My Problems with Intersectionality, Critical Theory, Power and Privilege Analysis Part Two

Good narratives, bad scholarship

Disability Critical Race Theory: Exploring the Intersectional Lineage, Emergence, and Potential Futures of DisCrit in Education

Subini Ancy Annamma: University of Kansas

Beth a. Ferri: Syracuse University

David j. Connor: Hunter College, City University of New York

This paper exemplifies many things that I believe invalidate much of this sort of research, all in one reasonably handy package.

In this review, we explore how Intersectionality has been engaged with through the lens of disability critical race theory (DisCrit) to produce new knowledge. In this chapter, we (1) trace the intellectual lineage for developing DisCrit, (2) review the body of interdisciplinary scholarship incorporating DisCrit to date, and (3) propose the future trajectories of DisCrit, noting challenges and tensions that have arisen. Providing new opportunities to investigate how patterns of oppression uniquely intersect to target students at the margins of Whiteness and ability, DisCrit has been taken up by scholars to expose and dismantle entrenched inequities in education.”

Through the lens of disability critical race theory (DisCrit)”

Almost at the start of the chapter, bias and presupposition are paraded as though they were not an issue. A lens, in this sense, shapes and distorts perceptions. Like a funhouse mirror reflection or the spectacles of the Emerald City, it provides only a distorted view and not an objective one. True objectivity may be impossible, but science is set up to try and compensate for such biases in ways that Intersectionality and Critical Theory have rejected.[1]

An openly embraced and paraded bias does not necessarily invalidate what follows, but it does at least throw it into suspicion, in much the same way as I have previously referenced the problems with fossil fuel sponsored climate research. The validity of Intersectionality as an idea is assumed, the validity of the lens is assumed, targetting (a loaded term, suggesting deliberate prejudice) is assumed. Racist and ableist terminology (Whiteness, ability) is employed, also entering a note of hypocrisy into the endeavour.

New knowledge.”

The only knowledge being produced here is a collection and collation of the opinions of self-admittedly biased people. That may or may not be helpful to some future socio-political analysis of these issues. It does not help examine the truth of any of the claims or for formulating policy. This ‘knowledge’ is not knowledge in any valid or practicable sense.

Side note:

I don’t think that the base idea of Intersectionality has much validity. As I understand it, the idea of Intersectionality is that multiple vectors of ‘oppression’ are not only additive but that through their intermix, additional oppression is created ex nihilo. To me, these issues seem more to be additive and not to produce additional problems via their intermix. Further, viewing things on an Intersectional basis seems to stymie progress by creating divisions, such as I mentioned in my opening blog.

If we have a black woman suffering (for the sake of argument) oppression on the basis both of being a woman and being black, and we somehow eliminate misogyny and racism, no source of oppression is left. The unquantifiable ‘extra’ oppression also disappears, revealing that it was never there in the first place. Even if we just eliminate misogyny, we will have removed a source of oppression for all women and lifted a burden on this individual. If we centred on helping black women first, rather than all women, or all black people, we reduce solidarity, create unfairness and hobble our chances of progress.

In 2016, Bresha Meadows, a 14-year-old Black girl, killed her father following years of abuse inflicted on her family.1 Reporter Melissa Jeltsen (2017) wrote of Meadows’s case: According to Bresha’s family, the young girl had started to fall apart in the months leading up to the shooting. Her grades plummeted. She began cutting herself. And she ran away, telling her aunts in Cleveland that she was afraid her father might kill them all. He beat her mother in front of her, she said, and threatened them with a gun. She said she was scared for their lives. (Para 9) Although the average pre-trial length of detention is 22 days (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program, 2013), by May of 2017, Bresha had been incarcerated for over 250 days and labeled2 with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Bresha’s story is not only about racial or gender-related violence but also about disability. Instead of compassion for the abuse she experienced, Bresha was treated as a dangerous entity, criminalized and punished for being a multiply marginalized3 disabled Black girl in distress. Her story illustrates how race and disability are not only deeply linked with other social locations but also how racism and ableism, intersecting with additional oppressions, often have serious and sometimes deadly implications.”

In 2016, Bresha Meadows…

This example is an anecdote; it is a single data point; it does not tell us anything useful whatsoever. It is a helpful narrative for activism, but in and of itself, it has no utility in understanding the situation or whether racism, ableism or misogyny has any bearing on Bresha’s treatment or that of people in similar circumstances.

Although the average pre-trial length of detention is 22 days…

The framing here suggests that this is an example of prejudice, but there may be other reasons for a more extended pre-trial period. This case is a more serious crime (murder); diminished responsibility might have to be considered regarding experts (circumstance and disability). The average is not the whole of the story. There will be outliers in both directions – shorter pre-trial periods and more protracted ones. The median pre-trial period can extend over 200 days, particularly for complicated crimes to prosecute. The pre-trial period for people who cannot afford bail is also extended, a poverty axis that accounts for much of what people consider racial bias. [2]

We begin by locating the foundations of DisCrit in Black and critical race feminist scholarship and activism.

Activist scholarship is not scholarship at all. Activism can follow scholarship, where objective scholarship reveals genuine issues that demand action. The scholarship, objective, distanced, supported by evidence, needs to come first. Both ‘feminist scholarship’ and ‘activism’ are loaded.

A century later, Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) further revealed how the law subjugated Black women as they could neither claim discrimination based on race (because Black men were being promoted) nor gender (because

White women were also being promoted).”

