…that is the trend nowadays – people are no longer capable of staying on their own. They form into nonsensical groups.
Joseph Roth, The Emperor’s Tomb
While my friend is in La Roche, where he is visiting me each year, we play chess and consider Life in General and The Being of it All. Somewhere in our conversations the word ‘intersectional’ drops from his mouth. I’ve never heard it before.
As that friend is well-read and far more versed and fluent in pondering the serious issues in life, I immediately take it to have a meaning. And it does have a meaning, so I note in my diary the following:
“Intersectional seems to be the new fad, a word for people who mix various off-side identities, for instance being a woman, a lesbian and black at the same time. For those who use the term, always applying it to their own condition, it is a kind of Geuzennaam.”
Not only was I wrong to put it like this, for the English reader an explanation of the utterly Dutch word Geuzennaam also seems to be in place. During our long war with the Spaniards, some Dutch minor aristocrats went to Brussels to hand in a petition. On their arrival, one of the Spanish bastards asked another Spanish bastard what these people could be. In French the answer was: “Don’t be afraid, Madam, ils sont que les gueux”. They but a bunch of beggars.
From then on the Dutch resistance movement against their southern oppressors called itself Geuzen, our bastard word for the French version. And ever since, any time someone adopts a contemptuous name given to them by some enemy, he will consider it a Geuzennaam. So much for that – it had to be done; there is, methinks, no word in the English language translating it properly.
Only a few weeks after I first heard it spoken, to my wild surprise I discovered that this strange word ‘intersectional’ already existed in 1939, as a term indicating something social. On page 51 of my edition of Fante’s novel Ask the Dust we read: He was sick after every intersectional football game that saw the east defeated… Can’t be true, is what I thought!
After the discussion with my friend – on this more further on – I first committed an anachronism, thinking that Fante meant teams of American Football with, say, White Negroes and Indian Whites in the line up. Of course, he only meant teams from the Western league playing teams from the Eastern part of the States. Nevertheless, there it was: intersectional. Might perhaps also be meaning something mathematical.
‘Intersectionality’, yes indeed, reification all around! It turns out to be “a term coined by an American feminist legal scholar, a critical race theorist and civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.” You got it! There is even more: These multiple intersecting identities “create a whole that is different from the component identities.” [Thus Wikipedia]
So I asked my friend if this meant that we must await the formation of further ‘nonsensical groups’. Not awaiting, he said, they’re already there, claiming and demanding justice and special spaces to be in, separate from other types of in their eyes perhaps other, yet despicable intersectionalists. After all, there should finally come an end to all this oppressive intersectional injustice.
So then and there, in my little farmhouse in la France Profonde, I proposed the creation of a Fifth International. The I.I. or Intersectionalist International.
There once was a First International of Workingmen, dating all the way to 1864. There has been a Second Marxist one, which lasted till the First World War. Though pleading the complete union of all proletarians, it was still an undertaking of 1: men, 2: white men at that. Then we got some strife after the outbreak of that Great War and a Third International was created: The Communist International. After Stalin had ousted Trotsky from The Party, exiling him to Mexico, out there the Fourth or Trotskist International came alive – more or less. Yet, all of these Internationals were primarily sectionalist, alas.
So, why not do it and begin with the Fifth, the Intersectionalist International! By now it must have become clear to even the Kimberlé Williams Crenshaws of this world, that each single human being is in fact intersectional, victim of some of the multiple exclusions done to them by other intersectionalists – of course most of them unaware of their own misdeeds.
Do we need a new tune? We don’t. Anyone is nowadays signing the old International, we just keep the tune and compose a few new lines befitting the Intersectionalist International’s new social vista.
This then would be the Fifth International, but certainly the very first one to include the whole of mankind as well as all aliens who may arrive on earth from somewhere in outer space. Perhaps Kimberlé already came from out there. She may not yet be aware of it, but all of us are intersectionalist and this globe is our clubhouse. Let us not elevate what is common to us all into some new exclusionism.
Sierksma La Roche Autumn 2017