but I really, seriously need, to address the article ”In defence of Caitlin Moran and populist feminism” published on the NewStatesmen website by two women I can only find reference to as “Rhiannon and Holly” editors of a online feminist blog/zine called The Vagenda.
You can read the article in its entirety through the link above, and indeed it is one not to be missed. Because what this article represents is the serious lack of ability within the “populist” feminist movement- or the white feminist movement as I would call it- to address the issues in their own community and within their own conceptions of feminism itself. And although this kind of response to any critique launched at white feminist who claim to be doing a service for women through their actions, when in fact are only serving a small section of women and doing what could even be described as a complete disservice to other women is not SURPRISING in any respect, it deserves to be noted that while the excuses given as to why critiques of Caitlin Moran might be brushed off are not uncommon, they are in my opinion, particularly harmful. In fact, it is a method of derailing I have seen plenty of times in many “radical” or “progressive” circles to discredit valid critiques, especially when it comes to race, and write off those actually interested in constructive and healthy criticism of a movement as “divisive”.
This method, widely used by white not-so-radical-radical apologists, is one that primarily articulates itself around the concept of “class” and “academia”. It is a method of discrediting those who are attempting to engage in progressive critique by aligning them with the “man” or the “system”, using elements of “class” such as education, as means for throwing out a valid critique by someone who happens to disagree with them. It is the method of argumentation that allows these two columnist to put someone heralding the concept of intersectionality somehow in the same category as being a classist, bougie, elitist. And frankly it’s digusting. Here’s why.
First and foremost, intersectionality as a term was implemented to bridge the gap between white, upper class, western feminists/radicals/progressives and to offer them a way to understand how multiple oppressions- such as race, class, gender, and sexuality- could operate in one community, or even in one individuals, experience. Intersectionality is a term that has been used triumphantly by the groups LEFT OUT by elitist, classist, racist, and bourgeoise movements to fight for their inclusion within them. To turn that term on its head, to harken someone who uses the term in their fight for equality- here that being mostly women of color responding to Caitlin Moran’s dismissive and shitty comments about their exclusion from popular media, and in particular Lena Dunham’s Girls- as elitist, as exclusionary, is beyond reprehensible. It is a complete misappropriation of the term and what it means for so many women of color, for so many trans*, fat, poor, differently abled individuals, and others, who have found themselves unspoken for in the feminist movement. To take a term that has progressed a movement so far in terms of being more inclusive, more open to understanding the needs and struggles of marginalized groups, and turn into something the opposite of that for the sake of protecting the white privilege of white feminists is so disgusting and unimaginable, that I almost laughed upon reading it. But the fact is this type of argumentation is widely employed by white progressives who, in resisting to face their own privilege, will create one that they are being oppressed by.
That’s not to say that there is no privilege in the academic world of feminism. Absolutely and without question there is privilege in the ability to read, to access education materials freely, and in the United Sates at least with only about 25% of Americans pursuing higher education for whatever reason, the ability to sit in a classroom and learn about feminism. There is privilege in owning a computer or having access to one, privilege in being able to write or having the materials with which to do so, not to mention a host of other able-bodied and neurotypical privileges that otherwise allow for education, particularly higher education, to be accomplished for some people.
But the idea that a concept such as intersectionality is so theoretical, so completely incomprehensible to anyone without a college degree, that it is something that feminists shouldn’t be striving for is not only insulting to the concept but to the very feminists that these two columnist feel may be alienated by the term. For one, what is so remarkable about the idea that someone may be suffering multiple oppressions at the same time that interact and reinforce each other, that it couldn’t be easily explained? Do we forget that “feminism” in itself is a lot of theory, part conceptual in its underlying fight against male dominated structures such as “patriarchy” and “sexism”? Have we forgotten that “feminism” in itself is a term that needs explaining, yet many feminist have been happy to do it for decades, in a variety of formats and formulas in order to speak out to and work with those who may not immediately understand the complexities of the theory surrounding it? And have these women forgotton that one of the main battles feminism fights is in the area of education? Or teaching and learning? How many workshops have we seen “unlearning sexism” or “teaching female empowerment”, but somehow one about “unlearning racism in feminism” couldn’t be included on our lists?
And second, how insulting to what I assume to be the poor, lower class, uneducated, white women the columnists speak of, that they find them to be so unable to understand such a complex, really too confusing (trans* women of color exist?!) idea of intersectionality that they refuse to even engage with or educate about it! The whole idea that uneducated feminists could never come to understand what interctionality means without cracking a text book, not only ignores the fact that the vast majority of women lacking institutional education are the women of color to whom intersectionality applies, but also takes me back to a time when women, people of color, and a vast majority of other marginalized groups were thought to be “unable” of being educated and forced out of institutions of learning because they simply would “never be able to understand”.
But thirdly, and most disheartening, is the fact that these what I presume to be white women, are so unwilling to address the struggles of women of color within the feminist movement, that they are so unwilling to pull their heads out of “populist” feminism’s ass, that they would encourage the idea that somehow by talking about the ways in which race, class, and gender intersect that women of color are being “divisive” or “exclusionary”. Again this is not a new concept, but the idea that these columnist would do so by comparing women of color fighting to have their stories heard to something “bourgeois” or “classist”, they VERY MODES by which they THEMSELVES have been excluded from the “populist” (white) feminist movement is something so despicable I almost have no words to describe it. It exists in the deepest, darkest pools of scummy rhetoric, finding itself a bedmate with “reverse racism”, “misandry”, and all the other role reversal, inverted oppression bullshit which other groups in power have used to make those that they are oppressing into the oppressor and themselves into victims.
The ridiculous article wraps up with a well disguised sentence which proclaims that, “Moran at least speaks a language we all understand. And how many other feminists can you credit with that?” but reading between the lines I think it is clear what the authors truly mean. “Moran at least only addresses issues that are safe and comfortable to us, and race, among other things, is not one of them. So shut up.” Too bad these women, who seem to have no knowledge of the vast amount of feminist writers out there who have spoken for those marginalized within feminism, who HAVE given a voice to people who sure as hell don’t “understand” the ignorance perpetuated by “feminists” like Caitlin Moran. Because if they’d been paying attention they’d know. There ain’t no silencing us.