22 March, 2011

notes for something longer

(This looks better in my notebook in a bunch of little squares and lumps and stick figures, but oh well.)

PRESCRIPTIVE IDENTITIES (this was a flow chart)

A. Identities which are based in transcending stigma.--->Not everyone can or wants to transcend.
B. Identities which are based on denying the reality of stigma, embracing stigma, and/or denying categories.--->Stigma is real. Not everyone can afford the consequences of embracing it. Some people need or want to think about their lives in terms of categories so they can understand the ways they are disadvantaged and try to function.--->B ultimately becomes a denial of difference and privilege
So, A and B, as descriptors for minority groups, fail because they make assumptions about members of the group. An A or B identity may pretend to mean one thing, but actually it means many unspoken things. More than one fact must be true for a person to belong.*

*"People whose favorite color is blue" comes to be synonymous with "people who have a blue car." John's favorite color is blue, but he doesn't have a car. Where does he go?--->Actually, it is worth discussing blue cars and maybe blue cars could be considered a blue issue or a bluish issue, but this must be done without erasing John.

(the other side of the page)

Intersectionality is sometimes invoked as a weapon and marginalized people are criticized for not having enough marginalized identities. In the most aggressive forms of this, the actual top-level oppressors disappear. "Gay white men," "disabled white men," etc., are responsible for the problems. "Gayness" or "disabledness" can't be discussed as individual factors. Sometimes people start to imply that you can't have real oppression unless you have more than one kind. To me this is a misuse of intersectionality and privilege/oppression thinking, which should be mathematical.


Identities are facts. They're constructed, but presently they are real.
John has X marginalized identity. No matter how many other marginalized identities and/or privilege identities he has in addition to X, he has X.

JOHN<--------X oppression Say John also has Y marginalized identity. JOHN<--------X oppression JOHN<--------Y oppression is what we know for sure, and in various complicated ways, something like this is probably happening: X oppression-------->JOHN<--------Y oppression JOHN<--------X oppression + Y oppression JOHN<--------(X oppression)(Y oppression) JOHN<--------X oppression^(Y oppression) JOHN<--------(X oppression + Y oppression)(X oppression) The possibilities are endless. This was better as a drawing, by the way. But anyway, this is all we know about John.
To me, intersectionality means that we don't take X to mean anything else but X because there are so many other factors that work on an individual. X is not a prescription, it's a fact.


1. Obviously when I talk about the misuse of intersectionality (which actually isn't intersectionality at all)...well, if you think I'm insulting you or people like you, then I can't stop you. The misuse of intersectionality is like Oppression Olympics in that sometimes people really are engaging in it, and other times they're being accused of engaging in it by someone who is just an asshole.

2. What is the definition of a marginalized identity? Some axes that obviously count, like class and disability, are often ignored or even scoffed at.

2a. What about factors that interact with a marginalized identity, that can't really be called a marginalized identity, such as certain life experiences or subcultures? These things start to feel kind of political and intersectional when they mean that someone feels locked out of their identity because of them. I think these things are very important, but what do you call them?

1 comment:

  1. I like pictures...graphs, charts...it's hard for me to try to understand. And it's getting late...I wish I could see it.

    I do want to tell you I was amazed the first time I figured out what you had written on your computer. I have a copy on my wall that I OFTEN referred to when raising my son. Even if they are impossible standards to follow at times, we need guidance on what love really is. Easiest/hardest thing you'll ever do. Graph that!