Or, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
I wrote a recent piece about Sarah Sanders in which I took Jimmy Kimmel to task for saying she was doomed to live in a craft store (in a sexist way). Someone was annoyed that I didn’t include a mention of boys who crochet/embroider in my piece about the grossness of men using domestic words to insult powerful women. (The piece was not about crafting and it was not about men, either; it was about a type of specific abuse that is heaped onto powerful women.)
I wrote a very damn fine piece about Wonder Woman in which I complained that we were valuing pretend comic book characters so much that real women who lived real lives were being overlooked, even forgotten. Someone was annoyed because I didn’t give adequate representation to women who don’t fit a certain gender stereotype growing up. (An untrue charge, and I didn’t fit that gender stereotype growing up either, but the piece wasn’t about that and if I’d stopped in the middle to go into a diatribe about gender stereotypes, my piece would have completely sucked.)
I wrote a piece about Fifty Shades of Grey through the lens of having endured a controlling relationship and was attacked in the comments for not being sensitive enough to the concerns of people who are into BDSM (Sadly, I am not making this up, and had I paused in the middle to add several paragraphs about how Fifty Shades is not representative of the “healthy” attitudes of BDSM participants – if I thought that BDSM attitudes were healthy, which I don’t – again, it would have totally ruined the flow of the piece.)
It seems that nowadays people seem to want to demand that every viewpoint takes into account every other viewpoint before it can be publicly shared. Regardless of how terrible a piece of writing that consisted of 80% disclaimers and 20% actual content would be, writers are supposed to give a shout out to every minority group out there every time they write anything. Maybe this would be ok if there was some sort of set limit on the amount of victim groups that existed, but they invent new ones every day, it seems, and we’re supposed to give equal credence to them all. (The BDSM guy felt fully justified playing his victim card to bitch at a woman who actually had experienced abusive behavior.)
And you know what I say to all that – SHUT THE EFF UP.
Because you know the one group who seems to get it in the rear every time – regular plain old everyday women. Women are supposed to be sensitive to everyone’s needs. That’s the expectation here. That is the demand. Our needs are supposed to be sublimated to everyone else’s on pretty much every conceivable basis. If we’re thin or pretty or rich or traditionally feminine or straight or were cheerleaders growing up or even if we are none of those things and are simply average and are willing to admit we’re not suffering every moment of every day, we are told time and again that our experiences don’t matter due to our “privilege”. We haven’t suffered enough to have an opinion. We should prioritize the needs of people who are less privileged than we are, even though “privilege” oftentimes carries with it an entirely different set of problems and we’ve simply suffered in a different set of ways.
Our experiences have meaning and value too and we have the right to express them WITHOUT YOUR INPUT – without the shaming, the calling out, the attempts at emotional blackmail and public humiliation – even if you think we have it like, so totally way easier than you. Because quite frankly, you don’t know shit about my experience as a woman like me if you are NOT a woman like me. Assume nothing about what I think and feel.
Regular plain old everyday women are not allowed to talk about what it means to be a regular plain old everyday woman without including a shout out every possible unhappiness that any other of the 8 billion people on Planet Earth may have encountered. My experience as a victim of psychological manipulation was to at least one person, not good enough – I should have taken his feelings as a MALE BDSM fan into account when I wrote an essay about my own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Complaining about sexist treatment of Sarah Sanders at the hands of men should not be allowed because some boys like to crochet. You see, ladies, we are supposed to sublimate ourselves EVEN TO MEN because the men’s rights movement is just another group of a-holes trying to get their piece of the victimhood pie.
There’s not even a WORD for us any more. That’s why I have to use 5 words to describe who and what we are. Regular plain old everyday women. We’re being told that women have penises and XY chromosomes, that women don’t have periods or have babies or breastfeed, that basically any biological or cultural definition previously used to describe us does no longer apply. We’re being told that being a woman amounts to some sort of dress-up club that anyone can join. And you know what, maybe that’s all true, I have no problem with trans people. I’ll say again, very very clearly – I have no problem with trans people. You do you. But WHAT ABOUT ME? What about my daughter, my mother, my sister? Who are we? What is the word for a woman who was born with two X chromosomes, specifically? Black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, straight, lesbian – what is the word for those of us human beings who were born with two X chromosomes?
