So about two decades ago a black legal scholar called Kimberle Crenshaw articulated the concept of intersectionality. She was describing legal fictions that were created that said you could be discriminated against on teh grounds of race, gender, but which did not recognise the intersection of these so when you experienced oppression on the grounds of both, you were denied legal help. A british legal academic did similar in a critique of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, Nicola Lacey. They were both describing a real and tangible problem which was seen in legal practice, both used actual cases to describe this. One involved General Motors, Lacey used Alders Department Store. Intersectionality is a recent buzzword which surprised me because I have been using the concept for a long time. Social work is the services that address violence and harm which exist at this intersection, and have evolved around power, abuse and violence. Intersectionality is at the core of social work tehory world wide.
Now the starting point for intersectionality is reflection. Reflection on your own complex identity, the way it impacts how you see the world, how the power you are exercising impacts a situation. It requires you understand you are not separate from the issue you are discussing and could be reinforcing harm, even when you mean well. I didn’t understand how intersectionality had become a buzzword till I got to LSE. I had seen vacuous misogynists like Laurie Penny, and her mates, use it as another excuse to bully and harass women, and was stunned that they had appropriated and misunderstood this. I got to LSE and I found out why. The reason you need inntersectionality in social work is you need to understand how all these different systems are intersecting to create the violence, actual violence and abuse, you are reflecting on daily. The poverty, the statutory intervention, the gaps in law and institutional mandates, the human power relations, the context, your role in exercising and mitigating the power of the state and the potential you have to really cause damage. It requires constant reflection. This blog is an extension of the reflective habits I picked up. I need a tool to constantly reflect on how my perspective is changing and how i view the world is changing.
At LSE I realised this concept had been picked up by very very privileged young women doing bullshit gender theory, queer theory degrees before they move onto privileged lives and they had basically taken this important concept and put it at the centre of narcissistic word salad, while they study expensive degrees that set them up to take on jobs where they will never have to consider the impact of what they do. At thecore of intersectionality is an understanding that you have to reflect on the unintended consequences of what you do, the dangers of identifying yourself as inherently good and a saviour and how much harm that does. The ‘identify as’ narcissistic posh activists through which most discussion of feminism has to go through cannot do this and will not.
The intersection taht Crenshaw described was about systems coming together to erase the inequality which places women at the risk of violence. The lack of legal protection, the oppressive impact of systems which carry the power of the state but the start and end point is that erasure and the violence it enables. Online trans activism has taken this buzzword and used it to justify violent narcissistic misogyny, becauseleft wing media needed that. The left wing media rewarded misogynist activists when they needed to respond to austerity,. Austerity which decimated services for violence against women, which used benefit cuts, dv shelter closures, and legal aid cuts to return women to the 19th century. It is at the core of understanding many of our problems. It requires a multi dimensional understanding of our economhy, and the institutional make up of it, how institutions come together at these intersections around inequality. How that results in violence, and rape, and poverty, in real women and kids lives.
The toxicity of the online trans activism is about this. Its because the narcissistic queer theory/gender studies of privileged young women, and the media they want to be part of is dominating and is the prism we have to view these things through. In fact this concept is important to understand both the inequality that trans women face, the inequality that women face and how they overlap. That actually requires also understanding the differences between us.
Narcissistic abuse is not that. Nor is abuse and harassment in the name of being gender critical. It is here that common ground and difference matter and its going to be vital to understand. I would urge you if you see the word intersectionality to ask yourself whether the author you are reading is reflecting on the power they are exercising, the consequences, or whether they are using it to project an identity as good. I would urge you t seek out the papers by Nicola Lacey and Kimberle Crenshaw and to seek out social work literature, notably Anti-Oppressive Theory and Practice by Lena Dominelli, and to ignore the bollocks spouted on twitter and in the Guardian and New Statesman. Ask yourself i that author has any understanding of poverty, violence, power dynamics and if their use of the word is that. I dont really know what point this post has but I wantedto write it.