My long-term relationship with intersectional feminism
Keeya-Lee Ayre
31

It’s a remarkably ubiquitous fallacy, this notion that someone perceiving and objecting to oppression in one instance is magically (and without doing the difficult work of grappling with deep complexities) sensitive to and rejecting of oppression that targets different victims.

I’m an old white man and lived many decades vaguely believing in the notion that “good white liberals” (among which I counted myself) were automatically adverse to the exploitation and oppression of any/all living beings…regardless of identity. Astonishingly huge error. Enough so that I suspect this deep obliviousness is, at least in part, fostered by the conditionings of societies that are structured by oppression (which includes most western European and western European colonized nations).

I first became painfully aware of this when, as someone living as a vegan, I objected to some advocacy on behalf of animals that was simultaneously promoting racist notions. Other “good white liberal” vegans in the venue where this was occurring promptly demonized me (saying that my pointing out racist phenomena meant that I was being racist) and proceeded to eject me from their midst without even blinking. (and no, it wasn't because I was attacking and self-righteous toward either the perpetrators of the racist advocacy…or anyone else, my objections were respectful and very low key)

That was several years ago and much subsequent study and reading strongly suggests to me that Charles Mills theoretical construct of an “epistemology of ignorance” does a useful job of describing a core component of societies structured by oppression. The “isms” of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, etc) are foundational to such societies and a core aspect of the operation of those “isms” is their invisibility. (woe be unto you if you foolishly “out” such everyday awfulness, because “good” folks (especially “good white liberals”) will self-righteously attack you without restraint)

Intersectionality is one of those terms that will often “out” invisible oppressions and contrary to what we’re taught to believe…people, especially those who belong to oppressor groups, don’t tend to take kindly to encountering reality when it disrupts socially sanctioned delusions.

I regret that you’re having to learn this the hard way. Thank you for your efforts…and be caring for yourself, ok?

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