Tag Archives: language

Intersectionality is Not a Trend

1 Apr

One might hope that the widespread introduction of a concept that is meant to put your experiences and those of others like you at the centre of conversations about social justice and equality might have the positive side effect of actually including you in the conversation. But unfortunately, that has not been the case with intersectionality. 

Over and over again, I have been in nearly all-white spaces where the term I have come to rely upon to help me articulate the experiences of women marginalised by mainstream white feminism has been utilised liberally by said white feminists. They then go on to further marginalise and other those who critique them with such commentary as, “We have received the criticism that our spaces are too white and middle-class. We don’t know what to do about that. So if you want it to change, you do something about it.”

It seems that it is simply too difficult for most white feminists to organise an event with any true awareness of intersectionality. A space where they and their perspectives are sometimes, not even for the whole time, not placed at the forefront and where other women, whose lives and experiences do not resemble theirs, are explicitly invited to sit at the table. To give a keynote speech. To lead a workshop. To sit on a panel as more than a token person of colour. ‘Positive discrimination’ is fine for the organisers if it benefits them personally in terms of hiring or promotion. But when it comes to intentionally changing the demographic of their cis white straight middle-class and able-bodied feminist space, they think it is just one step too far. 

But although it is clear that all these privileges tend to blind our fairweather feminist friends to a homogeneity that is a source of frustration, at best, and pain and trauma, at worst, to intersectional and postcolonial feminists with an analysis rooted in social justice and liberation movements, the salt in the wound is when they co-opt our language (but not our ideas, as they don’t understand those) and use it shamelessly, with no intentions of applying it or putting it into practice. When they pepper their conversation with “intersectionality this” and “gender, race and class that” and continue to centre issues that are important to them, such as how they are represented in the business media, or the continuity of the (white) gender pay gap, while completely ignoring the rallying cries from the lips of true intersectional feminists speaking out about disproportionate numbers of Black and Latina women in low-paid jobs, the thousands of Black women who go missing every year and the ceaseless violence against trans women of colour. When their examples of sexism faced by women in business include the recommendation to “not have curly hair” and they remain silent on the experiences of girls whose Afro-textured hair gets them suspended or expelled from school. When they are invited to speak on intersectionality and they do not pass on the invitation to someone whose life is lived at the intersections, whose expertise and theoretical knowledge is informed by a practice she cannot escape.

Intersectionality is not a trend. Neither is it a tool that can be equally wielded by all. Reading a few articles or listening to a couple of talks doesn’t mean you “get it.” In fact, the more you get it, the more you realise you have left to learn. This is because it is actually more like a frame, a window into a world of experiences different from your own. In order to see through it, you have to step off of the beaten path and peer closely through panes of glass your privilege cannot help but cloud. If you can acknowledge this, then respect those of us who live on the other side of the window, and stop taking up so much room announcing “I get it! I see what you see!” Instead, step back, give us some air, and make space for us to speak. 

Why We Stand with Rachel Jeantel

28 Jun


Christina Coleman at the Global Grind has written an excellent article on the racism/classism that is skewing the portrayal of Rachel Jeantel and her testimony in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Coleman writes:

“What white people see in Rachel has little to do about her own issues, and more to say about the America that white people are blind to.”


And Khadijah Costley White has written a moving open letter, published at Role / Reboot, that both recognizes and celebrates Rachel’s resistance while linking her treatment by the prosecution and the court to the legacy of intersecting racism and sexism experienced by black women in the US. She writes:

“You exemplify, in your girth, skin tone, language, and manner, a refusal to concede. You are a thousand Nat Turners, a quiet spring of rebellion, and some folks don’t know how to handle that.

In truth, you’re part of a long legacy of black women so often portrayed as the archetypal Bitch, piles of Sassafrasses, Mammies, and Jezebels easily dismissed, caricatured, and underestimated. For black women, in particular, being the bitch represents our historical exclusion from the cult of true womanhood, a theme traditionally bounded and defined by its contrast to white femininity. For some folks, being black and being a woman makes us less of both.

Don’t forget that in just the last few years, Fox News called the First Lady of the United States “Obama’s Baby Mama,” that a popular radio host referred to a group of college athletes as “nappy-headed hoes,” and that even a gold-medal Olympian wasn’t able to escape physical scrutiny and bodily criticism on the world stage. This rhetoric is bigger than you, older than you, deeper than you—it is not you.

(But you know that, already, don’t you?)”

The End of Poverty? (2008 film)

31 Dec

For our final post of 2011, we would like to thank all of the readers who have made Sisters of Resistance a success in our first year by sharing with you this important film that we believe captures or touches upon many of the issues of injustice currently facing the world at large. Continue reading

How to Tell if Your Man is Cheating: Part 3 – Psychology

31 Aug

To complete our How to Tell If Your Man is Cheating series, Sisters of Resistance have compiled information on the psychological and emotional profiles of men who cheat, based upon real-life experiences collectively referred to as relationship field research. In this article, we answer the questions:

         “What kind of man cheats?”

         “How does the cheating show up in his emotions?”

         “What are the structural inequalities that enable men to cheat?”

         “What does this mean for me?”

We hope these insights will help our readers to identify cheating men, as well as reveal why, if they have been cheated on, it is not their fault.

Part 1: LIES

Part 2: Behavioural Patterns and Other Evidence

Continue reading

How to Respond to Unwanted Cherpsing (Pick-Up Attempts)

22 Jul

Because single women out in the town or city defy patriarchal norms that aim to put us back in the kitchen and/or bedroom, we receive unwanted attention from some men who assume our unattached presence is an invitation. We reject this attention with decisive, declarative responses similar to the below and, if possible, quickly continue on our way.

This content has been added to the Sisters of Resistance Terminology Toolkit.

CHERPS/PICK-UP LINE: Hey! (or other shouting, yelling, hooting, calling over. Often done on the street or from a passing car.)
RESPONSE:  None required.

CHERPS: Did you hear me?
RESPONSE: Yes, I did, and I’m choosing to ignore you.

CHERPS: Where are you going?
RESPONSE: Not where you’re going.

CHERPS: Are you single?
RESPONSE: None of your business.

CHERPS: What’s your name?
RESPONSE: I will not be providing you with that information today. (This was developed in response to police officers’ attempts to gather intelligence at protests but is applicable in a variety of other situations.)

CHERPS: I want to get to know you.
RESPONSE: I don’t want to get to know you.

CHERPS: I can’t be your friend?
RESPONSE: I’ve got enough friends.

CHERPS: Can I get your number?
RESPONSE: No. (Repeat as necessary.)

CHERPS: Any other question or attempt to carry on the conversation.
I’m in a rush.  Bye!
I’ve got to be somewhere. Bye!
I’m on my way out. Bye!
(Repeat “Bye!” as necessary and walk away.)