Intersectionality is not just a word

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On December 23rd, Eleanor Robertson made a passionate plea in The GuardianIn defence of intersectionality – one of feminism’s most important tools”. She laments that many feminists revile intersectionality as meaningless and appeals to us to recognize the internal importance of the issue.

I agree. There is much to be learned.

Intersectionality is not just a word, it is a word with many letters. Some of those letters are privileged. They are over-represented not only in this word but within language as a general body. While the letters C and Y are acknowledged as oppressed members of the alphabet, as evidenced by their enhanced point value in Scrabble, there are many letters with only a singular occurrence in this word which struggle to be seen as uniquely disadvantaged.

The letters A and I share the distinct privilege of being, in and of themselves, an entire word. Yet we can see with intersectionality that the letter I occurs a whopping three times whilst the letter A struggles to be seen only once and, even then, doesn’t appear until the the word is over half finished… almost as if an afterthought. Obviously the situation is more complex than we thought. Just as white feminists are deemed by some to be advantaged they, like the letter A in this word, have their own unique battles that they fight to expose.

We all know that the letter Y is marginalized. Quite often it only appears tacked on to the end of words and not only does Y suffer from being consistently last, it has the multiple oppression factor of being placed in a suffix.

While we might feel sympathy for the Y at this point, intersectionality reveals more. C and Y’s oppression is alphabetically surpassed by letters such as J, K, Q, X and Z which, as you’ll note, are not even acknowledged in this word at all.
Scrabble has done a wonderful job recognizing the privilege that some letters have over others and, though it tries to counterbalance this injustice by increasing the point value of the most oppressed members of the alphabet, it hasn’t yet been able to address the source of the problem. Where these letters struggle to appear they are inevitably surrounded by the privileged which overshadow them. Consonants can often be seen ganging up in clusters and vowels diphthong, constantly drawing attention to themselves.

The dictionary, obviously, was written by men.

When we look at the segments of intersectionality we can begin to realize how each section is both burdened and dismissed. The root “sectional” must carry the weight that gives meaning to the word but it is nearly smothered by the prefix and suffix placement. “Inter” bears the unique responsibility of introducing the root and yet it is considered to be only a variation of the root and not a word unto itself. While “ity” is only given three letters, it has the onerous task of of transforming the entire word from an adjective into a noun and, as we have discussed, is treated very poorly in return.

The entire class of letters employed in suffixes experience a specific kind of exclusion that other letters will never understand. When “isms” started to proliferate and enjoy a certain kind of notoriety, pop culture struck it down in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

“Ism’s, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ‘ism,’ he should believe in himself.”

I’m sure it is no coincidence that film was also written by a man.

The opponents of intersectionality argue that the theory is unproductive and reduces a whole being down to isolated parts. What those people fail to realize is that by breaking down the sectional pieces of identity we create an appreciation for the parts of the sum and increase the individual value of those multiple identities. While men are content to walk about acting like whole people, feminism has recognized that it is only in dissecting the whole and reducing it to miniscule components that can we appreciate the value of what has been lost.

While male-dominated psychiatry has labelled multiple personality as a problematic disorder, feminism is fighting a slow but winning battle to recognize the value of compartmentalizing one’s personality. On a sheer pragmatic level, when you allow sisters of the feminist movement to expand their identities the number of supporters increases exponentially. Where there was previously only one feminist we now have four or five distinct personalities to contend with. While quantity doesn’t trump quality, it’s a good start.

While adapting to non-offensive language that acknowledges this explosion of split-personality rights has complicated communication at the moment, we should recognize that feminism is fixing that. It is obvious that the entire dictionary needs to be overhauled. This is just a difficult time of transition. When the marginalized letters like X, C, and K do stick together the results can be “exciting,” and ass can be “kicked.”

Some feel this vision to be quixotic. Feminists could argue that the word “quioxotic” proves their point. The word employs many oppressed letters and society giving a dismissive meaning to that noble word is both insensitive and, ultimately, corrosive to Social Justice.

Until the letter Q can be used on a daily basis without requiring the accompaniment of a vowel, language, and civilization itself, will continue to be ruled by Patriarchal control.

Eleanor Robertson concludes her article with a warning to the wise. “Far from being some bizarre esoteric theory, intersectionality is alive and kicking all around us, and not just in exclusive ivory tower gender studies clubs. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but there must be some reason pop feminism puts so much effort into repressing a concept that has huge theoretical explanatory power and enormous utility as an organising strategy.”

