In response to descriptions of Ansari’s sexual misconduct, Caitlin Flanagan wrote a horrendous article which I will not link (but you have undoubtedly seen) with many memorable quotes, including this one:
“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months.”
This abuse of identity politics was no surprise to me: I’ve seen women do this consistently to defend men. Stop misusing intersectionality to cape for men—it’s abusive.
If you’re not a black woman, before you use the word “intersectionality” ask yourself, Am I hurting black women with their own theories in order to advance my agenda of defending trash men?
Caitlin Flanagan is throwing words like “intersectionality” (I doubt she ascribes to it) around to defend predatory brown at the detriment of women of color, which is, frankly, the very definition of non-intersectional white feminism. Remember that Aziz Ansari is anti-black. Don’t forget it. You don’t get to use the theories of black women to protect him.
And what am I even supposed to tell her? She has unsurprisingly followed suit of non-black women of color: Our article criticizing the sexist responses of Muslim men to frustrations regarding sexual assault had met with the same attitudes, with the same (mis)appropriations of black feminist theories. A staff writer from one of the publications featuring our article had accused it of being white feminist, even though the article centers women of color. Muslim men are not located at the intersections of sex and race. But she had prettied-up the same accusations of “divisiveness” men level against women of color, recasting these sexist accusations as “dichotomizing” sex and race to masquerade them as black feminist theory. Subsequently, she was actually being remarkably white feminist… while explaining to us what white feminism is.
That particular staff writer had also pivoted on her position as part of the staff in order to create an abusive power dynamic between us, deflecting to the prestige of the publication whenever I criticized her. Which worked, since after that yet another staff writer accused me of belittling the publication because I’d found the former’s tactic absurd.
She’d bring up white feminism—a term coined by black feminists—in order to dismiss our critiques of abusive Muslim men, but then failed to understand why we replied with discussing the misuses of black feminism even as she misuses it. And then told us to go read about it. It was patronizing and an obscene projection of her own misunderstandings and abuses of black feminist theory. (We were, in all honesty, willing to engage with her until she hit “like” on the comment of a man who’d chanted “not all men” thereby revealing where she stood.)
In order for me to have any respect for someone (and by this I don’t mean basic human respect because everyone deserves that by default, but respect in their work) they have to actually propose critical analyses and produce their own theories instead of just regurgitating the ones that they’ve heard and relying on others (namely, black women) to do it for them. This is the issue with people who simply reproduce patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an without offering anything on their own; only in this case, that work is the invaluable theories of black feminists, misused to advance a non-black woman’s agenda.
Non-black women of color are aware that feminism without intersectionality is white power. They can’t bother to also realize that feminism without intersectionality is patriarchy. They don’t want to ever critique men of color, but they want to call this “intersectionality.”
And it bears a strong resemblance to the abusive attitude of Flannagan, and of men like this:
Notice the excerpt he chose. Men of color linking Flanagan’s article under the guise of innocent curiosity, specifically choosing an excerpt that abuses the theories of black feminists, get away with this because they surround themselves with “progressive” women of color who build up their egos as “intellectuals.” (The aforementioned staff writer was quick to point out that she knew “decent” men, and I don’t doubt that’s “true.” I wonder where they are in response to Flanagan’s article.) Men like Wajahat Ali are defending Aziz Ansari whether they think so or not, and the excerpt they choose, one that attempts to twist intersectionality to excuse them of sexual misconduct, proves this.
Ansari was predatory. Black men have historically been falsely accused of assaulting white women, and I didn’t see any white women using the theories of black feminists to protect men who were actually innocent then. You’re all doing it for Ansari because (1) he’s not a black woman so of course you’re going to misuse black feminism to protect him and (2) he prioritizes white women over women of color. And you can’t lose such a valuable ally now can you?