Considering Divergences Among Different Radicalisms

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Though there is an increasing awareness to the way identity intersects to inform experience, there remains a lack of attention to divergences in belief sets. Discourse surrounding “the left” would purport a homogeneity that simply does not exist. It is not just that politically left folks have different beliefs on any given topic; many often voice and practice contradictory and conflictual theories of change. To address this concern, people often problematize the left/right binary with a competing model of spectrum politics. However, this, again, fails, because it does not grapple with the individuality of a person’s politics on a particular issue. Interactions between TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and other groups often explicate this type of dynamic.

Today there are many cis-women and men who importantly advocate for resources increased access to contraceptive resources for AFABs (Assigned Females at Birth). This type of advocacy is incredibly necessary for goals of reproductive justice. However, reproductive justice does not just encompass choosing to not have children. Reproductive justice also encompasses the ability to be actively supported in moments of reproduction. This has particular importance for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in America whose populations have been controlled through means such as, but not limited to, taking of children, sterilization, and threats of extrajudicial violence. And that only describes relatively recent state-enforced structures; it does not even contend with older histories such as slavery. Reproductive justice as a principle, unlike “pro-choice,” accompasses a wider panoply of experiences, particularly for people of color, whose challenges often get erased in the pro-choice versus pro-life dialectic.

Individuals are willing to accommodate different types of shifts in their ideas based on what they find important. Similar to the earlier explanation, it is important in discussions of reproduction to say “people with uteruses” rather than “women.” Doing otherwise often enforces “womanhood” as essentially cis and also ignores the experiences of many queer AFAB. Yet, two people described as “leftist” or “progressive” might be willing to consider and change different aspects of their perspective. Some people might be willing to start operating with a politics of reproductive justice while still entrenching a purported essential womanhood, some will do the inverse, some neither, and some will allow for both. Though I describe these as categories, none of these perspectives are binaries or static aspects of belief. Acting and thinking in any one of these ways is not simply an off and on switch, but requires continuous and serious introspection.

The concept of intersectionality can help think through how this type of dynamic unfolds. Intersectionality considers how various levels of identity experience coalesce and are not simply additive. The term specifically entered academic discourse from an article titled “Demarginalizing The Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Anti Racist Politics” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, though it had been informed by centuries of ideas from scholarly and un scholarly materials. Though the particular discussion focuses on the historic erasure of race in discourse surrounding gender equity in feminist materials by white women, the term has more broad applications. Addressing intersections of identities does not just apply to identities that are marginalized but also those that are privileged. Applying a lens of intersectional analysis makes certain layers of identity ostensibly more visible. One can consider how whiteness and womanhood influence experience. At the same time, they might ignore how ability and class also play a role. It is impossible to be exhaustive in this analysis. To return to the earlier discussion, people are willing to accommodate different changes in their vernacular and actions based upon how they mentally hierarchize the political importance of a particular identity.

A homogenous view of radicalism erases inner complexities for the supposed sake of political expediency. Yet, this ignores the type of critical thinking and emotional skills necessary to form any meaningful unity, allyship, or even solidarity across layers of identity. Even more importantly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to strive towards a world of justice and equity if certain sufferings get erased. In the face of finite time and limited intelligence, requires an attitude of diligence, perseverance, and humility. Frankly, if someone repeatedly finds giving space for trans experiences too difficult, cumbersome, or unnecessary in their activism, I question the value of that activism. Though I describe it in this one instance, it is a more broadly applicable principle.

 

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