Made in America: the brand of ‘feminism’ that recognises and respects difference, as long as you’re not ‘white’

What kind of ‘feminism’ seeks to encourage and respect difference yet at the same homogenises and lumps together ‘white women’ as if they were NOT a diverse, multi-cultural and intersectional group of human beings? On the one hand it claims to empower women but on the other, divides and generalises about a whole group and their experience, culture and history of ideas based on skin colour alone.

As Rebecca Reilly-Cooper (University of Warwick) eloquently writes:

‘I think the problem lies not with the idea of intersectionality itself, but with the identity politics that some of its proponents believe follows from it. We are told that if we accept intersectionality – which we ought to – then we also ought to accept a radical form of identity politics that says we can never generalize from people’s particular experiences, can never legitimately speak for any one other than ourselves, and where personal narrative and testimony are elevated to such a degree that there can be no objective standpoint from which to examine their veracity. This is an unattractive – indeed, an incoherent – picture of what politics should be like, which followed through to its logical conclusions is entirely self-defeating. And as we are sold this vision of politics as part of the intersectionality package, if we can’t accept it we are told that we must reject the intersecting oppressions story too. But this is a mistake…..

Some intersectionality advocates seem to jump from the reasonable and probably true premise that people are best placed to recognize their own oppression to the unreasonable and clearly false premise that people can never be mistaken about their own oppression. It may well be true that women are best placed to define and recognize sexism, and that non-white people are best placed to identify racism. What is clearly not true is that women can never be mistaken about whether a particular phrase or action is sexist or not, or that whenever a non-white person thinks she has been the victim of racism, then she has. I may be accused here of erecting a strawman argument, that no intersectionalist actually thinks this. And yet in practice, I see this assumption at work all time, when men who question whether something is sexist are dismissed as ‘mansplainers’, or when accusations of racism are believed without evidence because it is a person of colour making the accusation. The danger with this line of thinking is that it really does lead to an Oppression Top Trumps, where we have to preface all our arguments with extensive details of our identities and past experiences to prove our oppression credentials before we are entitled to an opinion, and where personal feelings and experience trump abstract arguments and general principles.’

The irony of this kind of ‘feminism’ is that it grew out of the experience of black women in the USA. Yet, despite the specific origin and culture of this thinking, many feminists happily quote it in a context outside the USA. As if merely by the fact it was written by women of colour means that it applies to all women of colour. This is also contradictory to it’s central premise of difference, identity and intersectionality. Oh, the irony.

‘Post-colonial, ‘intersectional’ feminism, made in the USA, let’s hope it stays there…..


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