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Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, March 4th, 2016 - 66 comments
Categories: identity, Left, Social issues - Tags:

Before I start my actual post, I’ll just say that I haven’t posted here for maybe a year or so, for personal reasons.  I haven’t posted on any blog during that time.  But I’m finally in a place and space where I can write again.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking.  Mostly about that phrase coined by Flavia Dzodan: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit“.  Except that I’ve been modifying it to “My politics will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”.

And that’s it for me.  A progressive/lefty movement that is not intersectional does not include me and is not something I can support.  You can talk all you like about the economy and the 1% and the capitalist system and the environment and growing inequality, but if you can’t include an intersectional analysis into your description of the problem and into your solutions, then all that talk does not include me and will not be of any use to me.  Flavia said it best: However, any movement, be it feminism or something else that demands that I ditch my overall intersectional lens is not a movement I consider worthy of my allegiance. It is a movement that is actively against me.

A left wing that doesn’t include human rights along with its desire for social justice, that can not include the disparate needs of a range of people, that can not recognise that much income disparity is actually a result of marginalisation and not the other way around, then it will languish.

If you don’t believe me, look at the results.  Without the support of marginalised groups, left wing parties don’t succeed and left wing candidates don’t succeed.  Not unless their target voters have enough of a homogenous majority who will identify with or be inspired by a progressive.  There aren’t so many of these kind of voter groups anymore.  There will be even less going into the future.

Intersectionality is now a must.  The ability not only to engage with a diverse range of people, but to do so in a way that is meaningful, that has some integrity, and that is built up over the long-term, this ability is not optional any more.  The first and second presidential elections won by Obama showed us that and Super Tuesday has shown us that.  That people look beyond economic issues is a given, because no party or candidate wins purely on the economy.  The right will put out that they are better economic managers, but they actually win on dog-whistles, distractions, ridicule, and pushing the buttons on social issues that create fear. Fear of nanny state, fear of foreigners, fear of your money being taken by a greedy government who will spend it on lazy bludgers, fear of crime, fear, fear fear.

Obama campaigned on hope and won.  People are not only looking for hope, they are looking for inclusion.  They are looking for someone who actually understands the shit they face in their every day lives, the stuff that is small and cumulative and beats you down, day after dreary day.  Someone who understands the barriers, who understands and listens and doesn’t tell you to stop your whining and stop complaining about the small stuff because it interferes with their interpretation of the bigger picture.  Someone who understands that struggling with money is shit, but it’s also shit to be alone and excluded and shut out and harassed and attacked, and sometimes killed because of who you are.

So that’s me and that’s what I’m struggling with in my mind today.  I can’t support a movement that doesn’t incorporate intersectionality.  And though they might not express it in exactly those words, I suspect a lot of people feel the same.

66 comments on “intersections ”

  1. miravox 1

    Thank you.

    It seems an age since I’ve seen a post that considers people can have traditional left wing concerns AND expect other well-identified causes of social and material hardship to be dealt with as well.

    Intersectionality is now a must. The ability not only to engage with a diverse range of people, but to do so in a way that is meaningful, that has some integrity, and that is built up over the long-term, this ability is not optional any more.


  2. Kevin Churchill 2

    A great post Stargazer and exactly right. I’ve never come across the term “intersectionality” before but I guess it’s roughly equavilant to “inclusion” which in the disability community is best explained by the slogan “nothing about us without us” . Great post anyway- cheers.

    • stargazer 2.1

      thanx kevin. i’ve answered your question above, and it goes a bit beyond what you’re saying. it’s about recognising and addressing a range of issues people face, and not disadvantaging one group in your quest to remove injustice in another area. so, in relation to feminism, it’s no use to me if you fight for gender equality by removing the agency of muslim women or continuing to deny their experiences and abilities in fighting the oppressions they face. flavia writes really well about it in the post, particularly in the second half.

      • Jones 2.1.1

        Thank you for this post and thank you for the introduction to this concept.

        I honestly found Flavia’s blog entry quite hard to read… but from a political perspective I agree completely with you.

        “A left wing that doesn’t include human rights along with its desire for social justice, that can not include the disparate needs of a range of people, that can not recognise that much income disparity is actually a result of marginalisation and not the other way around, then it will languish.”

        Human rights is a great starting point. I think requires going back to first principles… acknowledging firstly the things we all have in common, that we all need. At the same time recognising that each of us have experiences unique to ourselves. We collectively create those experiences, in families, communities and in society. Where these experiences cause “tension” are the opportunities for learning and change… and the “system” must support that.

        If I’ve gone OT, apologies, this was train of thought from me and you’ve really got me thinking… thanks.

  3. r0b 3

    Welcome back Stargazer, and glad that you are in a space where you can post again.

    Like Kevin at 2 I’m assuming that intersectionality is effectively inclusion, but if that’s wrong or incomplete, can you tell us a bit more about the concept?

    • stargazer 3.1

      kia ora rod & thanx 🙂

      intersectionality is a pretty-well known concept within feminist writing. it’s more than inclusion, it’s about recognising the fact that people suffer from multiple sources of oppression. if you focus on only one source of oppression (say gender) while ignoring other sources of oppression – or even worse, contributing further to those other sources of oppression – then you are not helping the overall injustice a person faces. this link gives a good definition: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Intersectionality

      also, i’m having problems viewing comments & am answering this from the dashboard rather than the page itself. help?

