Tag Archives: Black feminism

A self-fulfilling prophecy

28 Apr

I recently read a comment on a this really interesting piece by Ally Fogg, which argued that intersectionality is not an ‘intellectually sound’ concept and that there is no basis for it in academia.

This is the most ironic comment in the history of comments.

The concept ‘intersectionality’ originated outside of the academy. The concept came from Black feminists, particularly groups like the Combahee River Collective, whose statement is a cornerstone of intersectional feminism. From roots outside of academia, it planted itself firmly at the heart of disciplines like Black feminist and critical race studies.  The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, an academic. It’s at the heart of  ‘Black Feminist Thought,’ Patricia Hill Collins, an academic. It’s what bell hooks, an (you guessed it!) academic, wrote about so accessibly and powerfully.

Black feminist academics were writing about intersectionality before most of us were out of nappies.

If you believe intersectionality is not ‘intellectually sound,’ and you believe it is a new fangled word being shoehorned into the national lexicon by a bunch of over-privileged Gender Studies students, you are demonstrating the widespread silencing of Black feminist contributions to the academy, and to the movement as a whole.

Let’s be clear: intersectionality is a lived experience. It is the idea that people can experience different forms of interlinking oppression all at the same time. As a sociologist, that makes it ‘intellectually sound’ in my book.

Lessons to be learned:

a) something shouldn’t have to be embedded into the academy for you to accept that people live it every day

b) loudly explaining that intersectionality is not intellectually sound – and thereby ignoring the contribution of Black feminists to the academy – is demonstrating the need for intersectional thinking and activism.  The more you protest intersectionality isn’t a thing, the more it is definitely a thing.

c) anyone arrogant enough to proclaim that anything is not ‘intellectually sound’ should be prepared to have their ass handed to them, unless they can demonstrate they have dedicated their academic career to understanding this one concept and have concluded, after a great deal of analysis, that said concept isn’t ‘intellectually sound.’

Edited to add: A commenter kindly pointed out to me that Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined ‘intersectionality, so I updated the third paragraph to make that clear. I also added bell hook, cos, you know, bell goddam hooks!

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