Intersectionality is gaining ground and the only choice is whether you are on the bus or off the bus. Let’s face it, language has been around for a very long time and the moment has arrived to try something new. Where men have dominated the formation, use, and privileging of some words over others, the elevation of some letters over their companions, and allowed oppressive conjugations, feminists ask us to take a bold but simple step to the side.

Binary thinking about sense and nonsense, right and wrong, meaning and gibberish, has forced linear limits on the accomplishments of large portions of the population. Feminists are determined to give those marginalized segments a voice and they aren’t about to let the dictionary stop them.

I think Reggie Watts summarized the issue best when he said

It’s not so much as so little as to do with what everything is. But it is within our self-interest to understand the topography of our lives unto ourselves. The future states that there is no time other than the collapsation of that sensation of the mirror of the memories in which we are living. Common knowledge, but important nonetheless.

As we face fear in these times – and fear is all around us – we also have anti-fear. It’s hard to imagine, or measure. The background radiation is simply too static to be able to be seen under the normal spectral analysis.

feature image by William Hoiles

Victim Nation

I’m a little bit late reposting this as I was on vacation in a place with poor internet but will follow up shortly with this week’s new instalment. Two for the price of one. Almost.

Victim concept.

Author’s note: This article is based on the work of Dr. Ofer Zur and his attempt to draw attention to the need of studying victim-hood in order to help both victims and perpetrators. All quotes are from his paper on the subject, linked both above and at the end of the article. His work on the subject is available on his website and offers an excellent list of suggested further reading.

Culture has always tried to define its advancement on scales of morality. Superior morality has an unfortunate need for inferiors against which to measure and so we love to both judge and condemn in the personal pursuit of happiness. Such games have reached the status of entertainment in the modern world.

With each generation’s goal of raising the ‘quality’ of society by removing identified immoral elements the Western world in particular has ‘advanced’ to a point where more than 100% of society are deemed victims and we all want justice. We have become a Victim Nation scouring under rocks to find more people to blame.

Everybody wants to be a victim because if you’re not the victim you’re the bad guy.

Social justice organizations pop up daily like rodents in a carnival Whac-A-Mole. Every right they fight for assumes that right was denied through oppression and, invariably, requires a cloak of victimhood to gain sympathy. The inequality that victimhood claims to fight becomes an essential element of the movement to the point of embrace.

“Ironically, the rights movement often victimizes one group while liberating another. What seems to be a noble, justified, long overdue act of protecting a victim can easily turn to blame and warfare. When this happens, conflict, injustice, and victimization are perpetuated, and the possibility of resolution and healing is destroyed.”

Equality has become the focus of social justice for the last two decades. We are no longer content to accept that people are born with different characteristics and skill sets which make some stand out as leaders and others remain followers. While leadership is a desired quality, anything that makes someone different is no longer seen as good, it has become a source of evil. “In this Western worldview, inequalities and differences are often associated with injustice and victimization.”

It doesn’t require an act of injustice to make some people more or less fortunate. All it takes is birth. Inequality has always existed in many forms and will continue to exist. The social justice presumption is that inequality can be eliminated by somehow training or forcing people to become blind to nature. By removing some words from the dictionary we can make the concepts they represent disappear along with the descriptive tool.

We all know quality when we see it but we can’t say what causes quality to exist or exactly what makes one thing better than another. But we do know it when we see it. We also know that some ice cream is better than others but we haven’t asked Häagen-Dazs® to cease and desist.

If you carry the social justice principles to their conclusion we end up with some hilarious and disturbing results.

As long as someone in the world can’t read no one should write books. As long as there is someone without footwear none of us should go shoe shopping. As long as there is someone who can’t get a $200 haircut we should all use a Flowbee® or, as long as there is a bald man, we should all shave our heads.

When feminism fought against victim blaming they had some things right but they got the solution wrong. Dr. Zur describes this second approach as one which “also concentrates on blame; however it lays all blame entirely on men. This approach has been promoted by a brand of feminism, which holds the male dominated patriarchal system responsible for all the evils in the world. Whether the issue is wars and politics, domestic violence and sexual abuse, toxic dumps and the corporations, or nuclear weapons and the military industrial complex, the finger is pointed at men as the culprits. At the heart of this approach is the split between men’s aggressive and violent nature and women’s inherent goodness.”

Where there is good there must be evil. To feminists, women are good and men are the only convenient target to label as the evil enemy. The characterization of men as inherently violent and beastly is essential to maintaining the victim class of all women. While they insist that it’s not men they are fighting it’s the “patriarchy,” their plight is reduced unless the perpetrator is tangible. Patriarchy can’t be put in jail.

