This morning I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter. It was prompted by author Linda Hirshman’s Salon defense of Cheryl Sandberg, specifically by Hirshman’s disavowal of “intersectional race/class/gender/save the whales feminism,” and by reading this review of Hirshman’s 2012 history of the gay rights movement.
Here’s that rant, stitched together from its original 140-character bites, but otherwise unchanged.
Intersectionality isn’t a checklist. It’s not about making sure you give a nod to all the stuff and people you’re supposed to nod to.
The core problem with non-intersectional writing isn’t that it’s not broad enough. It’s that it’s not DEEP enough. The very word “intersectional” is a recognition that communities, identities, struggles are rarely discrete.
Even when you write about rich white straight people you need to remember that other people exist, because RWSP don’t exist in a vacuum. Hirshman’s history of gay rights screws up even the narrow slice it tries to cover because you can’t write even that slice in isolation. Likewise, the criticism of Sandberg’s book is that even that book, the book she intended, is poorer for not being more broadly informed.
If you’ve spent your whole life being centered by society, it weakens you. Decentering yourself strengthens you. It makes you better.
If I teach US history as a story about white guys I get all of it wrong, even the parts that actually are about white guys. My everything will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
(Sometimes my everything is intersectional and it’s still bullshit anyway. I’m working on that.)