Stella Duffy on “intersectionality”, class, activism and the real enemies. #nailsit

There’s quite the bunfight going on about use/abuse/misuse of what was – to me – an abstruse word by an Indie hack called Suzanne Moore (1). “Intersectionality” – here’s the wikipedia article.  Basically seems to be saying you have to look at the interplay between various categories (gender, “race”, age, class etc) to find out what power/privilege someone does or does not have. (2)

Into the fray, reluctantly, comes Stella Duffy.  And part of her post on this is just so totally right that it should be reposted every-time some mansplainer or patroniser-more-generally opens their gob.

I do find the term ‘intersectionality’ to be both classist and educationalist – or rather, not the term itself, but the way the twitter fight had people using it as if everyone knew what they meant. Working class me, non-academic me, often finds those terms daunting, the ones so many people in so many political groups bandy about easily (and yes, I don’t live in the working class now, I work in the arts and have a fortunate – in some ways!!! – life, but I do still come from where and what I come from) and those terms, that tone of debate, especially when it gets very academic, not only shuts me out, but it also makes me feel badly educated, incapable of engaging, and stupid.

I do think the right adore the left in-fighting and they have always adored it and they always will. Because it is our in-fighting, our passion, our huge upset about the things of our hearts and our souls, that lets them get away with what they’re doing. And right now, even while acknowledging the vital power of language and that it can hurt and it definitely matters, I honestly do think that our efforts need to be concentrated on the enemy without – right now, this current government – rather than the real and/or perceived enemy/enemies ‘within’.

And someone called queeriodical has done a great comment, that also explains this term cis-gendered-

* p.s. on ‘cis’, it isn’t a slur, for example, like ‘breeder’ is for straights, but more the equivalent of ‘heterosexual’, where once there was simply ‘homosexual’ and ‘normal’ – just an equal and opposite word, for when a distinction needs to be made. It’s not so much an identity as such, as ‘femme’ would be, but more a description of an experience. It was coined as whilst most trans women would equally simply prefer ‘women’, if in a specific conversation you need to make a distinction between the two, there are no other ways that aren’t marginalising – e.g. ‘normal woman’, ‘proper woman’.as these suggest trans women aren’t normal or proper too. It just means ‘not trans’, but is on an equal semantic level, neither defined in negation to one another.

And finally (!) – (via the comments on a great glasgowsexworker post) here is a great article on lots of things, but especially on being middle-class and simply not getting what other people are living in. “Hey Baby, How Much?”: Stop Blaming Sex Workers For Street Sexual Harassment

If you are genuinely approached for paid sex, it will be polite and discreet. Remember that everyone here is trying to keep things below the radar so assuming you are not interested, politely and discreetly decline. Say “No, I’m not working”. That’s all. Don’t be rude or disgusted. Don’t make a big deal out of it or draw attention to the client. And again, don’t sell your sisters out by telling him (or anyone else later) how gross that was. There is nothing gross about being a street sex worker. It pains me to have to explain that.

If you are not a street worker and grew up in quiet middle class neighborhoods, telling the difference between solicitation and street harassment might be hard for you. It may take practice and unlearning the lies you’ve internalized about who, what and where is “dangerous”. You might see the police as innocuous but take every single instance in which a dude speaks to you in a public setting, no matter how politely, as “dangerous”, especially since he’s likely to not be a fellow middle class man. As a result, you often can’t tell what might have been a friendly exchange. With time though, your bullshit radar can become less oppressive and therefore, much more accurate at predicting actual danger. This will serve you well in life. Street workers have extremely refined bullshit and danger detectors. If you are lucky enough to know any current or former street workers, pay attention to how they can tell a client from an asshole (or a good client from an asshole client). If you are not a sex worker, don’t think it’s your right to ask. If they want to share, it may come out eventually if you’ve earned their trust.

The street is a workplace. You might not understand it but you can still respect it

Footnotes

(1) A collection of hers – Head over Heels, heavily annotated with approving marginalia, sits on a shelf somewhere in this house.

(2) Ties in, presumably with stuff that Bourdieu was on about. And with a fairly naff but well-meaning book from South End Press called “Liberating Theory.”

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Below the surface...
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