All hail the Omnicause!

Recently while browsing the site formerly known as Prince, er … I mean Twitter, I came across the following tweet by @fakegreekgirl: “It seems that where ‘intersectionality’ went wrong was assuming that anyone with any claim to oppression must be part of one omnicause + global warming for some reason.”

Quick lesson for those who need it, intersectionality is the idea that identity and oppression is experienced through a variety of lenses and that, in order to understand how, say, Black women experience oppression, one must understand both how they are oppressed by their racial identity and their gender at the same time. You cannot analyze race and gender separately.

The idea of intersectionality was formally developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw, who is quoted in Time Magazine saying, “It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

Intersectionality has many uses for those who advocate for social justice issues. We know for example that environmental pollution and global warming can and have had a greater impact on people of color.

Intersectionality is also useful for understanding issues that impact the LGBTQ community specifically. For example, transmisogyny, a term coined by Julia Serano, is the hatred and discrimination faced by transgender women.

Race and racism also play a role in how discrimination and violence is experienced by LGBTQ people of color. For example, many studies show LGBTQ people are grossly overrepresented when it comes to being victims of violence and homicide compared to white LGBTQ people.

Local LGBTQ activist Jim Chalgren was a staunch advocate for feminist causes and often spoke out against rape culture. Clearly he understood LGBTQ causes overlap with feminist causes.

But can intersectionality have its limits? As the tweet by @fakegreekgirl tried to demonstrate, making every cause about every other cause can have drawbacks, mainly in the form of turning the perfect into the enemy of the good. Too often work on social justice issues takes the form of “but have you considered what the knights who say ni will feel about this and also included in the environmental impact report of the effects on the flying spaghetti monster. Plus have you ensured the panel discussing ableism includes at least one green skinned centaur with purple fur.”

Turning every cause into an omnicause risks turning the entirety of social justice work into an unmovable behemoth that blocks rather than creates progress. Social justice should be realistic when considering its goals, and sometimes a focused approach to issues is simply more practical at the end of the day.

Courtesy Jeremy Redlien

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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