Purely Political Theory
I don’t like “intersectionality” as a political concept.
Wait. Let me start by saying I’m a political theory junkie. Yes, I am… I admit it. “My name is Mary Tracy and I’m Political Theory Addict”.
(Actually, I’m addicted to learning, and politics is particularly fun, but I’m digressing)
And political theory junkie that I am I like my theories simple, powerful and full of truth.
See, intersectionality is not a “theory”. It’s a mere… “statement”.
People say “intersectionality means people are oppressed in different ways” and I say “cool! … And…?”
It’s not that the concept is “wrong”; it’s “right”. It’s just that we can’t do anything with it.
It doesn’t explain anything and we can use it in any way to change the world.
And to me a theory can’t just try to explain the world: it must also help us change it. (Yes, I am totally plagiarising Marx.)
Saying “intersectionality” is like saying “a cake is made of different ingredients”. True, but useless.
It doesn’t tell you how the cake is made or what the ingredients are.
And it definitely doesn’t tell you how to dismantle the blooming cake.
This is important. A theory without a clear link to a real world purpose is just intellectual… fiddling.
Let’s look at an example.
Saying “women of colour are oppressed not just as women but also as people of colour”.
OK. What do we do with this statement?
Do we know why “people of colour” are oppressed? Or how exactly the oppression of women of colour differs from that of white women? Or, more urgently, how on Earth do we end the oppression of people of colour everywhere?
If “intersectionality” does answer these questions, then I apologise for my ignorance. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t.
You know what answers those questions? Feminism. Radical feminism. And colonialism. And imperialism. AND HISTORY. And a study of the global economic system. (See: Marx)
To me, these are theories worth studying.
You know why? Because they help us move forward.
When we study colonialism, we learn why the global south is so poor. When we study imperialism, we realise that we live in an Empire, right now. When we study global economics, we learn just how much money flows from the global south to the north.
When we study history, we learn about slavery and migration and war…
These are all seriously difficult topics. Not because they take a long time to understand, though that is true, but because acknowledging human injustice is in itself a painful process. One that most of us try to avoid, as much as we can.
All that said, there are positive aspects to “intersectionality” as a political idea… it’s just that nobody’s talking about them.
How to make intersectionality work
Many of us want to write and get paid for it, and it itches to see that this is a privilege only reserved for the middle class white Britons who are publicly educated. This is the “personal” aspect.
It also itches because we know for a fact that if the only people who are ever listened to are the “privileged” then, by gum, the world is never going to change.
This is how you can use “intersectionality” on a practical level.
There is a direct correlation between radical thinking and “privilege”. An INVERSE correlation, that is. The more privileged the person, the less “radical” their politics tend to be. THAT IS PRECISELY THE POINT! And that is why, say, they appear in the media.
We are not going to get the same feminist ideas from a white middle class British woman who went to Oxford than from a poor American woman from Cherokee descent who loves women and trees.
(Let’s think outside the box, people. No, MORE outside the box.)
Such a woman is likely to come up with feminist ideas that would blow your mind. And my mind.
Ideas that you couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t explain in the 4 minutes allotted to you to speak on Question Time.
The only practical application for “intersectionality” that I can imagine is this: having an actual “grading” system, where people are graded according to privilege. Then require “institutions” to have people with different scores.
It’s messy, it’s annoying, and most people would despise this idea. But guess what! We might have an Indian woman dressed in a sari talking about yoga being the actual head of the BBC. And wouldn’t that be the awesomest???
THAT kind of “positive action” would get things changed, FAST.
My main point is this: intersectionality is not “practical”. And I cannot, for the life of me, imagine of a way to use intersectionality to force the system to change, like the Marxist call to “take ownership of the means of production”.
So if the concept is not helping us change the world… what is it doing?
We shall see…
Big Disclaimer to End all Disclaimers!!!
I am publishing this stuff because I believe it will help people.
If it doesn’t help you, makes you angry, has you throwing furniture at the wall and tripping over your cat, then please drop it. Drop all these ideas. Seriously, if tthey don’t help you, they are not doing their job. And your wellbeing is more important than any political theory.
This writing is very much a first “draft”.
It would take me a long, long time to write down all my ideas on these topics, then rewrite them, then edit them… and I have a life to live and a business to run. Also, it’s sunny outside.
These material would need a book to be explained fully and I don’t have time right now to write a book.
(But if you want happen to have one of them fancy “6 figure book deals” everyone talks about and you want to offer it to me, that would be lovely)
Point is: these ideas are not “polished” and not finished.
So if you don’t understand them, that’s ok. They took me a long time to absorb, I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand what the heck I’m on about in such short time.
If you disagree with me completely, then that’s ok too.
Again, you have full permission to disagree with me. I give you full permission to say “Mary is wrong!”. It’s no big deal. And again, if they don’t help you, just drop them.
I am practicing non-attachment to my ideas. So if people don’t find this stuff useful, I may just remove it.