One of my weakest points as someone who engages in social justice conversations, is making sense of “the how.” My brain hurts when it comes to understanding the laws and the numbers until someone explains what is happening without the math and legal jargon. And so, while reading the first three chapters of Necessary Trouble, a lot of it went straight over my head. However, there is an undercurrent of language within them that I understand, a language of race, and it begins in the introduction.
“‘Intersectionality’ is a term coined by legal theorist Kimberle Crenshaw to explain the way that social inequality has many layers that overlap – intersect – with one another and shape the way different people experience oppression” (8).
When talking about feminism, intersectionality is incredibly important. As Jaffe states, there are layers. We have layers. People are complicated. However,on a broader mainstream scale, feminism does not include everyone. Mainstream, or white, feminism screams for women’s rights, like freeing the nipple and closing the wage gap, while ignoring almost all problems women of color experience. For example, a woman of color’s natural hair is still deemed “unprofessional” and they make even less than white women, but we only ever hear “78 cents.” As a black woman, these issues are dire and not seeing them fought for by the feminists who do actually have power, like celebrities and those that were broadcasted nationally at the Women’s March, is a disheartening reminder that intersectionality does still not fully exist for us.
“The working class was never all white or all male, but now, more and more, the real story of the working class is the story of people like Colby Harris and Venanzi Luna, black and Latina, working in retail, restaurants, or another form of service work. The real story is not that women of color have moved into positions of power, but that more men are in ‘casualized’ – that is, in temporary, part-time, or presumably ‘unskilled’ service jobs” (76).
Reading Jaffe is refreshing. She is not afraid to tell the truth, to tell other people’s truths, and to call oppressive “isms” out when she sees them. Coming from The Rise of the Blogosphere, a book so focused on history, reading a voice that is contemporary, fearless and inclusive is a much welcomed and appreciated change of pace. A huge reason I enjoy Jaffe’s writing is that while she is highly intelligent and quick witted, she explains things in a way that I feel everyone would be able to understand. She does not leave out the stories of people of color and is not shy about explaining the very white social norms we have. Even though talk of money and numbers and legislation still trouble me, she explains all the layers, all the intersection – a language of intersectionality, a language I understand.