During the last year of my employment at Nameless College, whose sharp turn away from its Catholic identity and its commitment to the humanities came as a shock to my foolish optimism, I learned of what Elizabeth Corey has shrewdly called “The First Church of Intersectionality.”
You must understand, my sane and ordinary readers, that college professors who want to break into the charmed circle of enlightenment are often followers of names rather than realities: homo academicus nominabundus. The name establishes an ideological category, and then people use the name as you might say “radish” or “heron,” and fool themselves into thinking that the name denotes something real. That relieves them of the more difficult and humbling task, to look at human reality and wrestle with its glory and shame, its fitful wisdom and persistent folly, its deep loyalties and disheartening betrayals.
The idea in this case is pretty simplistic. In any society, including that of liberal college professors, you will have groups of people marked as subordinate or lesser in some respect. I’ll add what the ideologues will not, which is that such people sometimes, but not always, suffer because of a real insufficiency or immorality. A nearsighted warrior among the Sioux, an effeminate man in ancient Greece, an untouchable in India, a convicted felon in Victorian England about to be transported to Australia, women in Saudi Arabia, Samaritans in the time of Jesus, a conservative in academe in the United States, a pro-life physician—you get the picture. Sometimes the opprobrium is just, sometimes not. Sometimes it is a matter of social irritation. Sometimes it involves cruel oppression. I am not excusing it. I am stating a fact.
Now, the founding claim of “intersectionality” is that members of various groups in the United States—women, blacks, Mexicans, gays, people in wheelchairs—are all victims of the same oppressive system or structure, which system or structure works like Adam Smith’s invisible hand, like a ghost in the machine, to deliver power to white men born in America who have the full use of their limbs and who are attracted to women after the ordinary fashion of nature.
Why born-again Christians are not included in the intersection, or coal miners from Appalachia, or blue collar workers whose life-spans are contracting, or men who are ten times more likely to die at work than are their sisters, or Catholics committed to the moral law, or bakers who decline to help celebrate Sodom resurgens, or children whose lives have been maimed by divorce, is never explained. Nor how a supposedly peculiar and evil “system” in the United States produces men and women who are recognizably men and recognizably women, in the same way as does what must be a wholly different peculiar and evil system among the natives on the banks of the Amazon. Nor why a system whose specific contours are undefinable must be invoked when more obvious explanations of things are nearer to hand. For instance, the Guarani Indians can tell you why it’s bad for a boy to grow up without a man to guide him, and they don’t need college degrees to draw that conclusion. And any man dangling from a ladder slung by a rope over a roof, as I was this morning and will be again this afternoon, can tell you why there were no women on girders when the Brooklyn Bridge was rising from the earth in filaments of steel.
Do not be fooled by names. Take the popular jumble, LGBT. What does that catch-all denote? What “community” does it name? Boys without girls have nothing in common with girls without boys, as members of L and G will tell you, when they are speaking off the cuff. These heterogeneous groups are yoked together for a political cause. The B people are by their own admission attracted to members of the opposite sex; so what imposition is it to expect them to act accordingly? The T are mentally ill, as I would be if I said I were really Napoleon or a dog named Buck. What they all share is a feeling of grievance, fostered by the Church of the Venn Diagram.
They are also characterized by a range of deeds that until yesterday everybody, even secular people, believed were immoral or at least unnatural and unhealthy. But a behavior is not a skin color, and a skin color is not a sex, and if you have only one leg, you cannot be a running back in the NFL, and that is a plain fact. The “intersection” falls apart. It is a batch of sets and no more.
Its relation to reality is tenuous. It begs questions at every point. Is it patriarchy that has made the bodies of women so different from those of men, and that leads people to judge and act accordingly? Or isn’t it rather a willed insanity to damn your lying eyes and say that the terms “masculine” and “feminine” have no meaning? It surely is a willed stupidity to say that a statement such as “women make poor infantrymen” is mere bigotry, as obnoxious as saying that “black people ought to be shining shoes.” It is mere evasion, and adolescent petulance, to say that someone who disapproves of sexual congress outside of marriage is a “hater.”
The intersectors assume, without demonstration, that all inequalities are unjust. That’s childish. The converse is often true: equity requires inequality. I don’t treat an elderly person the same as I treat someone of my own age. I don’t ask my wife to climb the roof to fix the shingles. You don’t hold your 16-year-old boy to a calorie count equal to that consumed by his ten year old brother, or his twin sister.
Look around you and see a world constructed by the labor of broad-backed men, most of whom earned a lot less than your air-conditioned intersector earns, and who worked in sweltering heat and bitter cold, with tools that had to be plied or mastered with brute force. Is it an injustice that it was so? It could hardly have been otherwise. Why shouldn’t we be grateful for the gift, rather than peevishly discontented because it came from the “wrong” givers?
Meanwhile, there is a system, right under our noses, that is manifestly inadequate for a clearly defined group of people. The system is our schools, and the sufferers are boys, who are every bit as smart than their sisters, and who have grown up in exactly the same homes with exactly the same incomes. But they somehow are excluded from the intersection.
You’ll readily see that the people who talk about “intersections” are essentially divisive. They sow resentment and envy. If Asians are “over-represented” in the sciences—and by what conceivable measure could you arrive at the correct representation?—it must be attributable to systemic hocus-pocus, and not to their families or their hard work.
Therefore, though in one regard they make the cut, because they are Asian, in another regard they can go hang. If it’s easier to find men’s sports on television than women’s sports, that too must be on account of the warlock. Forget there are several hundred high school boys’ basketball teams that would mop the floor with the WNBA champions.
The last thing that the cross-cutters want is friendship among people of different groups, politics aside. Such friendship might lead to humility as regards oneself, and admiration and gratitude as regards others. It might lead you to say that you yourself, and not Simon Bar-Sinister, are primarily responsible for your life. Even if that were not true, you’d be far better off for holding yourself to that severe judgment. Nothing is so enervating as to accept as fact that the world is ranged against you.
In the end, the Church of Intersectionality, a cult of bogus abstractions whose bread is anger and whose wine is envy, has nothing to offer poor self-deluded sinful man, struggling against temptations of mind and body, and wandering his erratic way to the grave.
But who is that Man at the crossroads? He stretches his arms from the rising of the sun to its setting. No man or woman is justified in his sight. He did not die for categories; he did not die for an ideology; the blood he shed was not notional; he was not offered up for political change; and he never compared the kingdom of God to a rally or a triumphal parade. He compared it to a wedding feast, and he died for the ungrateful and the hard of hearing and the surly adolescent who drags his heels and complains about having to attend.
He died for me, and for you. In him alone are we united. Nothing else will suffice.