Issue 12 Editorial

When the editorial board voted on a theme for this term’s Oxford Left Review, we chose ‘intersectionality’ unanimously. Intersectionality has become the watchword of various liberation movements, and the last year has seen the publication of hundreds of critiques and celebrations of its aims and consequences. Despite its popularity as a topic, ‘intersectionality’ is a fairly new term – the Oxford English Dictionary still lacks a proper definition for it. The website Geek Feminism provides this outline:

Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.[1]

They add that “the concept first came from legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and is largely used in critical theories, especially [f]eminist theory, when discussing systematic oppression”. This definition’s focus on intersectionality’s presence in feminist theory is both apt and ironic, since feminism has recently been both the champion and the antagonist of intersectionality. Whilst striving for inclusivity in many ways, feminism has often simply assimilated the power structures of the rest of society in its approach to People of Colour, working-class feminists and those with disabilities (to name but a few groups). Nevertheless, many feminist groups have shown willingness to address these internal faults, and feminists like Julie Burchill (who last year published a controversial piece ridiculing trans* people[2]) have been disowned by much of the movement.

Unfortunately, when mainstream media outlets like the BBC have tried to take these criticisms on board, it has often resulted in tokenism, and the actual concerns of the speakers they choose are brushed aside during the debate, as happened to journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge this January:

Though it sometimes feels like I am entering into a trap, I’m hyper aware that if I don’t accept these opportunities, black feminism will be mischaracterised and misrepresented by the priorities of the white feminists taking part in the conversation. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.[3]

Issue 12 of the Oxford Left Review aims to bring different voices to the table, providing a platform for writers to discuss a range of issues that resonate with them, considering the intersections between various oppressions and exploring the identities of marginalised and disadvantaged groups, such as the Gaelic crofters of Scotland, working-class women, people from ex-colonised nations in Africa and individuals from the LGBTQ community. Of course, we have been limited by the submissions we received; if there are any groups you feel have been left underrepresented, we would be pleased to receive contributions for our blog.

Louise Livesey introduces the OLR 12 with an argument for taking one another’s “dreams of freedom” seriously, encouraging writers to turn theory into praxis and implement strategies within their activism for recognising different groups’ struggles. One group who have recently been accused of ignoring others’ “dreams of freedom” are ‘white feminists’, and Kate Bradley, Zizzy Lugg-Williams and H.A. discuss the value of (and need for) the term in a ‘Round Table on ‘White Feminism”. The failures of feminisms past and present are more far-reaching than a discussion on ‘white feminism’ alone could cover; in ‘Towards a BDSM orientation’, the author discusses feminists’ fraught history with the BDSM community, arguing for the recognition of an SM orientation. In ‘Performing Vulnerability’, Emily Cousens points out how class and gender intersect when women are rendered economically vulnerable by their position in the capitalist system. On either side of this article, we print new poems by Oxford graduates Jay Bernard and Thos. West, both poems exploring queer identities and the idea of belonging.

Moving onto issues of race and cultural difference, Shanice Mahil’s article ‘Commodified Cultures’ discusses how cultural appropriation takes place within a capitalist culture, and how the values of marginalised cultures can be expunged and forgotten by dominant cultures. ‘Misremembering Mandela’ by Max Leak also addresses racial oppression and its relationship to political formations, focusing particularly on how the response to Nelson Mandela’s death whitewashed his biography to remove any references to his ‘radical’ politics, except in passing as regretful asides; Leak argues that we should restore and celebrate his left-wing identity.

Further exploring colonialism and its effects, in ‘On Dark and Unarguable Blackness’, Ankhi Mukherjee examines Frantz Fanon, a Martinican-born French psychiatrist, intellectual and anti-imperialist: she discusses his writing in relation to his race and nationality, showing how he “used the resources of Western thought against itself”. The intersection between race and nationality is also explored by Nathan Akehurst, whose article ‘Ireland at the Intersection’ explores the relationship between Irish identities and post-colonialism, considering whether it is viable to place the Irish into the ‘Black’ political category. Finally, Dòmhnall Iain Dòmhnallach explores the plights of the Gàidhealtachd, considering how Gaelic people in the Scottish Highlands have been exploited and marginalised by their landlords, and how land oppression continues to be fought in modern-day Scotland.

 

Footnotes

[1] Definition of ‘Intersectionality’, Geek Feminism Wiki

[2] Julie Burchill, ‘Here is Julie Burchill’s censored Observer article’, Jan 14th 2013, Telegraph

[3] Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘On the Fallout from Woman’s Hour’, Jan 2nd 2014, Black Feminists

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