I suggest further that this focus on otherwise-privileged group members creates a distorted analysis of racism and sexism because the operative conceptions of race and sex become grounded in experiences that actually represent only a subset of a much more complex phenomenon…. I argue that Black women are sometimes excluded from feminist theory and antiracist policy discourse because both are predicated on a discrete set of experiences that often does not accurately reflect the intersection of race and gender. These problems of exclusion cannot be solved simply by including Black women within an already established analytical structure. Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated. Thus, for feminist theory and antiracist policy discourse to embrace the experiences and concerns of Black women, the entire framework that has been used as a basis for translating “women’s experience” or “the Black experience” into concrete policy demands must be rethought and recast.
–Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex”
Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as “woman” or “person of color” as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling.
My objective here is to advance the telling of that location by exploring the race and gender dimensions of violence against women of color. Contemporary feminist and antiracist discourses have failed to consider the intersections of racism and patriarchy… Because of their intersectional identity as both women and people of color within discourses that are shaped to respond to one or the other, the interests and experiences of women of color are frequently marginalized within both.
–Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the margins”
Another part of that pressure is feeling as though I need to be able to make a concise statement about “the APoC experience” or about the intersection of asexuality and race, which is pretty much impossible. APoC are a diverse bunch, because the world isn’t divided up into “white people” and “people of color,” each of whom can claim a single, monolithic racial experience, and so my being the only non-white panelist puts me in a supremely uncomfortable position. How can I be the only one on the panel answering questions about the intersection of asexuality and race when I feel that my experience is so singular and isolated that I can barely speak for myself, let alone anyone else? How can I be a spokesperson for so many people with so many different experiences than mine, and yet none of the white aces on the panel are expected to speak to the “white ace experience”?
-Queenie, The politics of (in)visibility
This seems like a good time to remind everyone to go read a very relevant post from two years ago (during another ace controversy flare up) about different types of aces valuing different parts of their identity differently. What Queenie talks about there was true then and is still true now, and I could stand to see more acknowledgement of the fact.
Go read the full post for Queenie’s take on four (4) distinct groups of aces divvied up by how they each prioritize their romantic and sexual orientations:
- Group 1: Aces who consider their romantic orientation more important than their sexual orientation.
- Group 2: Aces who consider their sexual orientation more important than their romantic orientation.
- Group 3: Aces who consider their sexual and romantic orientations equally important or who prioritize different orientations at different times.
- Group 4: Aces who don’t identify with a romantic orientation and thus consider this whole categorization system boring and pointless.
Fun fact: a lot of the bickering I’ve seen made 200% more sense to me once I realized that it was a lot of mainly Group 1 vs. Group 2-3 (with Group 4 mostly disregarded — hi! we’re here too!).
Listen, it’s fine to be in any of these groups. It’s fine if one part of your identity means more to you than another, and it’s fine if it doesn’t, and it’s fine if different people with the same nominal identity prioritize different parts of it for themselves.
It makes sense to me to argue interpersonal policy, what hurts people, etc., but it doesn’t make sense to me to argue that romantic or sexual orientation should/shouldn’t be the bigger deal to someone personally, and that’s actually a significant share of what I’ve seen people doing. So check out Queenie’s words, yeah?