Intersectionality is many things. It is a group of theories that join at the confluence of postmodern philosophy, poststructural social science, and critical cultural and legal studies. It is also a movement, which brings spokespeople for minority races, gender- and sexual-identity activists, and socialists together with a certain kind of feminist. And, as Warren’s quip illustrates, it is also a pose. It is a way for “woke” people to demonstrate their intellectual, social, and moral superiority over the unwoke.
The most essential tenet of Intersectionality is that nothing is essential. There is no essential human nature, nothing essential about reason or logic, no essential meaning of “man” or “woman” or “white” or “efficient” or “liberty” or “law.” At the deepest point in the Intersectionality pool, the very center of the confluence where all of its tributaries come together, everything is invented by those who hold power. Not only cultural norms and language, but also natural rights and duties, biological definitions, religious convictions, economic and scientific rules, and logic are all constructed “discursive practices.” Everything is a social construct, built by those who want to leverage their superior economic, cultural, or political positions to preserve their privileges and keep others down in the zero-sum contest for power.
This is one of two convictions that all Intersectionalists share in common. They are all, to varying degrees, against essence. They are all convinced that some term or feature that unenlightened people take for granted is both artificial and unjust. They do not always agree on which terms and features must be torn down. But they all share a motivation to tear down some aspect of the apparent essence of something.
Socialists and critical legal studies theorists focus on the constructs of “law” and “economics.” They teach our young people that “due process,” “price,” and “liberty” are suspect artifices imposed upon the poor by the rich. Critical race and dominance feminist theorists teach our young people to reject traditional notions of natural equality and equality before the law. Gender-identity and queer theorists go after the assumption that there can be anything essentially “masculine” or “feminine.” And so on.
The other conviction that all Intersectionalists share is that the most privileged people, who are responsible for the construction of most of the oppressive discursive practices, are heterosexual, white males.
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