Intersectionality needs to become the most understood word as we wind down this decade.
I’ve been thinking that for a few years now, but chapter 5 of Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race deeply reinforces that.
My understanding of intersectionality comes in part from an analysis of the opposite of intersectionality. It’s not just my maleness alone that gives me all the entitlements I have enjoyed, nor my whiteness, nor my English-speaking or my being born Canadian. All these things, and more [the entitlements I mapped yesterday], combine to reinforce entitlements.
Take away maleness, or cis, or English-speaking and I’d have fewer layers of entitlement that reinforce each other. Take away just one and you’d have a person who shares many entitlements but has a slightly, or massively, different experience.
There is no word for entitlement-ality, as far as I know. But just as we need to examine all areas of public/political policy through poverty, environmental and feminist lenses, we need to us an intersectionality lens as well.
All lenses slow things down. The most efficient policy decisions come in a world of homogeneity: middle-aged white guys deciding how things should be. No need to slow down and decide how something will affect the environment, the economically marginalized, women, and people whose demographics intersect to restrict their political, economic and social power.
Intersectionality makes policy making more complex BECAUSE we need to assess how things affect everyone, in a heterogeneous way. And while it’s been the thing for middle-aged white guys to try to rule the world, unless we get really good at using these lenses, we’ll start to see other kinds of people being comparatively more useful in developing policy that affects people who aren’t the dominant demographic.
And that’s good.
So men and white people, here is your survival assignment: get to know everything you can about these lenses because if you can’t operate in a world that acknowledges and considers all the lenses, you’re a dinosaur. And you know what happened to the dinosaurs.