Revealed…

Asserted, claimed, suggested, not revealed. Revelation, perhaps not coincidentally, is a religious and not a scientific ‘form of knowledge’ that isn’t knowledge at all – but faith.

Could neither claim…

If racial bias has been eliminated and gender bias has been eliminated, there seem no safe grounds upon which to claim black women are being discriminated against. There remain other potential issues, particularly historically, around poverty, education and so forth that have not been eliminated nor accounted for here. In more recent years, black women have been doing exceptionally well in education (mirroring how women generally are doing better in education than men), and this is reflected in the employment rate – a factor often left out in these analyses and one that speaks against these assumptions.[3]

CRT recognizes racism as central to creating group (dis) advantage, highlights knowledge claims forged in the experiences of communities of color, rejects ahistoric accounts of entrenched inequities, and promotes interdisciplinary research that aims to eliminate racial (and intersecting) forms of oppression (Matsuda, 1993).”

CRT recognizes…

It claims. It does not recognise.

Has this been the case historically?

Certainly.

Is it the case currently in WEIRD nations with anti-discrimination laws, employment laws and enshrined equality legislation?

Is it the case in these nations that have equality laws and conventions and practice ‘positive discrimination’?

I would argue not, and I would centre class/wealth, which is often mistaken for racial bias and prejudice.

Knowledge claims forged in the experiences…

Subjectivity again, which is worthless without objective analysis. People’s feelings are not wholly irrelevant, but it matters a lot less than the truth. You might feel discriminated against, but are you? You might think it is because of racism, but is it? These are the questions that need to be asked, examined and reassessed as things change over time.

Research that aims to eliminate…

This research is activism, not research—laudable, of course, but not science and not helpful in expanding knowledge. Indeed, CRT’s output is increasingly shown to be useless or even corrosive to racial tolerance and acceptance rather than helping.[4][5]

By centring race within interlocking and oppressive structures of society, CRT provides a means to understand how racism and White supremacy function in education, while seeking to disrupt them (Leonardo, 2004; Solórzano & Yosso, 2002; Yosso, 2002).”

White supremacy…

Another misdefined term. Most people understand this to mean the racist belief that the ‘white race’ is somehow superior to other races. The kind of ideology espoused by Nazis, and that is espoused by the people we identify as White Supremacists today.

Here they mean:

“In academic usage, particularly in critical race theory or intersectionality, “white supremacy” can also refer to a social system in which white people enjoy structural advantages (privilege) over other ethnic groups, on both a collective and individual level, despite formal legal equality.”

With formal legal equality, you cannot correctly be said to have privilege, which is where this falls down. Instead, this seems to be an obscurantist way of perpetuating the idea of a continuance of structural and institutional racism where it can no longer properly be said to exist. In this way of thinking, you could claim a democracy, where the demography happens to be majority white, is ‘white supremacist’, simply because more white people vote for more white candidates as a result of that demography. This analysis assumes and centres racial identity and assumes widespread white identitarianism that doesn’t seem to exist.

Similarly, democracies are often characterised as patriarchal by certain groups of feminists because most representatives and leaders are male, despite the equal ability of women to both stand for office and vote. If, however, more women were returned to parliament, they would not then recognise the country or system as a matriarchy

As scholars who began our professional lives working in special education, we recognized how youth of color fared far less well than their White counterparts in schools. We were also aware of the ways that disability functioned to “other” students whose differences were envisaged from a deficit lens. Moreover, we recognized that disability was a political identity, socially constructed in tandem with race and class, rather than an objective medical condition.

We recognized how youth of color…

Is it their ethnic minority status, or is it other factors often, especially in American thought, confused for it? Most especially poverty? If poverty rates are higher amongst African-American students, with all the attendant effects that this has, could that not account for it? After all, we see the same problems in impoverished students, regardless of colour, and we also see minority students succeed. There may also be internal, racialised, cultural differences in behaviour related to education and its value – which this racialised analysis only feeds.

In the United Kingdom, those doing worst at school are white, working-class boys.[6] Despite this, there is no focus on aiding them, no focus on encouraging them into higher education. Despite ethnic minorities doing better than them, there is no urgency to address their problems, just as there is no urgency to address men’s issues, such as much higher rates of suicide. This inaction is the inverse of what we would expect if the Intersectionality approach was valid.

Although there is room to more fully develop the potential power of explicitly integrating both frameworks, some DS scholars have engaged in work about race and disability. Reid and Knight (2006), for instance, used a DS perspective to look at racial disparities in the increased number of college students with learning disabilities, illustrating how some disability labels leveraged access for wealthy White students, while serving as a barrier for Black students. Erevelles (2002) also revealed how citizenship is a form of struggle in which dis/ability and race are implicated. In addition, Mitchell (2006, 2007) has explored ways in which gender, race, and dis/ability involve a life-long negotiation.”

Used a DS perspective…

Again with the embrace of bias, which renders it virtually useless as objective research. In the same section, bias is made clear, comparing ‘wealthy White students’ (why these terms are capitalised, I do not know) to simply ‘Black students’ – not like for like. Wealth would seem to be the meaningful point here and fits my analysis.