      • r0b 3.1.1

        Thanks for the elaboration.

        What kind of problem are you having viewing comments on the post itself? Have you tried using an alternative browser?

        • stargazer

          i can’t see any comments at all when i’m on the site & get logged off when view the site from the dashboard. and no, haven’t tried another one, don’t have time at the moment.

          • r0b

            OK that’s odd! Try another browser when you have the time, and comment on the private authors’ discussion post to let us know how it goes.

            • lprent

              Just been having a look at the caches. They appear to be ok.
              I’m going to tell cloudfront (the CDN) to reload everything.

      • BLiP 3.1.2

        Hi stargazer – welcome back. There’s something a bit skew-wiffy about the site today, I’m having some troubles too – can’t go back to the home page by clicking the logo at the top and, yeah, comments apparently not showing up. What I do to get around that is to use ctrl-f5 to refresh the page. That wee trick avoids the page loading from cache.

        Interesting post and new information for me. I have let me political theory reading go for a number of years now and struggle with things like this which seems related to the idea of identity politics. Obviously, then, my opinion is more gut instinct than an informed one and, even worse, comes from the priviledged position of a white, employed, heterosexual, property-owning, boomer male.

        Nevertheless, it seems to me that the groups you mention are certainly more than welcome to participate in and add value to the amorphous “left” (or even the “right’) yet the whole concept of “identity politics” has a neoliberal under-pinning. Its more about taxonomy than politics and, as such, drives the atomisation of society into smaller and smaller groupings until, eventually, we reach that neoliberal nirvana: the individual. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for diversity and equality but isn’t the current lack of diversity and inequality a direct result of capitalism? If so, then tackling the manufactured white supremacy, patriarchy, cisheteronormativity, ableism, et al ad infinitum, amounts to myriad distractions in which balm is applied to symptoms rather than curing to the cause.

        Just thinking out loud. Thanks for making me do so. As it happens, my favourite librarian is right into this sort of stuff so I will be off to see her at the weekend for some recommendations on suitable reading material. Its probably about time I read something published this century.

        • stargazer

          hmm, yes, what first springs to mind about your comment is that yes, groups are welcome to participate just in the same way that rich people are just as able to sleep under a bridge as homeless people (forgot who said that). participation has to be meaningful, we have to be heard, we need actions and policy initiatives that include us and don’t make our situation worse*.

          the thing with collective action is that if the collective’s actions are only benefitting a portion of the group and leaving out others, then what is the collective worth? the question then becomes: how do we create a collective that recognises the needs and realities of all its members, that doesn’t have a subset at the top determining what the priorities should be – which priorities fail to even recognise what some of the members are going through? i’m not saying it’s easy, but i’m saying it needs to be done. and from what i can see of the voting population, they are also showing that it needs to be done.

          * i recall an advisory panel that i was a part of last year. i was the only ethnic minority who was neither maori nor pasifika, and i was very vocal in the consultations about, let’s say, things. but when the consultation was over, not one of those things seemed to have been taken on board by the people seeking the group’s advice. which i really do think is detrimental to the project overall. so, for the record, they could say that they consulted, that i participated. they ticked all the boxes on representation. but none of that, in the end, meant anything at all because the participation was not meaningful.

          • BLiP

            but none of that, in the end, meant anything at all because the participation was not meaningful.

            Yep, been there done that got the t-shirt and posted the instagram pic. The exact same process was done during the formulating of the legislation required to facilitate the sale of more Maori land. It’s currently underway in Parliament with the submissions on the TPP. And it will continue for so long as we all allow class systems, particularly capitalism, to perpetuate.

            • stargazer

              yeah, but just getting rid of class systems will not get rid of the collective ignoring the needs of certain members. if what you replace it with is not intersectional, then the problem is not solved.

              • Olwyn

                Back in the seventies, those opposed to conservatism and those opposed to capitalism joined forces. The former largely won, the latter lost. Liberalism, however, ceases to be truly liberal when it is no longer underpinned by economic justice. Where Blip sees us as having broken down into individuals, I see us as having broken down into little tribes, with each tribe going out to bat for their own circle.

                This ends up leading to a sharp division between those for whom the system has no place (e.g. the once-were working class), and those who think they can still extract something positive from it for their own tribe. Take Danyl’s Harvard example: even if the two groups got together so that more black women were employed, this would make little difference, under the current circumstances, for the majority of black people. The Harvard tribe adds multiculturalism and non-sexism to its attributes while the black tribe, in large part, continues to fill the prisons.

                I think the only path that leads to genuine intersectionality is a broad conception of the public good at the top (as opposed to the return to the share holder) and substantive human rights (the right to housing, the right to earn a living and the right to organise) at the bottom. If these things are in place then people are equipped to fight their corner, and have a point of reference as to whether and/or how they are being shortchanged.

                • stargazer

                  but there are also the rights to safety (eg to not be sexually harassed in the workplace), the right to self-determination (particularly for indigenous populations), the right to justice (eg where people of colour get incarcerated for crimes that whites get diversion for). the rights you’ve mentioned are pretty much economic rights & you haven’t considered the non-economic rights in what you say. that’s where the analysis breaks down for me. where does tino rangatiratanga fit into your interpretation of the public good. if a subset wants to set up systems that work better for them and that are different to the institutions set up by a collective, how will that work?

                  there seems to be a denial that cultural perspectives influence the systems we set up to deal with issues, or at least a lack of recognition of that fact. who gets to make decisions of how the public good is defined? again, is it an elite that remains ignorant of the experiences of people with difference. if it’s through collective consensus, how do you avoid tyranny of the majority and meaningful participation?

