Where the Intersectionality Ends

Posted on September 7, 2010


I like bridging, narrowing, and deconstructing the gaps in between.  Oppression is intersectional so activism has got to be, right?  Right. Third Wave 101.  I tend to be one of those people who emails all my activist friends about the latest movement to get involved with.   I need to quit it.

See, the problem is I seem to expect, even demand that folks who are involved in certain anti-oppression work (queer rights, for example) will necessarily be interested in all the other progressive claptrap I send out.  The trouble is, this isn’t the case.  My queer friends are not all vegans.  My female and feminist friends are not all trans advocates.  And so on.  Yes, I obviously wish that everyone were on the edges of third wave radicalism with regard to every issue, but if that were the case, we wouldn’t have any work to do, would we?

I’m not claiming that I endorse plurality in every case.  But the trouble is, setting up these expectations actually hurts me more than anyone else.  See, the fundamental principle of coalition building is exploring and capitalizing on commonalities.  If I start superficially inflating these the grounds of commonality, I’ve lost valuable objectivity.  I’ve lost the ability to connect along lines that make sense to other organizers or people, instead of the vague and nonsensical “well, we’re both sort of progressive.”  Moreover, a barrage of pro-anything messaging can be overwhelming.  Sometimes, the activist side of the brain needs to rest, and sometimes understanding a particular cause has to be a more personal and slowly unfolding process.  I’ve had several friends become vegan several months after meeting me, or another veg*n acquaintance, after gathering and synthesizing information and coming to a rational decision all on eir own.  My own involvement in a variety of causes followed a similar pattern, and it’s not a process I should be interrupting.

And guess what?  Sometimes I just like to sit back and stay quiet.  There is a strategic “less is more” quality to persuasion, yes, but there is also the relief in knowing that good activists (and proper leftists!) are smart and will seek out information as it becomes relevant to them.  There is the relief in knowing that I can sometimes say just one thing, or nothing, and it’ll work out just fine.  They’ll come around :).