Artists and activists, beyond the ones listed above, were also deeply influential in our shifting commitment to an intersectional framing of race and dis/ability. Patti Berne, Anita Cameron, Mia Mingus, Leroy Moore, and Alice Wong, to name a few, have led the conversation, naming how interlocking systems of oppression have affected the lives of disabled people of color. They have created essential organizations led by disabled people of color, such as Sins Invalid and Krip Hop Nation

As a disabled artist, personally, and speaking subjectively for a moment:

My subjective personal experiences make my analysis suspect when addressing my issues. I strive for objectivity, but I should be under more, not less, scrutiny when I talk about mental health. Also, speaking as a disabled artist, I don’t want that to be my identity. The artist part, yes, the disabled part, no. I wouldn’t want to be part of such an organisation. Instead, I want to be taken seriously within organisations and communities that already exist. Being mentally ill isn’t a substitute for talent or graft. I don’t want to be treated differently because of my disabilities (outside of what is necessitated by them). It is insulting and patronising to be sought out, for example, based on my disability rather than my talent. I want to be included in an anthology for my stories, not my disability, for example.

Finally, DisCrit has helped lay bare some of the contradictions between language and epistemological commitments, such as Leonardo’s (2015) reconsideration of discussing Whiteness as racial dyslexia.

Racial Dyslexia

Virtually impenetrable jargon. The most I could find was a meme image of a black man waving a confederate flag while engaged in an argument with a white BLM supporter waving a placard. If the meme is accurate (big if), that would suggest that ‘racial dyslexia’ is stepping outside the expectations and stereotypes associated with your identity category. So the black ‘patriot’ with a love of his state is outside the CRT expectation of what he should be, as is the white BLM activist, save the black ‘patriot’ will be condemned for his self-identification, and the white activist will never be able to overcome the ‘sin’ of being white.

The hypocrisy in invalidating people’s self-identification seems obvious enough not to need pointing out, but it is worth picking out a particular aspect here. Intersectionality fails to recognise minorities within minorities, such as the black ‘patriot’, the ‘gay conservative’. They are stripped of their membership in the group, which is also a consequence of treating immutable characteristics as social constructs.

Indeed, a concern about the overrepresentation of Black, Latinx, and Native American students receiving special education labels, being placed in the most restrictive and segregated placements, receiving harsh disciplinary sanctions, and being funnelled into jails motivated our own scholarly work and provided the impetus to develop DisCrit as an explicitly intersectional theoretical framework to explore the collusive nature of race and disability.”

Overrepresentation…

How does this look if you control for wealth? Poverty, again, is associated with elevated levels of all these problems as both a cause and an effect.[7] So is it down entirely to race, or is it down to relative wealth levels and access to earlier support and specialist help?

…leading scholar within CRT, Gillborn (2008) has been long troubled by historical hierarchies of racial dis/abilities. Gillborn (2016) expresses concerns about how “crude and dangerous ideas about the genetic heritability of intelligence, and the supposed biological basis for the Black/White achievement gap are alive and well within the education policy process but [are] taking new and more subtle forms”

Crude and dangerous…

Dangerous or not, is it true? It isn’t, as it happens, not on a racial basis, but intelligence is quite heritable, though it trends to the mean. If it were true, we should know and grapple with it. We discover that it is not true and can then disarm it by studying it. Banning the study of the issue does not help, and it creates a mystique of ‘truth telling’ similar to that around vaccines and autism (there’s no link). People in the right lose the capability to argue back and re-defeat these ideas through lack of contact. The best arguments against these racial IQ claims also tend to be my arguments, that the explanation for these differentials are primarily poverty-related, which is why they are diminishing so rapidly as equality advances.

(T)he concept of disability has been used to justify discrimination against other groups by attributing disability to them. . . . When categories of citizenship were questioned, challenged, and disrupted, disability was called on to clarify and define who deserved, and who was deservedly excluded from, citizenship. (p. 33, italics in original)”

When categories…

To be subjective again, while I wish I could escape this country as it slides into depressingly familiar conservatism, I understand perfectly why other countries wouldn’t want someone who was a burden rather than a contributor. I don’t like it, but I understand it. I also understand why mentally incompetent people might be excluded from the full measure of citizenship the rest of us enjoy. Disability isn’t attributed, it’s not a social construct, it’s diagnosed.

Working against master narratives that position Black male students as uninterested in education and simultaneously aggressive in their behavior, this student navigated these intersecting oppressions by explicitly discussing his learning needs as a way to ensure success and teacher cooperation.”

Black male students…

The same characterisations are made of white working-class boys who are failing in education. These are issues of poverty and a culture of anti-intellectualism, not race.

Tenet 1: DisCrit focuses on ways that the forces of racism and ableism circulate interdependently, often in neutralized and invisible ways, to uphold notions of normalcy.

To Uphold Notions…

A norm is not a judgement. It is a description of a majority or average. If something is invisible, indetectable, how is it falsifiable?

Tenet 2: DisCrit values multidimensional identities and troubles singular notions of identity such as race or dis/ability or class or gender or sexuality, and so on.”

Troubles singular notions…

Moreover, in my considered estimation, thereby scuppers the ability of activism, rooted in this analysis, to accomplish progress.

Tenet 3: DisCrit emphasizes the social constructions of race and ability and yet recognizes the material and psychological impacts of being labelled as raced or dis/abled, which sets one outside of the western cultural norms.”

Social constructions…

Ethnicity is recognisable and biological; for all it is meaningless in these kinds of considerations (outside medical edge cases etc.); it is recognisable and not a social construction. Disability is a material reality, not a social construct. When you are disabled, you do lack something available to people who are not. To pretend this isn’t so is simply silly. Disability also has little to do with ‘western cultural norms’. Most cultures have taboos and prejudices regarding physical and mental disabilities, and western culture, with its embrace of science, was one of the first to move beyond such superstitious concerns, albeit in fits and starts.