                  • Olwyn

                    I do think that economic rights play a large part in our ability to defend our cultural rights. And I am assuming that a broad conception of the public good would be inclusive rather than narrow. However, I agree that the tyranny of the majority is an ever-present risk. To me, the hard problem on the left is the split between those who can, and those who cannot, expect accommodation from the system as it stands – it leaves us thinking that we are fighting the same battle when often we are not. I think that your idea of intersectionality is open to falling on either side. Since I think that economic rights underpin one’s ability to defend other rights, I am probably pulling the idea a little toward the side that I favour.

                    • stargazer

                      this, then, is the essential point of disagreement. i don’t believe that solving economic rights will allow us to deal better with other human rights. i do think that people who put economic rights as primary and as the solution to all those other rights are often using that as a mechanism to not have to, to not want to deal with those other rights. to not have to change any of their entrenched bias, their lack of knowledge about others experiences. it also is a way to privilege the things that affect them over the things that affect others.

                      but more than this, i don’t think you can even solve the issues around economic rights without intersectional solutions. i don’t think you can even have a correct analysis of the problem without taking account of multiple oppressions, and so how could you possible have effective solutions?

                    • Olwyn

                      I don’t think it is possible for us to get past arguing in circles, since we have different starting points that neither of us are willing to give up. But I am not subject to an entrenched bias, and I did say I was pulling intersectionality toward what I see as my side of the debate, which is not the same as dismissing its importance.

  4. Danyl Mclauchlan 4

    There was a university in the US – I think it was Harvard – in which they decided to improve diversity among the academics. So they convened two committees, one to hire more women and one to hire more people of colour, and the first committee hired white women and the second hired non-white men, so women of colour were still excluded. That’s intersectionality – overlapping spheres of privilege and discrimination.

    It’s important for the left – what’s the point of being progressive if we’re only progressing things for genders and/or ethnicities which are already privileged? But it’s also just as important, I think that we never use academic jargon (intersectionality, heteronormatism etc), which is becoming a lot more popular in left-wing activist circles, when trying to communicate with the public. Like Stargazer said, Obama campaigned on ‘hope’, not ‘intersectionality’.

    • stargazer 4.1

      on your latter point, yes and no i think. agree that you wouldn’t use the word intersectionality on the campaign trail. but you incorporate it into your campaign. listen to obama speaking at the democratic convention or in the debates against romney. he incorporated it into his language very strongly. whether he managed to incorporate it into his policies is another thing, but he did recognise it and people respond that.

    • weka 4.2

      “That’s intersectionality – overlapping spheres of privilege and discrimination.”

      Is it? I would see what you describe as being the dominant culture trying to improve diversity within its own limited understanding of the problem, and that sees gender and race in binary and not related to each other but as stand alone problems that can be tinkered with without upsetting the system too much. You put white privileged women in charge and they’re going to operate out of that identity privilege (this is a very well known dynamic within feminsim, hence why feminism has talked about intersectionality so much), sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes out of the need to consolidate power in a system that still treats them as second class and gives them a single opportunity to make change that benefits their class.

      Intersectionality, if it was understood and acted upon, would mean that increasing the number of women academics meant that those academics also including women of colour, with disabilities, transgender, GLB, low income women etc etc. If it was intersectionality, those things would happen as a matter of course.

  5. greywarshark 5

    I’d like to bring kindness into the progressive and community parlance. Often it gets left out while there is a strong commitment to the current slogan or if no slogan, to the generalised idea of good being done.

    My present disappointment is from an action that indicates a lack of understanding of the need for kindness in community-based groups. Kindness as in the 60’s? mantra, to every day perform a random act of kindness and a senseless act of beauty. That’s not very definite even practical perhaps, but it does bring into the mind that maybe these are matters that should be attempted, and by a large number of people every day, would add considerably to human graciousness, courtesy, sensitivity and happiness.

    I wanted something simple. To help some friends who are carrying out a promise made to a dying gardener, that they would pass on plants she had cherished, so that they wouldn’t be neglected and die. They are putting themselves out to do this, although they have health problems. I wanted to put an A4 notice up prominently for the three days around the clearance in the window of a community business. But because of a decision that notices would be kept clear of the centre, it was taken off and put with all the others at the bottom. Why couldn’t featuring it for three days be an exception to the rule, a random act of kindness?

    This is what I find develops in community and charity organisations. Decisions of form and method become rigid, the system gets concreted, the area of concern gets narrowed to only this or that. The need to have a process and a plan so there is order not chaos, can mean that the exception proving the rule does not get invoked. And caring and wishing well for each other can be diminished, even lost, so that other people and kindness fall between the cracks of the approved sectional interests.

    • just saying 5.1

      Firstly thanks for helping bring diversity, and also the majority (women) to writers and to commenters at the Standard. I’ve felt the lack for a long time now, and have all but given up on TS as a result. More of this would really change the type of debate here, and if it can be built upon, I expect it will show in the numbers coming and commenting as well.