The insubstantial nature of the feminist foe makes feminism weak so every male crime with a female victim is hauled into the public media court to make the enemy flesh and blood. Patriarchy is the name but individual men are the bodies to be held accountable. To feminists, every man who commits a crime is an example of male oppression of women, while female criminals are called bizzarities and declarations ensue that “that never happens.”

“These two approaches of blame have not only failed to resolve the violence and suffering but in fact, as Zur’s paper explains, have tended to perpetuate and exacerbate them.”

If victimhood mentality doesn’t help women or society, why does it continue?

Personal benefit. Aside from the sense of moral superiority that they glean by being victims, feminists need resolution for a bigger problem: they have no justification to exist unless they have victims to save, a foe to blame, and a cause to write about. Feminists want to exist. They may be obnoxious but their stupidity is calculated.

“The culture of victimization is closely tied to what Amitai Etzioni (1987), a sociologist at Georgetown University, called the ‘rights industry.’” Among other service industries, psychotherapists and lawyers also stand to benefit from perpetual victimhood. They are the cheerleaders in an un-winnable game and as long as the game goes on they keep getting paid.

“In claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others, a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one’s behavior and its outcome. The victims ‘merely’ seek justice and fairness. If they become violent, it is only as a last resort, in self-defense. The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.”

Responsibility takes a lot of hard work and strength of character. It is not an innate skill, it’s learned… but not in Women’s Studies classes. Women are not born in a glass box, it is built around them by misguided ideology. Where feminists claim to liberate women by convincing them they are oppressed, all they’ve done is to teach women how to blame their personal failures on external sources. While it sells many books, blame has never built a house.

As unhelpful as feminism has been with their obsession over externalizing personal failure and inadequacy, they have successfully intimidated others into supporting their ill-conceived ideas. They’ve turned it into a fad. It’s the new black.

“The blame-victim approach is not confined to the rights or recovery movement. It is also at the heart of the legal system’s approach, which attempts to respond to injustice and violations by identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators and compensating the victims (Sykes, 1992; Hughes, 1993). The faulty part of this legal approach is the focus on simplistic, linear, short term, and face-value justice.”

Dr. Ofer Zur took a chance with his research. He notes that “[v]ery few writers have warned against the unrealistic and ultimately patronizing portrayal of victims of crime as total innocents” and admonishes that is it is a grave error to continue down the road that’s being paved.

“We have become a nation of victims, where everyone is leapfrogging over each other, publicly competing for the status of victim, and where everyone is defined as some sort of survivor.”

When victimhood is rewarded there will be no incentive for people to heal. While victims do exist and victimizers should be punished, the definition of what constitutes a crime expands exponentially to keep up with the number of self-identified victims. We now measure our status by how oppressed we are and can take a test to find out if our “privilege” is low enough to give us a voice.

The reason people only hear men’s anger and not their pain is that men’s pain competes with the pain of women. It’s harder to be taken seriously as a victim when your supposed victimizer is crying. Meanwhile, anger sounds oppressive and violent which lends to the promise of reinforcing the victim status of women as long as people only listen to the “tone” and not the content. That’s why A Voice For Men is constantly being criticized for tone instead of content.

As Zur says, “To understand better the dynamics of violent systems, we must first free ourselves from the binds of politically correct thinking.” Violence exists in both male and female form and as long as women continue their role in the cycle immune from criticism the entire system will endure. It’s not the tone that is the problem.

The MHRM is not engaged in a battle for victimhood champion, we are fighting to eliminate that victimhood mentality which is blocking true, positive social change. The MHRM is seeking to end the proliferation of false victimhood so that people can go about living truly empowered and healthy lives.

“An individual or group can win the battle, become the victim of the year, yet lose the war.”

Men have traditionally fought all the wars and taken on the main burdens of survival. They have built structured societies and put the very systems of government and justice in place to which feminists have turned to play their victim cards. Men have shouldered the responsibility of doing all those things and been so gracious about their possible mistakes they’ve allowed themselves to be turned into the enemy. Until now.

Feminism made a mistake when they picked a war with men. If someone saves you from a burning building you don’t accuse him of grabbing your ass while he carried you over his shoulder. What you might do is to hope you can save him right back if he ever needs your assistance.

But the victims of the world are all too busy feeling sorry for themselves to have thought of that.

Source: Rethinking ‘Don’t Blame the Victim’: The Psychology of Victimhood, by Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Also posted on A Voice For Men