Tenet 4: DisCrit privileges voices of marginalized populations, traditionally not acknowledged within research.”

Privileges voices…

Embrace of subjectivity again. This approach is just an inversion of hierarchy, which recreates the self-same problems around hierarchy in reverse, while also wounding sympathy and solidarity and being explicitly bigoted, rather than the assumed implicit bigotry assumed to exist otherwise.

The facts matter. Dispassionate, empirical, testable, confirmable facts. Not who is claiming them or their personal story.

Tenet 5: DisCrit considers legal and historical aspects of dis/ability and race and how both have been used separately and together to deny the rights of some citizens.”

Historical aspects…

Valid as historical analysis, less applicable in modernity.

Tenet 6: DisCrit recognizes Whiteness and ability as property and that gains for people labelled with dis/abilities have largely been made as the result of interest convergence of White, middle-class citizens.”

Whiteness

Explicitly racist.

Tenet 7: DisCrit requires activism and supports all forms of resistance.”

Activism…

Again, the embrace of subjectivity renders the source of the material suspect and must be considered in assessing its claims.

However, Black and Latinx parents on the ground reported fewer options of schools that served disabled children. Waitoller and Super (2017) documented how closing neighborhood schools and opening charter schools directly decreases school options for Black and Latinx students who require more extensive supports to be included in schools. . . . So, while White students with dis/abilities enjoy the benefits of Whiteness as they lived in areas of the city benefited by the neoliberal restructuring of urban space, and while some Black and Latinx students may enjoy the benefits of claiming smartness and goodness as property (i.e., being considered integrateable to charter schools or

selective enrollments), Black and Latinx students with dis/abilities cannot claim neither Whiteness, smartness, nor goodness, and are oppressed by the intersections of these three ideologies. (pp. 10–11)”

Latinx

Side note, I can’t say I’ve met or interacted with any Latin people who like ‘latinx’; they – ironically enough – seem to regard it as ‘gringo cultural imperialism’, not dissimilar to the contempt the Chinese have for ‘baizuo’, performative white ‘wokeness’.

Reported fewer options of schools…

This would seem to be a wealth/class issue confusion again.

Using DisCrit as an intersectional framework, scholars have exposed the social processes that contribute to entrenched inequities and traced how racism and ableism are interdependent in the search for equity.”

Equity
Equity is not, or should not, be the goal. Equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity is a horrorshow of Harrison Bergeron, not a utopia. People are different. We should establish a societal baseline and maximise opportunity but not dictate a homogenous outcome for all. [8]

In sum, Bresha Meadows is a disabled Black girl who faced dangers in her life and in the educational system that failed her at every turn. This failure positioned Bresha as a dangerous Black girl, erasing her other identities while highlighting her criminality (Annamma, 2018). We believe that DisCrit was created to better understand what disabled girls of color like Bresha, who are multiply marginalized, face. We believe DisCrit can help us #SayHerName as a Black girl who has been #SurvivedandPunished, and recognize ways Bresha’s disability calls for intersectional analysis of #DisabilityJustice.”

Bresha Meadows

Bresha Meadows is an anecdotal case, by itself useless to determine the truth of anything. She is also objectively a murderer, whose issues seem far more likely to stem from poverty as much as anything else. She is advantaged by being a woman when it comes to facing justice, not disadvantaged.[9] She might also be advantaged by creating a sympathetic character through her disability and civil rights optics, things that would not be available to others. The domestic violence issue seems to give license to women who murder their tormentors in a way that does not occur for men in the same circumstances.

There are many factors at play, and the Intersectional analysis is presumptive, surface-level and fails to control for factors and take a more holistic view. Class/wealth accounts for all these factors on a societal scale, even the seeming racial disparities.

Also, pragmatically, an argument for special treatment is not an argument for fairness or equality, which is something all people – and even monkeys – seem keyed to want.[10]

I think my class/wealth/power analysis is more accurate that a biased, intersectional approach. I also believe it to be more pragmatic and have more chance at creating positive change by building solidarity across identity lines, rather than endlessly dividing people.

[1] https://mugsters.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/what-the-author-meant.jpg

[2] https://www.hamiltonproject.org/assets/files/BailFineReform_EA_121818_6PM.pdf

[3] https://www.brookings.edu/research/why-are-employment-rates-so-low-among-black-men/

[4] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-implicit-bias-training/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25314368/

[6] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-lost-boys-the-white-working-class-is-being-left-behind

[7] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/special-educational-needs-and-their-links-poverty

[8] http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

[9] https://www.law.umich.edu/newsandinfo/features/Pages/starr_gender_disparities.aspx

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg

My Problems with Intersectionality, Critical Theory, Power and Privilege Analysis Part One

Dramatised re-enactment of the effect of CRT and Intersectionality on useful progressive discourse.

I’ve been asked by a friend to review some academic papers around Critical Theory and the assorted studies and definitions of Power, Privilege etc. I intend to do so, but Sci-Hub is struggling at the moment and I can’t afford the time or money to chase the papers down individually. While I keep trying to access the specific papers to critique and disect I thought I’d give a basic outline of my problems with this field, giving examples and beginning to layout my analysis – which I believe is both more accurate, and more effective than the Intersectional/Critical Theory approach.

