs are much more likely to be left-wing,[7] almost certainly because of the religious nature of the American Right and its implications for LGBT equality.
  • There is nothing to suggest people with disabilities are more likely to identify with any particular political position.

.. Intersectionality, simply by positioning itself on the far-Left of the political spectrum, immediately closes itself off from a significant proportion of women, people of color, LGBTs and disabled people.

  • how many are intersectional feminists, how many are
  • radical feminists (opposed by intersectional feminists), how many are non-intersectional
  • liberal feminists (opposed by intersectional feminists) and how many
  • have no ideology of feminism but simply consider it the name for the gender equality supported by the vast majority of the population.

.. Left-voting people of color are significantly less likely to be supportive of LGBT equality than White Lefties.

.. in California, 70% of African American voters voted to ban same sex-marriage.

.. Large proportions of people from marginalized groups simply decline to be intersectional and this is a problem for an ideology which claims to listen to them and represent them.

.. This has resulted in bizarre situations in which Peter Tatchell has felt compelled to explain why it’s not racist to object to Black musicians singing about killing LGBTs [18]and Muslim and ex-Muslim feminist

.. We are, in fact, listening to a minority ideological view dominated by people from an economically privileged class who have had a university education in the social sciences and/or the necessary leisure time and education to study intersectionality, critical race theory, queer theory and critical analyses of ableism.

.. It is, of course, perfectly possible to support the rights of marginalized groups and campaign for their greater representation whilst accepting that they have a range of political views including those which contradict yours. However, this is not what intersectional feminists do. We are told repeatedly that intersectionality is the only way and that it is not optional.

.. Non-intersectional feminists are labelled “White feminists” and vilified furiously. It is important to note that not all “White feminists” are White. The term refers to any non-intersectional feminist.

.. Because inherent in those terms is a sinister implication: ‘if you disagree with how I think a brown person should think, you’re still a nigger’ – a slave subordinate to the interests of white people. ‘If you disagree with me, you can’t be thinking for yourself’ is the message.”

.. Intersectionality, by undervaluing shared human experience and rights — universality — and personal autonomy and distinctiveness — individuality — and focusing intensely on group identity and intersectional ideology, places individuals in a very restricted “collectivist” position previously only found in very conservative cultures.

.. The idea that if one is not an intersectional feminist, one is a misogynist, White supremacist, homophobic, transphobic ableist demands an utter ideological purity that few people can meet or wish to meet.

Instead, centrists, moderates and universal liberals of all genders, races, sexualities and abilities continue to oppose discrimination, promote equality and value diversity, independent of intersectionality.

  • .. It is regrettable that intersectionality in practice so often manifests in restrictive ideological conformity,
  • exclusionary tactics,
  • hostility,
  • tribalism and even racist abuse.

.. Until intersectionality respects diversity of ideas as well as of identity and supports every individual’s right to hold any of them regardless of their group identity, it cannot be said to represent anything except its own ideology.

What an NYU Administrator Got Wrong About Campus Speech

Ulrich Baer’s op-ed in The New York Times is the latest challenge to liberal speech norms that fails to withstand close scrutiny.

Ulrich Baer, a vice provost at New York University, published an op-ed in The New York Times defending student-activist efforts to shut down speakers at institutions of higher education like Auburn, UC Berkeley, and Middlebury. He urged readers inclined to defend liberal norms on matters of speech to adopt “a more sophisticated understanding” and argued that “the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.”

Were there “parameters of speech” at Berkeley 10 or 15 years ago that denied standing to students who have it today? What were the parameters? Who are the students?

.. Many words are lavished on a questionably relevant anecdote about the Holocaust and the obligatory theory of a postmodern French philosopher. Very few words clarify what speech is to be suppressed by what standards, or who is to decide if they are met

.. casting ostensibly unworthy speech as that which marshals abstract argument against personal experience.

.. it also challenged the Jewish survivors to produce evidence of their own legitimacy in a discourse that had systematically denied their humanity.”

.. Holocaust denial stayed a highly stigmatized, fringe belief. The descendants of Holocaust survivors are not marginal victims kept down by bygone free speech. So the culture of relatively absolute free speech worked.

.. Holocaust denial is arguably less widespread in the country with no laws against it than some Western European countries that have long criminalized denying the Holocaust.