There isn’t one that hasn’t been co-opted by someone else. There isn’t one that somebody or another doesn’t find problematic.
WE ARE BEING ERASED.
And the reason why we are the ones being erased is because we regular plain old everyday women are, at our very core, pretty freaking nice. We don’t WANT to hurt anyone’s feelings. We want to make everyone happy and make sure everyone is included but folks keep coming up with more and more people to include and our place at the table has shrunk away to nothing. And no one is advocating for us. No one will advocate for us. They’ll only take up more and more of our space until they’ve taken everything like a humongous jerk manspreading himself all over the subway. There will be no space left for regular plain old everyday women. All this despite the fact that regular plain old everyday women have endured, historically, and still endure an awful lot of BS and abuse and the world keeps coming up with new ways to heap BS and abuse onto us.
If I write something and I haven’t represented you in this thing I’ve written, well, maybe-just-maybe I am not writing for you or about you, mmmkay? Maybe-just-maybe I am writing for human beings who happen to have a life experience fairly close to my own. Or maybe-just-maybe I think my life experience is somehow unique or interesting or informative even to others who DON’T have that life experience. Whatever. If you don’t relate to what I say, if you think I’ve forgotten something or excluded someone, then by all means write your own piece that better represents your version of the world and relays your own human experience. I am writing about my unique experience and I do this because I believe it may be helpful or interesting to others in some way.
Personally, I love reading about people with different lives than me. I love reading about what their lives are like, and pondering the many ways we are different and the many ways we are the same. I would NEV-VER, and I mean NEVER, want to horn in on someone else relaying a story of their life to tell them “Well achtually, I couldn’t help but notice, you didn’t talk about ME, like AT ALL, and I was wondering when you were going to get to the part that was about me?” First of all because it’s incredibly rude to do that, but secondly because it would put a damper on the story they were telling! If I stopped them in the middle of their story to demand they pause to tell MY story, that would end up being a pretty lousy narrative, now wouldn’t it??
There is NO WAY that any given thinkpiece or memoir or coming-of-age tale can possibly include a shout out to every marginalized group. There just isn’t. Intersectionality is impossible, at least the way they’re asking us to do it. Understanding and compassion isn’t enough anymore, we have to be vocal cheerleaders for everyone else’s oppression. But every person cannot carry the banner of representation for every other person constantly. There’s not enough hours in the day and not only that, it makes for bad writing (isn’t there enough of that in the world already?)
I’m wasting my time scribbling things because I want to communicate some ideas for and to other women that I don’t see anyone else communicating right now. I want to offer a vision of a different and better feminism because I believe it is of critical import for the good of other women like me, to do so. Because I don’t think regular plain old everyday women deserve to be erased, to continue being put last by every other person on Planet Earth and that really does seem to be the endgame of some of this intersectionality jazz. Erasure.
Women have a right to exist and communicate our experiences to one another without being constantly interrupted by people who want to steal our spotlight. I’m gonna keep exercising my rights and fighting for the rights of other women as long as I can.
Because this vision of intersectionality is impossible unless it comes at the expense of somebody, and maybe for once, it could be somebody other than women footing the bill.
8 thoughts on “Intersectionality is impossible”
What do you have against trans people? 🙂
I liked your post. And I’ve found this especially true:
I’ve probably been guilty in the past of doing that to you (and to others). I also think that that is part of wwhat can be frustrating about comment cultures, even at a place like Ordinary Times.
Kind of related (but kind of not): you might find this piece by Alan Jacobs about intersectionality interesting: https://blog.ayjay.org/intersections/
By the way, for some reason, I’ve only just now noticed you have a solo blog….I look forward to reading your other posts. I notice in your side note that you say to just call you “atomic.” Would you prefer I call you that instead of “Kristin”?
Oh gosh never, Gabriel. I experience a palpable sense of relief when I come across one of your comments. I think you’re one of the best at OT. I’ve found literally every comment to be insightful and supportive.
Thanks for the link – looking forward to reading it.
I answer to either atomic or Kristin. I’ve been “atomic” for 10 years online and so there are quite a few people who know me as only atomic so that is more for the people who know me that way. But I am Kristin and am happily called either. 🙂