Problem 1: Activist Academia

So much Intersectionality, Race Studies, Disability Studies, Fat Studies and so forth, is steeped in activism. Those working in the field have an agenda beyond simply uncovering the truth, and they start with assumptions, many of which are unsafe or unsound. This leads to extremely poor and unsupportable scholarship, because the papers and studies seek to confirm pre-existing bias, rather than to falsify or factually support a hypothesis being made.

People are often blind to bias in their own fields, so a couple of examples outside the field would seem to be a better way to demonstrate the point.

If the source of claims that Climate Change isn’t happening, or is less bad than we think, comes from studies sponsored by fossil fuel companies, we might rightly suspect that they have encouraged and created a bias within that study. We have examples of this from Exxon, hiding results and snowing climate research under biased and ‘doubting’ material, and before that from the tobacco lobby, again hiding results and sowing doubt through sponsored ‘research’. [1][2]

Creationists go through the same process, they start from their assumption (God did it) and then cherrypick research and results to support their hypothesis, conduct ‘research’ to sow doubt on evolutionary biology and even explicitly spell out their bias. [3]

What separates activists (or some creationists) from powerful lobbies, is that they do it for free. Otherwise, much of the scholarship I object to starts from its conclusions, cherrypicks and biases itself from the get go.[4]

Problem 2: Unscientific Subjectivity

Most science attempts to be objective, to eliminate bias, to test, confirm and falsify and therefore to get to objective truth – or as close to it as we can get. This is a little less rigorous in studying history, but is still the goal. Sources are considered, subjectivity is taken into account and the truth is sought.

These areas of study (CRT, Intersectionality etc) do not tend to do this (there are outliers within these fields). Instead they embrace subjectivity, examine data through a ‘lens’ and start from preconceptions and unsafe assumptions – as noted before.

Whole papers are written around individual cases, subjectively and anecdotally (the plural of anecdote is not data). Peer review is frequently ignored, or limited to a read-through with friends. Bad scholarship, often in defiance of hard scientific data is given legitimacy through a process that has been dubbed ‘idea laundering’[5]. Replicability is rarely sought, and if it is, it often fails. There’s a replicability problem across the soft sciences such as sociology and psychology, let alone these even more subjective arenas.[6] I have personally, frequently observed a failure to control for other factors, assuming race/sex etc to be central, only to discover that when you control for wealth/class disparity most, or all, of the alleged racial or other discrimination vanishes.

Many claims aren’t falsifiable, and thus not scientific in the first place. Opposition or critique is taken as confirmation and attacked as bias or bigotry, rather than answered. Citations tend to move in circles, amongst the same few people, and there has been some evidence of people citing each other more to ‘game the system’. Some even claim that the scientific process and methodology itself is biased, ‘white’, ‘heteronormative’ and other unsubstantiated accusations. They wield accusations of bigotry like a club, to force compliance.[7]

Queries and surveys often use fallacies of redefinition to catastrophise and bias results. This was most infamously the case with the Mary Koss and the 1-in-5 rape statistic, where things that weren’t rape were included within the definition, despite the survey explicitly asking if the subjects had been raped, and then ignoring them when they said they hadn’t. ‘Rape’ was redefined post-hoc. [Edit: https://behavioralscientist.org/what-the-origins-of-the-1-in-5-statistic-teaches-us-about-sexual-assault-policy/ ]

Similarly, in the case of the Sarah Everard murder, one of the statistics being bandied about is that 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment. [Edit: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/97-of-women-in-the-uk/105940/ ]. However, if we dig into the statistics and methodology we find that, specifically for the age group 18-24 only, 86% reported at least one of a list that included staring, jokes and memes. 3% ticked the ‘none of the above’ box, and 11% ticked none of the listed items, but also did not tick ‘none of the above’. The 97% is quickly starting to get whittled down, especially when one considers we’re trying to determine who was sexually harassed, not who felt that they were. Some surveys, similarly, consider things like ‘being asked out on a date‘ as harassment.

Much of it simply isn’t scientific or objective.

Dr. Walter Bishop: It’s not an exact science.
Peter Bishop: [in the background] It’s not even science!

Fringe

Problem 3: Misdefinitions of Terms

While a certain amount of technical jargon or specialist definition is to be expected, the field tends to engage in a great deal of ‘Newspeak’, which undermines people’s ability to engage with it, and actively makes people hostile to it in a way that isn’t necessarily justified, but is understandable.

What differs from, say, arguments with creationists over the colloquial versus scientific definition of ‘theory’ is that there appears to be a concerted attempt to force these redefinitions into common usage. This doesn’t appear to occur for any other reason than to whitewash their own bigotry by defining it out of existence.

There’s two examples in particular that stand out above the rest. ‘Privilege’ and the meaning of the various *isms (EG: sexism, racism, ageism).

Privilege means:
“A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”

OED

We also use the term colloquially to speak of the rich or pampered, wealth is an odd one out as it can both be a genuine case of privilege or not, depending on context, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion at present.

The police, for example, have privileges, special rights and advantages over and above the normal people. They can break the speed limit, break into buildings, have access to personal information that is normally kept private, can detain you and so on.[8]

In Intersectionality and its attendant ideas, other things are considered ‘privilege’. Much is made of ‘white privilege’ or ‘male privilege’, and while historically this was the case, it is not any more. Men are granted or given no special rights, advantages or immunities as compared to women. In fact, you can make a fairly good case that the opposite is true, when you consider protected class legal status, gender-specific aid and grants and so on. The same goes for being white, and many of the other categories that are flashed up.