 .. Consider the marginalized son of Appalachian coal miners who goes off to college feeling sure, based on personal experience, that the climate is not changing. Few would disagree that having deeply held experience-based beliefs contradicted by evidence
.. the op-ed gives only the Holocaust example, making it seem monstrous to subject personal experience to the marketplace of ideas
.. “Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.”
.. Don’t worry, students, Milo Yiannopolous does not, in fact, possess the power to “invalidate” your humanity—as yet, he hasn’t even shown an ability to dignify his own.
The humanity of every individual is a fact. No one can invalidate it with speech. Teaching undergraduates otherwise renders them needlessly vulnerable to bigots and trolls.
.. since Baer thinks some questions Plato raised are “unmentionable and undebatable,” one wonders if or why he is comfortable with NYU professors assigning the philosopher as course reading
.. it is inaccurate and disempowering to tell undergraduates that any bigot can render them unable to participate in public discourse merely by speaking on campus
.. Chattel slavery shouldn’t have been up for debate. Thank goodness that abolitionists joined and won the debate anyway. Gay marriage shouldn’t have been up for debate. Thank goodness Andrew Sullivan wasn’t acculturated to believe that merely engaging in that debate risked invalidating his existence.

.. How does he suppose that unpopular position will advance and triumph over antagonists who presently include an overwhelming majority of Americans—and most elected officials from both parties—if the next generation of educational elites is prevented from debating or even mentioning the matter in the one setting where they are training to reason well?

Those ‘Snowflakes’ Have Chilling Effects Even Beyond the Campus

Academic intolerance is the product of ideological aggression, not a psychological disorder.

This soft totalitarianism is routinely misdiagnosed as primarily a psychological disorder. Young “snowflakes,” the thinking goes, have been overprotected by helicopter parents, and now are unprepared for the trivial conflicts of ordinary life.

 .. The authors took activists’ claims of psychological injury at face value and proposed that freshmen orientations teach students cognitive behavioral therapy so as to preserve their mental health in the face of differing opinions.
.. Campus intolerance is at root not a psychological phenomenon but an ideological one. At its center is a worldview that sees Western culture as endemically racist and sexist. The overriding goal of the educational establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of official victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech.
.. After the February riots at Berkeley against Mr. Yiannopoulos, a columnist in the student newspaper justified his participation in the anarchy: “I can only fight tooth and nail for the right to exist.” Another opined that physical attacks against supporters of Mr. Yiannopoulos and President Trump were “not acts of violence. They were acts of self-defense.”
.. Many observers dismiss such ignorant tantrums as a phase that will end once the “snowflakes” encounter the real world. But the graduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image
.. “intersectionality”—the campus-spawned notion that individuals who can check off multiple victim boxes experience exponentially higher and more complex levels of life-threatening oppression than lower-status single-category victims.
.. Faculty and campus administrators must start defending the Enlightenment legacy of reason and civil debate.

Get Up, Stand Up

All who cherish free expression, especially on campuses, must combat the growing zeal for censorship.

.. When speakers need police escort on and off college campuses, an alarm bell should be going off that something has gone seriously awry. Of course, an ever-growing part of the faculty is the reason that police protection is needed in the first place. Professors in all but the hardest of hard sciences increasingly indoctrinate students in the belief that to be a non-Asian minority or a female in America today is to be the target of nonstop oppression, even, uproariously, if you are among the privileged few to attend a fantastically well-endowed, resource-rich American college.

.. to challenge that claim of ubiquitous bigotry is to engage in “hate speech,” and that such speech is tantamount to a physical assault on minorities and females. As such, it can rightly be suppressed and punished. To those faculty, I am indeed a fascist, and a white supremacist, with the attendant loss of communication rights.

.. To try to prevent me or other dissenting intellectuals from connecting with students is simply an effort to maintain the Left’s monopoly of thought. The fact that this suppression goes under the title of “anti-fascism” is particularly rich.

.. But it must be observed that if campus conservatives tried to use physical force to block Senator Elizabeth Warren, say, from giving a speech, the New York Times would likely put the obstruction on the front page and the phrase “fascist” would be flying around like a swarm of hornets, followed immediately by the epithet “misogynist.

.. Before a planned blockade, the faculty must reaffirm in their classes the campus’s belief in free expression. And the faculty must show up to the threatened event itself to give meaning to the ideal of free speech; they must shame the students trying to prevent their fellow students from hearing ideas that challenge campus orthodoxies.

.. punishment violates the consumerist ethos of American higher education.

.. But the students currently stewing in delusional resentments and self-pity will eventually graduate, and some will seize levers of power more far-reaching than those they currently wield over toadying campus bureaucrats and spineless faculty. Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, what we have always regarded as a precious inheritance could be eroded beyond recognition, and a soft totalitarianism could become the new American norm.