Friday, 26 April 2013
The flaw I see in how we talk about intersectionality.
There are two discussions about how intersectionality works. The first is how multiple minorities intersect in singular people who belong to multiple groups, the second is how multiple privileges intersect.
So where's the conversation where we talk about how individuals with different oppressions and privileges intersect?When it does crop up? It seems to chiefly consist of one side being all "my oppression is the worst ever so my privilege doesn't matter".
Recently this link has been making the rounds: http://stavvers.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/this-is-the-bestest-briefing-on-intersectionality-ever-with-added-description/ It's a good demonstration, the whole intersecting groups not being intersectional is a big issue, but the thing is? Intersectionality isn't as simple as having one privilege and one oppression or being all oppressed/privileged. It's all shades of grey, and privilege matters in terms of intersecting issues, especially when it comes to very privileged individuals asserting their oppression is the worst and they suffer far more than other multiple oppressed individuals who don't experience that oppression.
The result is much of the time we talk about how oppressions intersect, how privilege works but not how privilege and oppression can intersect as well to cause harm to some of us. We talk about the worst harm being caused by privilege/power + prejudice, but we also assume that such an equation has to always match, ie cis privilege/power + Prejudice against non cis individauls. As if people have somehow become magically incapable of leveraging power in one area to oppress a weaker individual in an area they usually can't.
My personal metaphor for Oppression/privilege is a set of scales, one side is devoted to oppression, the other to privilege, we stand under the oppression side with it resting on our shoulders. With each oppression, weight is added to our shoulders, weighing us down, each privilege however weighs down the opposite side lifting some of the weight of our oppression off of our shoulders. Prejudice is lighter than full oppression, and it gets stacked on the oppression side as well, people with more privilege are more easily able to bear the added burden, those with less? Find it weighs far more heavily on them. Ergo prejudice is far more devastating to those with few privileges than it is to those with multiple privileges, yet it is often treated as having the same impact in intersectional terms.
This is the flaw, that we see certain aspects as self contained and not as intersectional as others.