Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Invisible Knapsack Full of Unverifiable Grievances

Jason Walsh:

In practice intersectionality is simply a series of mores, rigidly enforced by threat of excommunication from polite society. Disagree and you’re a misogynist, “white supremacist” (yes, this term formerly reserved for the likes of the KKK is commonplace in intersectional discourse) or transphobe. The only way to make amends is not to argue one’s corner as would be expected in traditional liberal discourse, but to admit the transgression, apologise and promise to learn.

Focussing on identity, intersectionality divides. This is its very raison d’être. It takes the post-modernist celebration of difference to its logical conclusion, rejecting as oppressive the universal political subject, be that expressed as the individual, the working class or anything else that might bring people together.

It, in academic jargon, represents the reification of identity. It is a worldview that collapses individual agency, rejects the human subject and masquerades as liberatory while in fact being essentialist.

Importantly, the internet is a huge factor in intersectionality’s spread: it not only allows advocates of the theory to organise, but also “swarm” opponents and shout them down. As a result Twitter sometimes seems like an endless, global Maoist “self-criticism” trial. As an aside, on a Facebook thread attempting to reeducate him one person bemoaned that Mr Seymour would have known better if he had spent more time on Tumblr. It sounds ridiculous, but microblogging web sites really are where intersectionalists learn this stuff: Tumblr, Twitter and so on.

As regular readers know, I'm a child of the streets. Got my education at the school of hard knocks. Tut-tut-tut! This isn't the time for excessive scrutiny. What are you, my biographer? Point is, lacking a university education, I never officially studied the founding documents of this sort of thing. I'd heard of intersectionality, of course, but I didn't know it was the unifying principle of the worldview of those charming people we've come to call social justice warriors. I thought it was just a peer, more or less, of all the other SJW fixations: radical feminism, postmodernism, privilege-checking, gender studies, cultural studies, critical theory, etc. Actually, I figured they were all siblings, the latchkey kids acting out for attention after the divorce of their parents, the Old and New Left. So, intersectionality is the umbrella term for it all, then, at least in its current incarnation? Good to know.

One thing I have learned from the screechings of intersectionalists is that we, especially we privileged types, should always "listen to the women", so with that in mind, let's listen to what Melissa Thompson has to say.