A way to visualise privilege is to imagine a horizontal line, a bar, that represents the baseline rights and freedoms of an average adult in that society. Anything above the line represents additional rights and freedoms, anything below the line represents less rights and freedoms. In practice there would be multiple lines representing different individual levels of rights and freedoms, but as a general visualisation this is sound.

A child’s line might be below the societal line. Children do not have the same rights to drink, smoke, or serve in the military as adults do. Children also have restrictive obligations such as attending school, though noncompliance leads to punishment of their parents. On the other hand, children are above the line in other regards, they cannot be held as accountable for their crimes – if they commit them – and they often have priority when it comes to medical care, evacuation procedures and other aspects.

A child being weaker or smaller is not a privilege or lack thereof. This isn’t imposed by the state, it’s innate and it doesn’t relate to their rights and freedoms.

Problem 4: Incomprehensibility & Shibboleths

Much of the scholarship on these topics is virtually incomprehensible or unreadable, nested within itself over and over, redefining terms wildly and communicating itself extremely poorly. This is a problem in a great deal of academia, but here it seems to almost be a deliberate way to rarify itself, to make it into a kind of scripture or canon that can only by read and understood by the ‘elect’.

This incomprehensibility is so bad that two major hoax scandals have exposed these fields as a whole, both the original Sokal hoax, and the Sokal Squared hoax, which was so effective that some still believe one of the hoax papers is genuinely worthy of publication.[9][10]

So long as you cite the right people and mouth the right terms, it seems you can get almost any nonsense published.

Problem 5: Hypocrisy and Inconsistency

Much of this study is characterised as being part of the fight against racism and other, similar bigotries, yet so much of it embraces and emboldens bigotry. The field is full of racist attitudes towards white people, misandry towards men and so forth, much of it seemingly based on a sort of secular idea of original sin. Because white people and male people, supposedly collectively, did bad things (as though no other groups ever have) they are automatically tainted and have a stain they can never eliminate. People today are being held accountable for things their ancestors, supposedly, did.

If you’re against racism, you can’t very well be racist to white people and expect to get away with it. The same with all the other categories and hypocrisies.

Some seek to excuse this by redefining racism as ‘prejudice plus power‘.

It isn’t, it’s just prejudice.

An example debunking this interpretation is the prevalence of racism in groups without power. If one looks at the racial and economic background of the most identifiable racists, they are underemployed or unemployed members of the white working or underclasses. These are people without power, and that lack of power is the root of their racism, not their power.[11]

Another example would be the appallingly racist beliefs of the Black Hebrew Israelites or, more familiarly, the Nation of Islam. Anyone who can read and understand what they believe, and still deny that racial minorities are incapable of being racist, is not someone worth taking seriously.[12]

Problem 6: Practical Problems

An Intersectional approach, one based in this subjective and activist interpretation is maladaptive to the goal of changing society to be more egalitarian and fairer. Blaming all white people for percieved problems of non-white people is hypocritically racist. Demanding rights (privileges) over and above those of others, rather than equality and fairness is counterproductive and puts people on the defensive. Demanding that others lose all or part of their human rights to bring them down, as though this somehow elevates you, is counterproductive for the same reasons.

Intersectionality in the form of Identitarianism weakens and divides movements for social change by splitting ever-finer hairs and creating a new hierarchy, an ‘oppression olympics’ in which people vie for power based on how oppressed they are considered to be.

An excellent and early case in point of this weakness are the Occupy Wall Street protests. Initially these protests had a very broad base of support from across the political spectrum. There was a single rallying point – keep money out of politics. Gradually however, other elements began to be included, and to sign on with Occupy you had to agree with everything, or you would be shamed and pushed out. Radical feminist, queer and other goals – many of them laudable enough in their own right (others ludicrous) were added, dividing the broad-base support down and down until it withered away. Inverting a hierarchy simply creates another, equally unjustified hierarchy.[13]

Something similar can be seen happening in the autonomous zones now, with competent people being excluded because of their whiteness or maleness, regardless of the merit of what they were suggesting. These efforts, like many others, are being hobbled through the exclusion or minimisation of contributions on the basis of race, sex, gender identity, sexuality – all the things we should consider unacceptable bigotries.

It is extremely hard to sell people on left-wing ideas when this pseudo-left, rooted in these ideas, is creating the impression that the left wing is made up exclusively of easily offended, unrepentant racists and sexists. The substance is being lost, the argument for liberty, equality, fraternity is buried under demands for authoritarianism, censorship, inequality and competition over cooperation.

My View

I believe in the value of facts and I try to reject subjectivity when I consider issues, social or otherwise. Perception can be important, of course, but presuming you actually want to fix the problem you’re presented with you have to start with the facts.

“Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?”

Robert Heinlein

Useful action, right action – to put it in Buddhist terms (or is that cultural appropriation?) – can only follow from accurate information, facts. Objectivity is useful, subjectivity is not. What are the facts?

I believe it is more effective to examine the world on a class/wealth/power analysis. Arguing for equality and fairness is relatively easy, and most people want to be treated fairly. Bringing people up to the baseline for society from below it is an easier sell than dragging people down. The idea that a homeless white man has privilege, and a black Minister in government does not, is moronic on its face.

Individuals can have wealth/power irrespective of their race or gender, and their race or gender is irrelevant. The powerbroking classes have class solidarity, financial interests and clout while intersectionality and identity politics has torn the non-powerbroking classes apart. The 99% have power only through solidarity, as a bloc. This threat is part of the reason that the powerbroking class works so hard to divide people on culture war issues.

