A beginner’s guide to intersectional feminism

As everyday discussions about prejudice and oppression get more nuanced, it can be hard to know how to dive into the conversation. This helpful guide by writer Saroful breaks down the basics of what intersectional feminism is and how not to make rookie mistakes when it comes to it. Here’s an excerpt:

Lesson two, which I meant to make lesson one: If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you. If it is about you, do better.

What does that mean? Well. At some point you’re going to hear a statement like “white women are racist.” Your first instinct is going to be “not me! I’m a good person!” Stop for a minute before you jump in with that comment.

First of all, is it contributing anything to the discussion? No. It’s actually derailing the discussion by recentering it on people having to reassure you that you’re a good person. Remember #notallmen? Don’t be that guy. More about derailing in a second, I promise.

Second of all, I chose that statement for a reason, and it’s about to get real uncomfortable in here so let me reassure you FIRST that I love you and I think you’re a worthwhile person: white people are racist. They benefit from systemic racism whether or not they actively contribute to perpetuating it, and they perpetuate it in ways that are invisible to them because they’ve never had to think about it. That’s a thing you can learn about by not jumping in on that discussion and just sitting and listening for a minute.

You can read the full piece "How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101" on Saroful’s website. Then check out Saroful’s next article, “So you think you know a thing: Feministing 201”.

[Header image: Tyler Feder of Roaring Softly]

Notable Replies

  1. I read the article; there wasn't any anti-intellectual, hate-filled, racist stuff in it. Rather, I found it very informative. Especially the linked bit talking about some of the disadvantages that white cis males may face.

    I'm still learning what it means to be an ally, but so far I think the first step is just listening to understand. There are tons of conversations happening daily (I like r/twoxchromosomes, or Jezebel) and a little bit of perspective goes a long way.

  2. Or, and here me out, maybe try a more nuanced approached rather than a verbal fire brand, as "...benefit from systemic racism whether or not they actively contribute to perpetuating it, and they perpetuate it in ways that are invisible to them because they’ve never had to think about it." isn't really the definition of a racist, is it?

    "Racist - a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another."

    No, not really.

    I guess in the most broad terms, if everyone has biases which leads to discrimination, even unconscious ones, then everyone is a racist. But even if one concedes that people are inherently biased, especially about different races and ethnicity, even unconsciously (partly because our brains work that way), and that the system is not only set up with racial inequality, but the PEOPLE in the system are enforcing/working it to be racist - they are still going to have a hard time wearing a scarlet R around their neck.

    I get the point that one might want to shock people into looking at themselves in a way they aren't used to. But the reality is most people won't do that. In some ways it dilutes the whole concept because they think, "Pft, she called me a racist, but clearly I am not, so I have to wonder if any of their arguments hold water at all?" You fired that photon torpedo and now shields are up. (I guess that is White fragility, though I am not sure leading with the term "racists" is a "minimum amount of racial stress".)

    Clearly one can agree there are different levels of racism, from tattooed skin heads filled with hate, to ignorant people with bad hygiene and Confederate flag shirts, to someone who has some racists views but not fanatical about it, to people who have a sort of casual racism they aren't even aware of. But when one brands someone a racist they tend to see that label toward the skinhead or red neck level, not someone with less evident biases, and then when they apply that to themselves they don't see that at all - and still wonder why they were called that.

    Technically correct won't always get you the results you want.

    Think about other issues not quite so charged - like a friend of yours being rude lately and putting on some weight. Would you approach them asking why they are a "fat asshole" lately? Well, maybe you would if you're really good friends. But if you were a doctor or therapist or any other "stranger" like that, you wouldn't use that blunt of language, even if it was true.

    Now reading the article, I am clearly guilty of "Tone policing". But at the same time I think my point has merit, because the reactions I have described I think are fairly common. Here again I think context is super important. Towards the end is this statement " if asking nicely not to be oppressed actually worked, we would have zero oppression right now." I think this is very true with some people. But not necessarily with all people.

    If you have a group more or less diametrically opposed to your cause, then no amount of diplomacy is going to really help you change minds. But if you have groups who are potential allies, or like 70% of the way already there, wouldn't it behoove you to use an approach that doesn't alienate them to the cause? I realize you shouldn't have to baby talk them into listening and being empathetic, but at the same time people ARE fragile, especially when it comes to challenging the images of themselves in their heads.

    But I am just a racist gimp, so, you know, what do I know.

  3. I used to get so angry because #notallmen. This was such a hard lesson for me to learn, but necessary.

  4. it's exhausting but blocking people out is only going to make enemies.

    When someone rolls in with an attitude of already being an enemy of the community, loaded for bear with maximal whatabouts, you get nowhere. Reddit allows a certain amount of raiding and fuckery, but individual reddits have some self-policing.

    This is one community. We don't have to work around r/thedonald. The owners are happy with that. You may prefer a lower common denominator, but you also have a ridiculous plethora of options.

  5. So nice (/s) to see that like, 90% or more of the convo here so far on intersectional feminism is instead about how white people feel when their racism is pointed out. (Big news that, such discovery.) White folks just gotta be on center stage talking about themselves, even in an ostensibly progressive space like bbs!

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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