      And caring and wishing well for each other can be diminished, even lost, so that other people and kindness fall between the cracks of the approved sectional interests.

      Would you please explain your comment in relation to the post, Greywarshark, especially the above. How does recognising and respecting our different situations, predicaments, cultural heritages, dilemmas barriers and privileges cause kindness to be diminished exactly?

      In response to the wider post:

      I’ve been thinking a lot about aspects of the “revolution” that led to social democracy in the 30s, particularly after reading the diaries of john A Lee over the holidays. Everyday white men significantly benefitted, and also their wives and daughters to a lesser extent, on their coat tails. But women and girls were able to build on the advantages that accrued. Women and other groups also benefitted from the universality of social security, and the education and health systems. But it took time, and the struggles remain.

      One of the things that struck me was how the relative homogeneity and interconnectedness of the white working class seemed to have been crucial in their solidarity at the time. Also, the fact that these men had their own “castles”, however meagre, and their own minions in their wives and children to give them not just love and support, but respect and dignity (at the expense of their own). I feel that nowadys a lot of men are feeling ‘less’ as a result of greater equality, and the dominant ethnic group, the same, especially amongst the most beleagured of the working class, who often have nothing to provide anything like the boost to their self esteem, even with their remaining advantage.

      It is a blessing that things have changed, but it brings new challenges because we will never again be able to build change on the the needs and demands of just one part of the community. I was astonished to read the sheer scale of Lee’s blindness in his attitude to women. He only spoke of them in relation to sexual exploits or almost as childen. Often kindly, but utterly patronising. In the entire diaries mention of women would have made up about two pages. He knew Robin Hyde, but spoke of her as if she were pathetic, pitiable, and stupid. His inability to recognise and respect her struggle, her courage, her fortitude and her giftedness spoke volumes in the context of his documenting the struggle for the rights and equality of working-class men.

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        The comments in this post are about the need to be inter-sectional. And I am saying that identity politics tends to be sectional. People divide off into cliques that concentrate on those that fit the group. Others who don’t fit any of the most vocal groups, fall between the cracks as I said.

        And kindness is something to be nurtured in oneself and in society and I believe leads to a better and more friendly community with less of those with a gated community attitude, where the other is disliked and avoided.

        That is my opinion, also my hope for a happier society. I don’t want to be drawn into disagreement and further replies or comments if someone dislikes my opinion, doesn’t agree etc. So I won’t reply further.

        • Colonial Viper

          the loss of kindness occurs with political philosophies which emphasise the differences between people as the priority, instead of the common humanity.

          • stargazer

            i’ve decided to delete my comment because i don’t want to engage with this.

        • stargazer

          “And I am saying that identity politics tends to be sectional. People divide off into cliques that concentrate on those that fit the group. Others who don’t fit any of the most vocal groups, fall between the cracks as I said.”

          i know you don’t want to engage further on this, and i respect that. i’m responding because i think there are some things to be considered about this response.

          let’s take a couple of concrete examples here:

          i’ll start with the black lives matter thing. there is a real and significant issue here of black people being killed by police at a much higher rate than other groups. this is something that affects black people, it’s something they want to talk about and organise on. because it’s something that potentially doesn’t affect you, do you feel excluded when they talk about it? do you think they shouldn’t have that conversation and that they shouldn’t do it in ways that allow their voices to have significant place in the discussion?

          or lets take the discussion of women who get pregnant because of rape and want to terminate their pregnancy. or just want to get decent services for family planning and related health issues. again, do you think they shouldn’t be talking about those issues, should they not be able to do so in a way that allows them to push for the policies they need in order to lead safe and healthy lives? should their health issues and needs be treated as unimportant because they don’t affect everyone?

          the thing is, if we only stick to the issues that are common to everyone, then there are some significant and often life-threatening matters that won’t get addressed. and there is nothing stopping you from joining these groups, listening to what they say and adding your voice in support and in solidarity with them. you don’t need to slip through the cracks, you can choose to be part of the conversation.

          when i see other vulnerable groups talking about issues that don’t affect me, i don’t feel that as inclusion, i feel it as empowerment. because when they are empowered and when they get justice, i benefit. i benefit because it means i’m living in a fairer and more decent society. and where i’m able, i try to add my voice, but in a way that doesn’t drown out theirs.

          kindness is allowing others to speak to their own oppression and helping them in their struggle. as surely as they are supporting you in yours – and you’ll find that these groups do have the common values and are also fighting on the common things, AS WELL AS talking about the things that affect them. it’s kindess to expect the police force to not kill black people disproportionately; it’s kindess to push the justice system to not punish people of colour more harshly than white people; it’s kindness to ensure women have access to health needs that are specific to them. i could go on but you get the picture.

          i just want to say that you aren’t excluded, you aren’t slipping through the cracks. and solidarity means standing alongside people in their struggles. when you do that, you’ll find them standing alongside you on the things that matter to you most.

          • Karen

            Stargazer – thank you for this comment (and of course the post). The post itself was great but, for those for whom the idea of intersectionality is a completely new concept, this last comment explains it very well. I hope everyone who reads the post also reads the comments, as it is quite enlightening to see how even kind and well-meaning people can talk past each other without really understanding the viewpoint of marginalised people.

