If you go by the discussion in the UK leftie-sphere this week, it is: obscure, elitist and overly technical, something that boxes off feminism from the masses and makes it relevant only to an academic elite. (See this article for a good example of the kind of argument I’m talking about, and this, this and this for the current context.)
But I think the language debate is a diversion. As far as I can see, no one is asking professional feminists to pepper their books and newspaper articles with the word “intersectionality.” When people complain about a lack of intersectionality in popular feminism, they’re complaining a feminism that focuses on the experiences of white, middle-class, usually professional women at the expense of all others.
I completely reject the idea that in order for feminism to be relatable, it needs to be reduced to the media staples of body image and raunch culture and women on boards; that, as the editors of Vagenda argue, “intersectionality isn’t going to have much dice if some of the teenage girls in the audience are pregnant, or hungry, or at risk of abuse.” (It that’s the case, aren’t the girls in question living intersectionality? In which case, I think they’d be perfectly capable of discussing how factors like class and race have shaped their position.)
(On the other hand, I also reject the climate of ideological purity that often accompanies these discussions. I want my thinkers and public figures to get things wrong from time to time. It’s only through wading through what is wrong that we can eventually get to something closer to right. And I don’t think shouting people down for using the wrong language does anyone any good.)
Incorporating intersectionality into your work doesn’t have to mean having esoteric, insider-y discussions like the one I’m having right now. It just means taking into account perspectives other than your own.
Elsewhere: I don’t care if you were born a woman or became one (The Guardian)
In defence of Caitlin Moran and populist feminism. (New Statesman)
Pissers vs Wankers: The state of left-wing feminist debate? (Glosswatch)
Head/Parapet (Not writing, but blogging)