I’m 40 years old. I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, which is a pretty long time. The notion that women can’t speak out without being considered unmanageable, angry bitches is something I expect from the world-at-large. But other feminists? Women who call themselves feminists? No.
Michelle Golberg wrote a piece for The Nation today titled, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars with the subtitle, Empowered by social media, feminists are calling one another out for ideological offenses. Is it good for the movement? And whose movement is it? I don’t think her intention was to totally miss the point. But she did.
She starts her long piece with an anecdote about Kimberlé Crenshaw, the UCLA law professor who coined the word intersectionality, “the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination.” Specifically, how the failure to “consider the intersection of racism and sexism in the lives of women of color” left a gap in civil rights law.
She cited a failed lawsuit by a group of black women against General Motors; the court ruled that while race discrimination and sex discrimination are both causes of action, “a combination of both” is not. Another of Crenshaw’s articles described a women’s shelter balking at accepting a Latina victim of domestic violence because she wasn’t proficient in English and thus couldn’t participate in mandated group therapy sessions.
“My own efforts to create a voice and a perspective on these failures haven’t really been about chastisement, or a certain set of assumptions about what the articulation that I’m critiquing should have been, or what the failure of it represents in the person,” Crenshaw says, “but rather a collective effort to build a feminism that does more of the work that it claims to do.”
Golberg uses the basis of intersectionality, to launch a hypothesis about women, feminism, race and how women respond to one another: “Online, however, intersectionality is overwhelmingly about chastisement and rooting out individual sin.”
Now, if you are talking about Twitter – I guess this argument can be perceived as right – sort of. Unless you are addressing an institution, Twitter is a one-on-one conversation, for all the world to see. We respond to things we don’t agree with all the time. I know I do it. It’s the manner in which the author seems to be sensitive to the “tone” of black women that makes me uncomfortable here.