Intersectionality, But Skip the Women

I’m standing in the copy room when a Social Studies/History teacher walks in. She is 12. Or 23, or whatever.  A newlywed; freshly pregnant. To distract her from the hundreds of copies I’m making before she can get a turn at the machine, I ask her what she’s teaching today.

“I’m teaching a lesson on oppression,” she says brightly. “I’m getting on my Oppression Soapbox. We’re going to look at all kinds of oppression — race and class. Economics too. How they all come together.”

“And women?” I ask. “Sex and gender?”

“Nooo,” she says, looking at me like I just started squirting ketchup from the copy room fridge directly into my mouth. “That’s not really…that’s not part of it. That’s not my thing.”

And then I died a little inside, because we live here. Female oppression IS her thing, she just doesn’t know it yet. She has no sense of history — no concept of the way things used to be for women and how they could be again if we just sort of don’t care until it’s too late.

Sometimes, you just can’t find it in yourself to argue. Sometimes, you know that only time will do the job.


12 thoughts on “Intersectionality, But Skip the Women

  1. Ignorance is bliss I guess. But still women can’t face reality, and don’t focus on an analysis of what happens to women in the world is systemic, planned and evil. If we can’t see patriarchy, we can’t see anything. I think at some time in the future, you might be able to follow up with her. I like to talk about race and sex— do black women suffer more than black men? Or is race all about men? Do religions all discriminate against black men? Name one that changed this policy? Do they still discriminate against black women? (Mormons)

    Don’t give up. A lot of young women are kind of clueless about all of this, because there really is a huge backlash against feminist anything. Also, I think clever patriarchy backed down a bit to hide discrimination in its most brutal forms to young women. The seeminly egalitarian college campus can lull young women, the first job not that discriminatory a lot of times. Later the truth comes out. Patriarchy likes to fool young women, because they are useful as sex objects…. funfeminism and all that.

    But don’t give up. Just think about all the ideas we struggled with, and how we gained in knowledge and self-respect as lesbians Phona. It was not something we all got instantly at age 23, that’s for sure.

  2. It’s true. I don’t expect her to get it instantly — no one does — but it was crazymaking when she blew me off like I was…corny, I guess. Vaguely embarrassing.

  3. It is a certain cluelessness I think you are dealing with, and also there is the real possibility that she isn’t all that bright to begin with. Women can be dumb as door nails… I see a lot of this these days; a real indicator of just how bad the educational system has gotten, and also intellectual laziness is rampant in America.

    Nevertheless, I have found even some of the dumbest women on the planet actually getting this stuff later in life…. after the third divorce and they are on the verge of losing their home, women who have goofed off for decades now realizing that they’re screwed…. the hetero machine can blind women for a period of time, until it blows up in their faces… you know, the goof ball fun feminists from the 90s who are screwed now. They then “discover” radical feminism and begin to get it. They’re still lesbophobic as all hell, but the dumb stuff diminishes. Hang in there, and if this women doesn’t show signs of intelligence in the universe, it’s on to the next….

  4. It IS cluelessness. And laziness. I’m waiting for an opportunity to broach that conversation again, at which point I hope to determine if it’s also stupidity.

    Age and time are our friend on this one, Sheila, you’re right…no matter how dumb a woman might be, or how willfully clueless, all the experiences you mention are usually sufficient for a wake-up call.

  5. jessica valenti conveniently “passed the torch” to the younger, more clueless generation just as soon as she almost died from complications from pregnancy and having what is surely a developmentally disabled child. i suspect her “new normal” was not compatible with feministing-style fake feminist denial, which she didnt invent but did a LOT to make fashionable. 😦 it is very true that this kind of knowledge often comes with age and experience. that the fun-fems specifically celebrate and embrace female youth (young feminists kicking ass! etc) is not a coincidence.

  6. Yeah, I noticed all the focus on young-ness… and also college-“educated”-ness. I felt like a dinosaur when I used to read Feministing… and I was about 33.

    Hadn’t heard about Ms. Valenti’s child birth… :C

  7. Jessica Valenti had a wake up call. Something has to happen to break through the denial.
    However, I’m finding a lot of good connections between younger and older lesbians, some real hope and conversation. You just have to keep on keeping on…

  8. I know we went over all this on femonade already, but I have to say, it’s frustrating when feminists can’t see beyond “personal, lived experience”; can’t extrapolate it beyond their own solipsistic bubble. Jessica Valenti (and other young feminists) get these personal wake-up calls, then disappear from the discourse right when their age and experience make their opinions worthwhile.

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