Intersectionality & violence

Content Notice: Discussing Orlando, but less anger and no vivid description of terrible things this time.

My colleague over at Death to Squirrels (hi Iris *waves*) posted something that finally knocked over a domino in my head. In her post, she says (emphasis mine):

I also think that what makes this mass shooting particularly difficult to process is that it implicates multiple intersections of queerness, racism, homophobia, religion, policing, mental illness, terrorism, gun violence, domestic violence and more.

Gah. Duh. Thanks for screwing in my lightbulb, Iris. You’re fab and ilu.

I’ve been dizzied by some of the participants in this conversation. They hone in on their pet issue with a laser-like focus. Something about this strategy always rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t homophobia, it was Islam. It wasn’t Islam, it was guns. It wasn’t guns, it was toxic masculinity. It wasn’t toxic masculinity, it was homophobia. It wasn’t regular homophobia, it was also internalized homophobia. And on and on.

And I read Iris’ post and I was like, I figured it out:

Y’all are White Feminists.

White Feminists refer to a specific iteration of feminism that lacks intersections. It subscribes to universal womanhoods, assumes all women occupy the same station in society, and redresses what they see to be pressing injustices within that station. And this is not to say that none of the White Feminists’ concerns are invalid–however, equal access to promotions would be of small consolation to, say, the trans woman held in a men’s prison.

White Feminists have notoriety for their laser-like interpretation of the patriarchy. Feminists of colour, trans feminists, atheist feminists, working-class feminists, kinky feminists, queer feminists and more have all blasted White Feminist literature for patently refusing to acknowledge the interaction between sexism and one’s other minority demographics, be it economic class, race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, gender variance, you name it. The contrasted movement is intersectionality, which when we’re discussing acts of oppression, tries to consider the sum of one’s minority demographics as greater than and inseparable from the whole of its parts.

Most of the participants probably aren’t feminists, so I’m not actually accusing (most) of them of being White Feminists. Rather it’s a metaphor. Allow me to use the Royal You for a moment, and describe generally and not necessarily You, but possibly You, the reader: You’re honing in on one cause of the Orlando shooter’s actions, when there ain’t one cause.

We need to use intersectionality. What happened in Orlando is the most unambiguous act of oppression you can imagine: targeted mass murder. Intersectionality applies, not just to economic discrimination or social microaggressions, but to literal acts of violence.

  • The targets were Queer. We know the Orlando shooter spent a not insignificant number of nights at the club before assaulting it and also spent time on gay dating apps. We know his father reported him being angry at the sight of two men kissing.
  • The targets were Latinx. Given that he had spent many nights at Pulse before his attack, it’s fair to assume he knew who the headliners were that night: trans women of colour. Posters for the Latinx night had been posted well in advance, and if he was a regular at Pulse, he probably knew the club would be full of Queer PoCs. He got in trouble at his work place for using ethnic slurs directed at Hispanics and Black people.
  • We know his father pulled the self-righteous Islamic version of “hate the sin not the sinner” bullshit, with his comments on how only God could pass judgement on gays. We know Islam, sharing qualities with basically all Abrahamic religion, has a storied history of being invoked when justifying homophobia, and that it was present in the shooter’s father’s home. We also know that the shooter was nominally Muslim, although there are inconsistent reports of precisely how devout he was. We know he claimed fealty to ISIS in a call made to 911, and that ISIS has claimed credit for the attack, but last I checked we had not corroborated that any communications occurred between the two parties.
  • We know he liked to work out, had a thing for guns, had massive anger issues at work, beat his ex-wife, worked security and aspired to be a cop, used every ethnic and homophobic slur under the sun, and posed in tailored brand-name suits. I would call these traits collectively present an indication of toxic masculinity.
  • We know America’s majority is hardly Queer-friendly, given the 200+ anti-Queer legislation bills introduced by Republicans in the past year, the number of high-ranking officials still bleating about gay marriage, and evangelical Christians peddling violent rhetoric calling for the death of gays. We know the shooter was an American and was raised in America.
  • We know the headliners were trans women and that the entire world has been watching America make a fuss over where they pee, demonizing us as sexual predators and deviants in the process.
  • We know the body count is only so high because he had easy access to assault weapons, and that virtually no checks are in place to regulate firearms in America. Unless you want to argue you can kill and injure 103 people with a knife before being stopped.

I hope this makes it readily apparent to the “It was Islam! Down with teh mooslems! Corral teh brown people!” types that Islam likely fed into his homophobia, and may have been the seed; but toxic masculinity, Christian homophobia, and racism were the soil, water, and fertilizer to make it grow. It’s not like he stepped away from an intolerant home and encountered a largely tolerant society contrasting his views–the State he lived in was practically cheering him on, from its Christian prominence to the destructive narratives espoused by his hypermasculine peers to the anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-Mexican sentiments on the daily news to the fact that he could buy his weapons in seven minutes.

I don’t know what these types are looking for. “I oppose Islam.” Sure. When it’s used to justify violence of any form– be it another religious sect, women, Queers, political minorities, atheists, whatever–I am opposed to Islam.

I oppose everything that contributes to violence, up to and including certain iterations of organized religion, I just patently refuse to stop thinking at “Islam” and go, “yep, there we go, that’s the problem, let’s throw a brick through the nearest Mosque window.” Because even if Americans did deport every Muslim, you would still have homophobic Atheists and homophobic Christians and hypermasculine men and assault weapon access and racist cops and sexist judges and god damn Republicans and a whole lot of apathetic Christians and Atheists who don’t think these things are pressing problems.

I don’t know about you guys but most woke feminists know White Feminism’s no good. I’d like to hope most of you are capable of reaching the same conclusion when we pull the same stunts when discussing the Orlando shooting. Otherwise I’ll have to come up with an actual name to call you instead of using a metaphor.



  1. says

    Yes, to every single word. Iris’s post, too. I give you both all the credit in the world for being coherent enough to write so well about this. I’m not much of a writer in the first place, and basically in pieces over this, including all the fractious commentary from various sources. I need to stop reading for a while, I think.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    …to the fact that he could buy his weapons in seven minutes

    Islam, homophobia, transphobia, toxic masculinity – all things that should be opposed, but which are, if you’ll forgive what might come across as defeatist trivialisation, hard to fix.

    Easy access to guns, though – at least, access to new assault weapons – that can be fixed overnight, if people choose to. What will it take?