There’s been a whole lot of comment recently, with one thing in common: intersectionality. I’m thinking specifically of the following: Caitlin Moran’s attitude to WOC, as reported on the F-Word and on CiF; Slutwalk; and the Occupy movement’s relationship towards Julian Assange.
Maybe start with the oldest, which was Occupy. Occupy started with the best of intentions but turned out not to be a particularly welcoming place for women. There were reports of sexual assault and rape at Occupy, and they were rather too closely aligned to Assange. Women who complained were generally told to pull themselves together and stop whining about women’s stuff when there was important debate happening. The men taking this position didn’t stop to consider that for many of us, women’s stuff IS important, and that the antifeminist attitude excludes and belittles us. Cath Elliott put it best: of course you can have your equality, but wait ’til after the revolution, love.
More recently, Slutwalk London ended with – amazingly – a speech in support of Julian Assange, a perspective which presumes disbelief for the women who complained about him. This is not supportive of women who are survivors of sexual violence and who, all too frequently, are not believed. In their haste to promote themselves, a supposedly women’s movement excluded and silenced an entire swathe of women. The belated apology was too little, too late.
Then over the weekend, Caitlin Moran was asked on Twitter about whether she raised the issue of an absence of WOC in Girls in her interview with Lena Dunham, to which she tweeted breezily that actually she “couldn’t give a shit” – an offhand dismissal which she probably now regrets, given the amount of pixels now sacrificed to the topic. Again, this implies that it’s legitimate for a feminist to be too busy to give a shit about an entire segment of the female population.
Intersectionality is crucial to any movement, including feminism. Without it, the men on the left are not running a left-wing movement but a self-serving men’s movement. Without it, white middle-class feminists like me are not involved in feminism, but in self-interest. “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit” – I first saw that quote on Shakesville, but it rings true. If feminism is not for ALL women and not just the most privileged women, then it’s not feminism at all.