            As a heterosexual Pākehā without a disability, and coming from a culture that is shared by the majority, I know I am privileged. I am a woman and I am not wealthy so I am somewhat disadvantaged compared to some others, but I am also very aware of my advantages so I do try and listen to sectional groups and understand and accept their point of view. However, confronting your own prejudices and ignorance is difficult and I think that that is why people can get defensive, but hopefully they will also think about what you have written.

  6. weka 6

    Great to have you back Stargazer! And thank-you for the excellent post, it makes me feel at home and I haven’t been feeling that here in quite a while. I’m already familiar with intersectionality, yet your post brought in nuances that I hadn’t considered before (mostly in how you present the concept easily and also state very strongly that it’s essential). I hope your life allows you to write more.

    I’m interested to see a number of solid left wing men here say they’re not familiar with the concept and them expressing interest. It’s a kind of duh! moment for me, because we’ve had endless conversations about identity politics that have been frustrating and often appear to make little progress (various sides making statements and retrenching into their positions), but I don’t think it had occured to me that intersectionality was still so unknown. That explains quite a bit. The corolloray of that is how little Pākehā left wing men are reading/engaging outside of their own class (which I find depressing). I’ll save my thoughts about what that means for The Standard for another time. So I really welcome both the post and the thoughtfulness of people who have commented so far. That’s encouraging.

    • stargazer 6.1

      thanx weka! i put in the caps just for you 🙂 hope it’s not bothering you too much that i don’t have them in comments.

      i too was surprised that the guys haven’t heard of intersectionality – it’s been around for such a long time. maybe it is the reason why we are talking past each other so much of the time – they just aren’t reading the discussions that women (and particularly feminists) have been involved in over decades now. because they don’t think this stuff applies to them? but it does, so much.

      maybe they can’t see it because they don’t have to deal with those experiences. but the electorate is starting to be pretty clear: you need to address our issues if you want us to engage with you. as i say in the post, that is becoming a necessity, not an option.

      • weka 6.1.1

        I saw that, thanks for the caps! much appreciated.

        “they just aren’t reading the discussions that women (and particularly feminists) have been involved in over decades now. because they don’t think this stuff applies to them? but it does, so much.”

        Not least because most men have sisters, wives, daughters, mothers, femail friends and colleagues. It’s pretty hard to go through life and not come across women 😉

        There does seem to be a fair bit of segregation in the political blogosphere.

    • lprent 6.2

      Don’t know about anyone else, but I have problems simply finding time to just read about what is in my various focus areas of prime interest (ie computer industry, tech, business, history, and news – mostly world news). That is already a massive field that I try to abreast of.

      Most of those come through the eternal stream of consciousness of the net – (ars technica et al, news sites, a touch of facebook|twitter et al, the electronic magazines that I still subscribe to and whatever Lyn chooses to share from her streams.

      The corolloray of that is how little Pākehā left wing men are reading/engaging outside of their own class (which I find depressing).

      It isn’t so much the class, it is just a complete lack of available time. Between operating a blog and have a rather overworked work life I don’t have much time to delve deeply elsewhere (including other blogs) unless something is brought up where I can see it. I also don’t have much time for a particularly active social life.

      Talking to the completely unlike people that I usually have time (forced from me) to associate with (ie mostly various family members), they are almost all the same if they are working. If they don’t have blogs then they have kids or pet obsessions (aka hobbies).

      About the only people who have time to delve deeply for curiosity and interest are the ones who have hit retirement and before they start getting too sluggishly incurious.

      I rely on people bringing up topics outside those areas on the blogs. Sometimes I delve. Sometimes I do not. It usually depends on how much it is explained and if there are links to background.

      And this post is a nice example of it.. Something that is obvious when you think about it – use case set intersection.

      • stargazer 6.2.1

        i get that you’re busy, but remember that other marginalised people are also busy. and here, you are putting the burden on them to bring matters to your attention. and that can be pretty scary in forums that are notorious for being dismissive of their concerns or sometimes outright hostile. i’ve been pretty lucky in the comments on this post so far, it isn’t always this way. and other places where the general public comment are even worse.

        • Anne

          Hang on stargazer, I didn’t get the impression lprent was in any way putting the burden on them to bring matters to his/our attention…. He was simply explaining a truth and that is: he has to rely on others to bring up issues outside his area of expertise and special interest. There are only so many hours in the day and he does seem to have to travel to various parts of the globe quite a bit with his day job. He does a fantastic job running this site – and on a shoestring budget – so lets give him a break.

          Btw, I found your post interesting and thought provoking, so I think you have done us a service bringing your area of interest and knowledge here for TS readers to read.

        • greywarshark

          @star gazer
          lprent also mentioned something important that takes up his time – that is the very blog that we are writing on. He is the main engineer keeping it running at very little monetary cost through good and careful design and planning but it needs his valuable time spent keeping the system going well.

          We shouldn’t take the stuff we use and other people for granted, and certainly not take this blog for granted. It didn’t grow up on it’s own like a mushroom. And it is nurtured and defended so that it doesn’t get attacked by the dark side!

          • stargazer

            anne & greywarshark, this wasn’t an attack on lprent, it was a response to this: “Talking to the completely unlike people that I usually have time (forced from me) to associate with (ie mostly various family members), they are almost all the same if they are working. If they don’t have blogs then they have kids or pet obsessions (aka hobbies).

