I find this fascinating.
Are you too white, rich, able-bodied and straight to be a feminist? | Pandagon | It's The Eye Of The Panda
Times columnist Caitlin Moran got on the wrong side of intersectionality when she said she “didn’t do race“. This made her a racist; also the mindless beneficiary of middle-class privilege, said critics. I weighed in, and said that not all feminists had to represent every perspective of feminism all the time. And middle class? She was raised on benefits. She’s rich now, came the reply, plus she has a platform; ergo, she’s part of the white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied, cis(gender) hegemony. To remain a true and respectful feminist with those privileges (never mind check them, it will take you long enough just to count them), your work must essentially be an act of atonement to all the people who are more marginalised than you are. As a feminist, you are occupying the space of the marginalised; to do so thoughtlessly is an act of trespass.
What makes me doubt this idea is its striking similarity to a technique of the right, the hyper-individualisation of every argument. Unless you are penniless right now, this second, you can’t complain about inequality. Even more exclusively, unless you were born poor you can’t take the side of the poor. I dislike the argument because it’s anti-intellectual, dismissing reason and systems – all the tools of discursive progress – and attempting to replace them with the power of personal testimony.
But on a purely pragmatic level we can all see, presumably, what the real goal is in this ad hominem play: if only the authentically poor are welcome on the left, that considerably depletes our numbers. If only the truly marginalised can speak as feminists, that depletes our numbers too. And if people “with a platform” are disqualified for being part of the power structure, that leaves us without a platform. This criticism started on the right for a reason – because it withers the left. We should think a bit more strategically before we internalise it.
But then I heard Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch speak at a public meeting this week. She said the media had three ways of portraying trans people: “The first is that they’re fraudulent. They’re not really who they say they are. We’d better humour them in their delusion. The second is trans as undeserving deviant. The number of times you get costs – usually inflated – set against the money you could have spent on kiddies. The third is trans as comedy.”
In other words, all the prejudice that has been disallowed by modern standards is now concentrated on this one, pretty small group. It is very extreme, these days, to refer to gay people as deviant, but still allowable to make this insinuation about transsexuals. It is apparently permissible, in our mean-spirited age, to talk about how much disabled people cost the state, but I can’t imagine it would be OK to laugh at them. Transsexuals are dealing with a prejudice way out of proportion to their number, facing not only the people who hate the idea of transsexuality but all the people who wish they were still allowed openly to hate gays, openly to laugh at the disabled – hell, probably a few who wish they could still openly despise women.
. . .