What do you think is wrong with taking an intersectional approach?
first because it answers most of the other questions.
In itself, nothing, it’s a useful model that good things have been accomplished with.
One problem is that when in use it tends to be treated as the model, to the exclusion of any other concerns or practical realities, in much the same way that Marxism is a great lens that you can’t use all the time.
The bigger problem, IMO, is the slow drift as it has seeped from theory to popular activism from the original “don’t shit on people with shared interests by imagining they are exactly like you in all ways” formulation, which I am entirely behind, to the almost-opposite oppression-olympics exaggerated focus on differences as arbiters of legitimacy, which is good for no one. The weaponization by people who realize they can use oppression-olympics/the most intolerant win style tactics to get their way in shared spaces, while steamrolling other interests is especially alarming.
And finally the already-mentioned criticism-proof problem (Another quillette link because they have been on a roll publishing pieces in this area lately. Take this one with a grain of salt because the author has what must be simultaneously regarded as first-hand experience and an axe to grind). That middle concern is the place where I’m drawing a distinction that I clearly didn’t adequately communicate.
The overstepping was the acknowledgement that ideas she had promoted lead to structures for community and activism built in ways that could not accommodate internal or external conflict, especially of motivation. Internal in the idea that the feminist structures were all built to serve very specific identities (‘white feminists’, ‘black feminists’ - though I’m always frustrated that she treats the same behaviors by black feminist groups as reaction rather than repetition) without the flexibility to coordinate with, much less include others. Externally in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill situation (which has been a rather relevant case study again recently), where it becomes clear that if you build a worldview out of charged oppressions and elevated subjective experience, there is no way of negotiating competing constraints. Most analyses I’ve read treats that piece, as you say, as building on an earlier one to clarify that her earlier (foundational) writings on intersectionality were hoping to address these problems, not to exacerbate them.
I think I did come in too strong, I usually talk in this area with folks with more shared context, stuck my head in, and had a ‘someone on the internet is wrong’ reaction. I’m coming from a place of frustrated-idealism, not hostility.
The thing I find most alarming is the modern social-media-enabled development of politics by “Here is my list of demographic features, it’s all you need to know about me because I’ve internalized the demographics-as-destiny mindset I claim to fight, if you don’t adequately cowtow to each and every one of them you’re a monster with whom I can’t coexist, much less cooperate on our shared interests.”
I’m intentionally picking the very most exaggerated case, but the whole evergreen state situation is a truly absurd display of identity politics run amok. The three-point basis of that article is a good way of distinguishing solidarity and insanity.