            About the only people who have time to delve deeply for curiosity and interest are the ones who have hit retirement and before they start getting too sluggishly incurious.”

            and the notion that people need us to bring this stuff to their attention does ask the marginalised person to do all the work of educating others. and all these very busy people should factor in that we are also very busy people, just as they are, also often doing a lot of good work for a lot less recognition.

          • Colonial Viper

            gws: in this microcosm of an example, you can see how in this kind of politics its all about the self, and not about anyone else.

            And hence people can tell that none of it is about actual inclusion, or actual acceptance of people as they are.

            So its no wonder that this political approach goes no where fast.

            • just saying

              ….this kind of politics its all about the self, and not about anyone else.

              oh the sweet irony.

              outa here

              • stargazer

                i’ve decided to delete my comment because i don’t want to engage with this. (not directed at you JS, i’ve really appreciated your contribution)

      • Ad 6.2.2

        On the train to work I skim through this site, the main transport engineering journals, transportblog, the NZHerald, ODT, huffington, nate silver’s one, Guardian, Salon, then the overnight emails, after that I’m at Britomart ordering a morning mochaccino, and off to work. Not sure if it’s intersectional, but it keeps me in biscuits.

  7. adam 7

    Thanks stargazer, what a wonderful post.

    I’d suggest, as intersectionality is generally associated with academia, most kiwis avoid it. Which is odd really, as I always thought at it’s most elemental level it is a excellent analytical tool. As your post elegantly illustrates.

    I also think you are right in that most males have not had to think, or deal with feminism and/or feminist. Indeed the backlash against women has been one of the more effective weapons against anyone who wants a more democratic society. I personally think you can track the rise of liberalism as a measure of the decline of power for women.

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    I very much doubt that the politics of the future is going to head down the track of “intersectionality”.

    • Wainwright 8.1

      Course not. It’s already there. Nobody’s dealt in ‘pure’ class struggle since the 50s nor should they. Life is more complicated. I don’t see what all the fuss is about, the Left’s always stood for the powerless against the oppressor.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        No, the political establishment left hasn’t, and that’s one reason it’s bled support for decades.

        • Wainwright

          All that means is someone else will come along and do a better job. Parties are just structures. They come and go.

          • Colonial Viper

            so you agree that the political left hasnt stood against the powerful to protect the weak, and hasnt done so for a generation.

            So why did you say they do.

    • Nic the NZer 8.2

      Thats because in general dealing with one source of discrimination is helpfull regardless of any others. Obviously situations like comment 4 (if that really happened) should simply result in the committees being fired and replaced with compitent ones.

      This ” intersectionality” reminds me too closely of pomo ism to seem of much use.

      • Colonial Viper 8.2.1

        Intersectionalism provides a great conceptual framework if you want to write up lots of journal papers or have deep debates with other political activists.

        When you look at the Trump/Sanders phenomenon it’s clear that a mass of people of both left and right persuasions are feeling alienated from the system and from from the establishment.

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    I think that values like intersectionality prosper in expansive conditions and decline in contracting conditions like those which prevail in NZ under this useless and stupid government.

    Generally speaking NZers are somewhat receptive to inclusiveness – but in a shrinking pond situation unfairness exists already. If there is only one job on offer in a contracting civil service as Bill English’s house of cards collapses, should it go to a woman, a disabled person, a coloured person, a maori, an Asian, or a white male? There is no fair answer.

    In an expanding pool it’s a very different story – “after you” politeness is not vocational suicide. The Rawlsian least favoured group can be prioritised. So I would say that a level of economic competence is helpful to social reformers and perhaps even necessary to make their agendas palatable to other interest groups.

    • stargazer 9.1

      The problem I have with this analysis is this: in the 2000s, we had very low unemployment. But we still had less than 10% of the boards of public companies comprised of women & even less for people of colour (& this was never a matter of merit, it was because of shoulder tapping & lack of investment into other groups with strong abilities). We still had the closure of rape crisis centres across the country due to lack of funding. We still had the Foreshore & Seabed Act. Again, I can give you plenty more examples. And each of them show that simply focusing on the economics will not magically make the issues of marginalised people disappear.

      • Stuart Munro 9.1.1

        Corporate behaviour in NZ is by no means transparent or meritocratic – if you accept the corporation as a legitimate entity you must also accept that board positions are often appointed by shareholding companies. To reach parity in this metric would require numbers of heavily capitalised women. Such persons are already advantaged and may not be as legitimate beneficiaries of left advocacy as low waged workers. When I look at the contributions to NZ society of Jenny Shipley and Judith Collins I’m inclined to the view that corporate gender equity is a low priority.

        It might be that the economics that would serve your ends are less monopolist and more community and individual focused – the tools of finance are presently employed to reduce individual empowerment and dominate and monopolise markets. Efforts like Rewi Alley’s Gung Ho, the Korean Saemaul Undong, and Yunus’s microlending Grameen bank are directed toward the lower end of the communities and have had some success in uplifting their clients. There are presently proto-feminist tourism aid projects in several countries for instance. They are not a magic bullet – but they are one way of uplifting disadvantaged groups. This was part of the intention behind Labour’s Sealord deal – unfortunately they neglected to study the industry before imposing solutions and consequently acheived little.

