I’ve been struggling for years trying to figure out why anyone on the left would want to support people who are, objectively speaking, their mortal enemies. This column gives a bit of a clue. It is on the “intellectual” Judith Butler, whom you may have heard of because she “won” a contest a few years back for producing the worst prose for that year. Anyway, the column gives a statement of “intersectionality” which gave me a glimmer as to why anyone would accept it. Here is my idea about why intersectionality emerged: if you are running up against the same enemies in your struggles against sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc., and then you see their attitudes to Arabs, it makes sense to believe that there is just one big enemy out there and that it is white males of the First World (especially America). This is how Israel (considered by leftists as an extension of the West) gets demonized by gays, even though it is the most gay-friendly country in that part of the world. This is how the lawyer Lynne Stewart came to believe that Muslim men were somehow her allies in fighting sexism.
Needless to say, this is a very shallow and, I have to say it, parochial view of the world. Anyone who goes out into the world can see that Muslim men are quite sexist, as is shown by the existence of Saudi Arabia. Anyone can see that traditional societies, of which there are plenty in the Third World, are not very kind to homosexuality. Anyone who takes a little bit of effort can see that black males in this country are not that interested in supporting feminism. And anyone who has looked at the Iranian revolution should be able to see that Muslims are not exactly leftists’ best friends.
In other words, if you are fighting against sexism, you are fighting against males of every color and creed and nation; white American males aren’t your only enemy. In fact, your biggest enemies are in the Muslim world. If you are fighting against homophobia, it is also true that your biggest enemies are elsewhere. Anyone who actually has talked to or at least read the books of liberal Muslims and liberals and leftists from the Muslim world could have figured this out.
Intersectionality, then, is way out of touch.
Another column talks about Michel Foucault’s perverse support for the Iranian revolution. See here. Apparently, he believed that leftists in Iran weren’t as authentically Iranian as Muslims. (It’s hard to know how many liberals and leftists who have become Islamophiles hold this belief and how many came to hold it because of Foucault.) It is true that since leftism is generally a Western movement, then Iranian Muslims are more “authentic” than Iranian leftists are. But this brings problems very quickly. Does this mean that Muslims are more authentically part of the Third World than Hindus, Buddhists, or Daoists are? There are leftists who certainly talk this way, though as far as I can tell, they have no justification for believing it. And if the idea is to pick out victims of imperialism, then Muslims would hardly be one’s first choice, since they have been imperialists, while Hindus (say) have not been.
Why worry about authenticity anyway? Apparently, if you are concerned about treating the “Other” properly, then someone who is authentically part of the Third World is more likely to represent an “Other” than someone whose ideas have been tainted by the West. Yet, that likely means that they are horribly sexist and homophobic. So, either (1) you treat this “Other” as your best friend whom you must protect from those evil Republicans, but from whom you can never count on any support for some of your other causes, or (2) you spurn this “Other” at the risk of being somewhat “racist.” Given that some of these “Others” have killed quite a few leftists, the answer has to be the second choice