If you’re a conservative woman, your political opinions aren’t your own. They couldn’t possibly be, at least according to Barbara Streisand.
“A lot of women vote the way their husbands vote; they don’t believe enough in their own thoughts,” she said about women who voted for Donald Trump.
That some women look at the political landscape around them and conclude in favor of constitutional government, free markets, or traditional social mores is fundamentally at odds with their sex, according to Streisand. There is no explanation in the leftist handbook for this sisterly betrayal other than hers – meek submission to the patriarchy – or something else, that can’t really be described as a reason in the strict definition of the word, but instead as another aspect of “intersectional” identity.
The language of intersectionality – speaking of racial, gender, or sexual identity as though those categories represent the most important aspects of a person – is taking over, not just on university campuses and in the legacy media, but also in Fortune 500 board rooms and across social media. Twitter even made its dedication to the academic theory official in its most recent rules update (the one that apparently got The Federalist’s hilarious Jesse Kelly the axe), which implies that abusive behavior on the platform is more consequential, and therefore more deserving of censure, when directed towards those with more intersectional oppressed class notches on their identity belts.
Having finally made it into the Oxford English Dictionary just three years ago, intersectionality is now the go-to explanation for everything from vote totals in the midterm elections to why some people are more interested in astrological superstitions than others.
But viewing human action as reducible to a series of checked boxes strips us of our individuality and rationality, and, oddly for a movement that claims that personal experience dictates worldview, even of how our unique life experiences (rather than those of a large group) have influenced our thinking. Intersectionality is aptly-named, for it reduces each of us to a plotted point on a series of identity axes, a collection of reactions to impersonal forces between large collectives. Not only is this lens for analyzing complex and whole human beings incredibly boring, it often produces one-dimensional, or even outright false assessments of motivations and actions.
Witness the rage on the left against what they see as a bloc of white women voting against the sisterhood by supporting Republicans in 2016 and 2018. A Vogue article after the midterm elections lamented white women’s failure to fall in line. Columnist Michelle Ruiz wrote, “White women voters are establishing themselves as maddeningly, confusingly … unsisterly.”
In seeking the answers to their confusion about how a supposedly “oppressed” category of people could vote for their “oppressors,” the left hasn’t asked suburban swing voters, or even avowed female conservatives, what issues or principles might persuade them to vote Republican or Democrat. In fact, the left marginalizes those voices, labeling conservatives or even moderates “problematic women.” Nor has the failure of group-victimhood politics to predict the vote totals caused the left to rethink the theory.
Instead, they fall back on intersectionality, speculating that white women – who, in splitting their vote closer to evenly between the two parties, are actually voting less as a collective than black, Hispanic, or Asian women – are choosing their white oppressor identity over their female victimhood.
Similarly, a column in The Washington Post speculates that the reason that anywhere from 8 to 11 percent – apparently the Democratic Party feels entitled to the whole 100 percent of the black vote – of black men who voted for the Republican in Georgia governor’s contest must be trading on their patriarchal privilege of believing in “the conservative mantra of self-determination and economic empowerment.”
For those keeping score, that means that the left says white women are choosing to vote Republican because they’re white, while black men are choosing to vote Republican because they’re men. Notice, this analysis leaves no room for interest in why that “conservative mantra” might be appealing, or varying opinions on policy issues from health care to education to the economy might convince people of varying backgrounds to embrace one party or candidate over another. In abandoning any semblance of the idea that principles or policy matter, intersectionality also leaves behind the possibility of persuasion on any ground other than identity.
Vote with your lady parts, not with your brain, or be a traitor to your group. That often seems the extent of left-wing attempts at political conversion in recent times.
While jettisoning persuasion is a disaster for civility in any democratic society, the simplistic calculations of intersectionality represent an even bigger danger for a multi-ethnic, diverse country like the United States. Unlike the nations of Europe, and throughout human history, the United States never started out as the homeland of an ethnic tribe, but was pluralistic from day one. Our existence depends on the continued embrace of our national motto, e pluribus unum.
The leftist theory of intersectionality, wherein every political disagreement can be boiled down to zero-sum clashes between oppressors and the oppressed, is not just a laughable failure in explaining the complex motivations of voters. It is national poison for a country founded on the proposition that all men are created equal.