        • greywarshark

          @Stuart Munro
          Sealord’s progress or not, is worthy of a post. Any interest on your part in combining as a pair to put one up?

          I know someone who has had long experience with them, and think I can get personal anecdote. A resume of their history would be instructive and easy to get. Then how much it has helped Maori would be of interest and their present direction, and how useful it has been for NZ fisheries as a whole etc. I haven’t a lot of time at present, but could be done over months. Would you indicate your thoughts here, let me know. Just an idea.

          • Stuart Munro

            I’d be happy to help any way I can – though my direct involvement with them was a long time ago. The fisheries sector in NZ has performed poorly – though the recent initiative to improve returns by live catch and source tracking is an improvement, Paul Greenberg still holds a few lessons for them.

            • greywarshark

              @Stuart Munro
              Can we keep that idea in mind to take up later this month, or start then. It would be a first I think for this blog, collaborating.

        • weka

          “When I look at the contributions to NZ society of Jenny Shipley and Judith Collins I’m inclined to the view that corporate gender equity is a low priority.”

          If we had gender equity in the corporate world, the Shipley’s and Collins’ would have less influence. At the moment in order for woment to succeed they have to fit into the male culture of that world, and that requirement means that it’s the one’s who best fit those values that succeed. Replace half the men with women and the culture changes. Not that all of a sudden the corporate world becomes a bastion of egalitarianism, just that the balance tips and things change.

          I don’t place corporate gender equity as a priority so much as seeing it as part of the bigger picture. Myself, I’d go for equity in parliament first, mandated by law.

  10. gsays 10

    Thanks stargazer for this thought provoking post.
    I wanna add an opinion but am seeing the benefit of keeping quiet and reading what others have to say.

  11. greywarshark 11

    If intersectionality means a group of people with similar problems, needs and wants being aware of other groups in society with different needs and wants, and wishing them well and keeping them in mind when they strive to gain some improvement, then I am all for it.

    If policies are changed or introduced that help others as well as the lobbying group, then they build a stronger, better society. Seeing ourselves as part of a jigsaw where we fit together at the intersections and aren’t complete until we do, is a utopian ideal. But keeping it in mind and working towards such a mindful pan-approach would bring us closer to that society of respect and closer equality that we once had in our sights and reached for.

    • greywarshark 11.1

      Would the Gross National Happiness Index be the measure of whether intersectionality if working well? The King of the country of Bhutan introduced this concept and the United Nations adopted the idea in 2011.
      The King of Bhutan said this:

      “Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply – Development with Values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.”
      — Jigme Dorji Wangchu

      Then there is the more detailed Social Progress Index.
      The Index defines social progress as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.

      Fifty-four indicators in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity to progress show the relative performance of nations.

      But we were 5th just under Iceland which is just under Switzerland? Doesn’t that make you feel good. Let’s have a new flag to celebrate. Hah.

    • stargazer 11.2

      This is such a lovely post, you have expressed it so beautifully. I had almost decided to leave this discussion, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Your words have had me smiling inside all day.

      And I do agree with you that it is a utopian ideal. But if we keep it as a long-term goal & head in that direction, then even if we never get there, even if we only make it part of the way down that path, then we will have achieved something. And that will be better than nothing. In fact I suspect that it will be a whole lot.

      As for your point about the Gross National Happiness Index, yes, I think it would help a lot. I’ve been a fan of it for many years.

      • greywarshark 11.2.1

        I thought that I needed to put something positive as well as critique! Tonight I went to an event where people doing positive things in the community told us about their approach and their successes, each for five minutes. It was good to meet up with such great people in numbers. This is about the talks and the speakers. http://happyzine.co.nz/happyzine-talks/

        The journalist who organised it runs http://happyzine.co.nz/ where she publishes something positive happening in NZ every day. That’s good news eh!

        Thinking again about the wellbeing index and GNH perhaps we need as citizens to adopt them as model measures. Then we need I think to gather our own statistics and measure the things that are important to us, untouched by tainted politicians hands and their economic and financial familiars.

        I note that we are 5th in the world in the Social Progress Index. I feel that there must be a lack of depth in its stats. If you measure the glamorous side of our nation then perhaps it can look good. But how does the growing inequality show up, where is that measured. The sleeping in cars, the desperate people murdering welfare clerks – that used to be USA style, which has earned the name of ‘going postal’ because of the callous, mechanical way they treated postal staff.

        We need to have a people’s statistics collection group which measures real unemployment, real full time numbers, real work done by poor people as volunteers etc,

  12. Incognito 12

    A truly thought-provoking post, which started to really resonate when I read the comments.

    We live in a pluralistic society but IMO full intersectionality will not be achieved in the democratic and political system as we know it. Firstly, because of the tyranny of the majority that effectively suppresses the voices and interests of minorities and margin groups. Secondly, because politicians suffer from dualistic thinking, have short attention span, and can only focus on one thing at the time – they are human after all.

    My Utopian dream is that we will act in unity and nobody will go unnoticed or be ignored. I also think this is an achievable dream but paradoxically and only if/when we first as individuals achieve unity (i.e. become integrated and whole) within ourselves in the individuation process described by Jung, for example. This process is entirely natural BTW and happens in all of us to a more or lesser degree. Societal influences can stimulate or inhibit and even halt this process – as above, so below.