That the same divisive behaviour and hatemongering comes from within activist academia and media is staggering. Sometimes there’s little to no difference between the Daily Mail and the Guardian, or Race Realism and Critical Race Theory.

As just one example of how my analysis is more useful and better reflects reality can be seen in racialised crime statistics.

Racial minorities, particularly in the United States, are more likely to commit crimes and more likely to have negative run-ins with the police. Racial analysis from the far-right racists would claim that this is because black people have lower IQ and a genetic tendency toward criminal behaviour. Racial analysis from race theory would claim that this is because of oppression of black people and racism in the police force.

A wealth/power analysis reveals that, US-wide, African Americans are about 2.5 times as likely to live in poverty, and that they are about 2.5 times as likely to get caught up in the judicial system. When you control for wealth, the arrest rates are in line with arrest rates of poor whites as well.[14][15]

To fixate upon the race issue – which no doubt still exists on an interpersonal basis and with some individual police – is to ignore the greater, broader issue of the prison-industrial complex in the USA, which is afflicting impoverished whites just as much as African Americans.

If we try to fix this problem from a racialised basis, we will be creating more problems. We will create a form of ‘black privilege’ where police treat ethnic minorities differently based on the racial identity.[16] We would create a racial disparity where it doesn’t seem like there is one (at least in modern times) and we would stir up resentment in the poor white community, who would continue to suffer at the same rate, without special exceptions.

You might well follow-up with the question as to why modern African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be poor, and that is an excellent question. There was historical inequality and due to a lack of social mobility in American society the opportunity to rise to a higher class is extremely small – relative to more socialistic nations. However, this is not an exclusively African American problem, it affects everyone. Poor whites are just as socially immobile as poor blacks. Fix the economic issue, you fix it for everyone, without adding fuel to racialised conflict and resentment.[17][18]

I want the greatest freedom for the greatest number of people. I want race, gender and sexuality to be as irrelevant as hair colour – at least when it comes to rights and opportunities. This collection of theories acts directly against those goals and ideals by centering these things and giving them pre-emminent importance over and above individual personhood. Broader strokes can be useful, but these are much less useful than class/wealth dynamics – which must also be tempered with individualism.

1: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-53640382

2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402187/

3: https://answersingenesis.org/about/faith/

4: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=ufts20

5: https://www.wsj.com/articles/idea-laundering-in-academia-11574634492

6: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis

7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9SiRNibD14

8: https://www.gov.uk/police-powers-of-arrest-your-rights

9: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

10: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievance_studies_affair

11: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/brexit-vote-explained-poverty-low-skills-and-lack-opportunities (Note: ‘Brexit voting’ is an imperfect metric for measuring racism, but the results of searches are foxed by studies correlating racist victimisation with poverty. However, since Trump-voting has been used as a proxy metric for poverty not correlating with racism, this will do for now).

12: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam

13: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_stack#:~:text=The%20progressive%20stack%20is%20a,simple%20majorities%20have%20less%20power.

14: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

15: https://journalistsresource.org/politics-and-government/killed-police-black-men-likely-white-men/

16: https://media.spokesman.com/documents/2016/05/The_Reverse_Racism_Effect.pdf

17: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/moving-up-the-income-ladder-takes-generations-how-many-depends-on-where-you-live/?fbclid=IwAR1Lv8VdZYCx7zLzH2w_mwrMKpGzhFO0YB6ZG4Naai_S5C9h3pFtbB341g8

18: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-social-mobility-of-82-countries/

#NotAllMen – Again

I am not a fan of trigger warnings, but I will include one here as this is a particularly sensitive subject around which emotions are high. If trigger warnings meant anything, you’d be triggered by the warning itself, but nonetheless, I am going to discuss the recent events in London, street violence, rape, assault and sexual harassment here. Put on your big girl pants.

I’m writing this while the Sarah Everard murder is fresh, and the man accused of the murder is in custody. The suspect is a police officer, and a vigil held to honour her death has been policed with a great deal of violence in a way other protests during COVID haven’t.

Tensions and emotions are running extremely high, which means this is probably one of the worst times to try and introduce some moderation and consideration into the discussion, but that is also the most necessary time to do so. Bad decisions are made when they’re made reflexively and emotionally, some of the most dangerous words in the English language are: “Something must be done.”

I’m under no illusions that most people will read this blog in good faith, or that most will even pause to consider the content or to change their behaviour or demands, but some will. Just as with the misinterpretations of my defences of free expression, people will wilfully take it the wrong way, but such is life and such is the internet.

I consider myself to be an egalitarian, and I have a particular concern for men’s issues. This is because I think men’s issues are woefully underrepresented in the national and international conversation and, as such, go unaddressed. Everything from male genital mutilation, to the lack of shelter places for male victims of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). From men and boys falling behind in education, to rates of depression and suicide.

These concerns have led many to call me a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA), but while I do have friends within that movement – who aren’t the horrorshow that some call them, I’ve never considered myself such because I think the men’s rights movement has many of the same problems feminism does. However, I do think I can offer some insight into why men do get so bitter and angry, and why they do join onto such groups, even those that mirror the petty nastiness of the radical feminists.

It’s hypocrisy.

It’s betrayal.

It’s double standards.

Like most of my generation I was brought up to consider men and women equal, to decry sexism, to refuse to tolerate racism. The understanding was that we all have the same rights and that the differences between us are meaningless compared to who we are as individual people. This was obviously and intuitively the right point of view, and for a while it seemed like we had these issues licked.