    • greywarshark 12.1

      You are too kind to politicians.
      When there are a large number, each responsible for something different, either as Ministers or electorate or assigned list MPs, there is no reason why important matters, or even unimportant, should fall through the cracks.

      And Jung and his reference to a shadow spreading over Europe before war, comes to mind every now and then. I think an understanding of oneself, and self-analysis of the direction of one’s own thinking would alleviate much of the delusion we often bring to our lives.

      Try Transactional Analysis which in a simple process of understanding our thoughts as arising from Adult, Parent or Child. Easy, simplistic perhaps, but not requiring a degree in psychology. Adult is the reasoning side which brings together knowledge of the past, and the present to enable wise rational thinking. Parent is the sum of learnings from past authoritarian or educational subject. Child is our creative, ungoverned, emotional side, which adds colour to our lives, our humour, our laughter, but also negative emotions. So the Child must not be allowed to drive thinking but add to it, also the Parent allowed to reign can result in outdated, unreasonable rigidity and often punitive decisions. The Adult sifts the thoughts that arise to the one that is most sensible.

      When people understand this approach, they can identify where there thinking arises, and alter it if it is unsuitable for the time.

      • Incognito 12.1.1

        Thank you; coming so late to the discussion (because of problems with the TS site access) I was not really expecting a reply.

        I don’t want to dwell on politicians except to say that they have short-term goals and vision and limited focus. Particularly the current Government seems to suffer from group-think as well. I think these are exactly some of the reasons why many matters fall between the cracks.

        Your comments regarding TA are very interesting. I’ve not kept up with TA; my first encounter with TA was reading I’m OK, You’re OK many years ago now.

        The one aspect that I’ve been missing in TA, most likely due to my ignorance, is the natural aspect of the development of the personality. There are similarities between Maslow’s self-actualisation at the top of his pyramid and that of Jung and Self as the final state of the individuation process. Some have argued that Jung actually went one step further to self-transcendence.

        This all may sound a little ‘heavy’, academic, or even abstract (airy-fairy?) but what really gets me excited (!) is the connection with the collective. I cannot speak from experience, because I’m a long way from Self, but I cling to the idea (hope?) that in this paradigm lies the promise of a synthesis between individualism, selfishness and competition on the one hand and solidarity & cooperation, empathy & compassion on the other hand. In other words, a resulting and accompanying politics that transcends the current lift-right dualism. This is my Utopian dream.

  13. greywarshark 13

    I think that mind direction by the self is absolutely necessary, as we attempt to ameliorate the harm we have done to the planet and to people in other countries in their thousands, thought not personally, and to those here who are driven almost out of their minds, by the mindless parrots of citizens taking the easy route of denigrating others in difficulty and acting on instructions of the venal politicians and their advisors.

    In your comment you refer to “the natural aspect of the development of the personality” and I have been looking at aspects of that and reading about nature v nurture and so on all my life. I have come to the conclusion that a person finding balance between all the conflicting drives and controls is the lifetime’s work which hopefully can end with a resilient, kind, strong, humble individual, properly opinionated from knowledge of one’s own experience and wisdom, and so on.

    And quiet time for reflection is necessary, and meditation too so the mind is quietened and rests. But then the balance comes in too. People have found that meditation can be so calming and pleasant, that they spend too much time in this state and neglect other parts of their lives.

    So back to TA. I see it as an invaluable tool for getting an understanding of one’s self and controlling the excesses of the mind. For instance, being aware that one is growing in irritation and feeling increasing rage, and could explode with angry words, recriminations and create a lasting negative effect on whatever is under way at work or home. And realising then that you haven’t eaten anything useful to the body all day, you have had three coffees and no water, that you haven’t been outside all day, and that you fear there is a cash crisis looming and possibly a fast audit required that might reveal a fraud, and what’s more it is possible you have a melanoma on your leg.
    A bit of kindness is called for, to yourself. Which in turn will have good effects on others, to have a short break, a drink, and then back to considering whatever.

    TA can be useful for a high IQ individual. But I think in the book I’m okay, you’re okay, it is mentioned how it can work on someone with intellectual limitations, but who also is forming their own mind at their own level. The individual learning to use TA, had been prone to big upsets, anxiety and impatience if the regular trip to town to spend the week’s allowance was delayed or cancelled. The leader went through the method with her, identifying what she was feeling – upset, and which aspect of mind would feel like that – her Child side. And then how she could help her Child side feel better, was to bring her Adult forward to calm her Child, and remember that the trip would go ahead soon. The result was a calmer though sad young person who would then say it was okay, but that the trip should happen soon, because it was hard to wait.

    This is such a good bagful of mind-assisting tools in TA. The mind is behind everything, and we so often hear that it is behind our bad health. I have been reading Jon Gabriel’s book on how to bring your mind to want to lose weight, whereupon it regulates the body to do it, and you just concentrate on eating healthy food and have healthy practices, good sleep, some exercise, and he recommends time even 10 minutes spent out in the daylight. He had been a stressed stockbroker I think, building his business and neglecting his own needs, and then 9th September came. The change was necessary, the die was cast. His idea is to use a lot of visualisation, relaxation, mind and body care.

    Have you a copy of Eric Berne’s Games that People Play.? I am not informed enough on psychology to make a reasoned judgment, but it sounds insightful, and I find it interesting and recognise some of my practices there.

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