Then something changed, I’d place the break-point somewhere around 2010, others suggest later. Gradually at first and picking up speed, the people who had been activists for equality and fairness began to express bigotry. This bigotry went largely unchallenged and even uncommented. People who had argued for the equality of the sexes began to spout the most hideously bigoted statements about men. People who had argued for racial equality started claiming that all white people were racist, by dint of being born white. That they were inferior and blackness was supreme. People who had fought hard for acceptance of their sexuality began spewing hatred at straight people.

If, like me, you took on board the messages of equality and fairness, this was betrayal. This was bigotry. This was everything you’d helped to fight against and had eliminated from your personal worldview, but now it was coming back at you from the people you’d helped and that you’d treated, lifelong, as equals.

If you want to know where a lot of anger and backlash comes from, that’s it. Hypocrisy, not living up to the standards we had all agreed upon. Not to dismiss someone because of their identity category, but also not to elevate them. To try and eliminate our prejudices, from any group, against any group.

Which brings us back around to recent events.

We are being told that this singular event is an exemplar of problems. That women are afraid to be out at night. That this is ‘male violence’. That men are the problem and that women need to feel safe. Feelings aren’t a good guide here, at all, they’re far too subjective. We shouldn’t care whether women feel safe, we should care whether they are safe. That’s also subjective, but we can at least compare and assess against other degrees of risk and threat and use that as a benchmark for what to do.

So what do the statistics tell us?

Women, as a group, are less likely to suffer random street violence than men. Men suffer random street violence at a rate of 150% that of women, though it’s closer to 200% in more recent surveys. Men are also more likely to be injured or killed in such circumstances, while women are more likely to suffer sexual assault, but all things considered women are considerably safer than men. This isn’t to minimise anything, these are just the bald facts.

Unlike women, men don’t seem concerned about this elevated level of risk, relative to women. This leads us to ask which case is correct. Is it than men are not assessing their risk level appropriately and accurately, or is it that women are overestimating it? Why is society so much more concerned about violence against women than it is about (more serious and prevalent) violence against men? Why are women being told to carry things for self defence, while men and boys are decried for doing the same?

It is true that most, but by no means all, of this violence is carried out by men. We’re hampered somewhat in accurate assessment because rape against men is commonly not recognised in law and sexual assault is underreported when it comes to male victims. We also find that IPV is underreported against men, and may run as high as 33-40% of the total amount of IPV.

We seem to have a paternalistic, benevolently sexism bias to see women as victims and to value their safety more than we do that of men. A classic example of this is a headline shocked and appalled that ‘1 in 4 homeless people are women!’ – blithely ignoring the fact that this meant 3/4 were men, who would appear to need more assistance in that situation.

Does any of this mean it’s justifiable to treat all men as potential rapists and murderers? After all, they are more likely to be such, right?

Well no.

Members of ethnic minorities are about twice as likely to be criminals as white majorities are (assuming UK/US). Would this justify clutching your purse whenever you pass a black man in the street?

Of course not.

We recognise, rightly, that this is a racist assumption. That there are many confounding factors at play and that even if it’s true, it’s still a tiny minority of PoC that are criminal. We understand that the vast and overwhelming majority of the time we are not at risk and that it would be racist to assume.

It is sexist prejudice to assume a predatory nature for men, for exactly the same reasons.

Yet the excuses seen on the ostensibly left-wing feminist side of thing, sound exactly like the talking heads of the right excusing their racism. It’s just acceptable to be sexist towards men in a way it isn’t acceptable to be racist. Some people will even claim you can’t be sexist towards men, an ironically, profoundly sexist statement in and of itself.

People will come out with anecdotes of their own sexual harassment and experiences, but we can’t make important societal or legal decisions on the basis of anecdote or feelings, we have to consider the facts.

I have anecdotes of my own.

I have been sexually harassed or assaulted several times, by women and once by men. Something I don’t make a huge fuss about, or laught off, because nobody gives a shit or wants to talk about it – because I’m a man. Even other men treat this as something funny, or even boastful. Should laws be changed and women given a 6pm curfew because of my personal, subjective experience?

Obviously not.

Shoud women be kept away from young infants because of their statistically higher chance to commit infanticide than men?

Also obviously not.

Which brings us back to risk assessment. If men are three times as likely to suffer street violence of any sort from a random stranger, why are they so unconcerned and why are women so fearful? Is it a constant diet of fear in the media and from activist circles, as happens to old people who only watch Fox or read the Daily Mail? Is it that men are wildly underestimating their risk? What is it? What is it rational to be afraid of?

Would you play Russian Roulette for a million dollars?

What if the chance was 1/100 rather than 1/6?

We have COVID as a good point of comparison here. From the start of the pandemic you had about a 60% chance of contracting it and a 2-3% chance of dying from it. Data on Long COVID isn’t that reliable yet. So, globally, we’re looking at about a 1-1.5% fatality rate. To deal with that we’ve taken to wearing masks, social distancing and lockdowns. In comparison, a women’s chance of being a victim of random street violence is 0.4% and a man’s 1.4%.

So what does a rational response to these levels of risk look like?

Correct and useful action can only follow from correct and useful information. We can’t formulate meaningful policy or enact effective change unless we look at these issues with dispassion and rationality. Meanwhile, a little consistency in ethics would go a long way towards creating solidarity and sympathy.

#NotAllMen is said sarcastically, but so many people seem to assume it is #AllMen that it continues to need to be said, at least until we shy away from misandry with the same readiness we do racism.