Intersectionality Threatens the Anti-Abortion Movement Because It Challenges White Men’s Ill-Gotten Power

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

“[Intersectionality] is identity politics gone amuck. […] We now have so many victims in our culture it is impossible to identify who is actually a victim and who is pretending to be a victim. […] Intersectionality would be contradictory to this country’s founding documents.” – Brian Fisher, President of the Human Coalition anti-abortion fake clinic chain [1]

We’ve seen it plenty of times before, in our personal lives and in the media: The white man who thinks others gaining opportunity means he loses it. Or maybe more insufferably: The man who thinks that facing the consequences of his wrongdoing is an injustice. As we move more and more toward a culture where accountability is demanded and meted out for abuses of power, it’s important to recall the tools we have on hand to analyze the structures that bind us all.

To abuse power, one has to have it. In our world, it’s blatantly obvious that white men hold an outsized amount of often ill-gotten power. But we also understand that skin color and sex aren’t the definitive factors to determine if someone holds societal power: ability level, queer identity, citizenship status, wealth, gender expression, and religion are some other facets of who we are that presage the power we hold. That’s where intersectionality comes in, and that’s where far too many – and particularly, too many cisgender straight white men – misunderstand how the intersections of our lives affect how we move through the world and how society treats us.

In the anti-abortion movement particularly, there seems to be a willful misunderstanding of feminism writ large, as I’ve previously written about. The problem for them is that our culture and public opinion is whizzing past them and is no longer as tolerant to their repressive and regressive ideology. In particular, Human Coalition president Brian Fisher comes to mind, who in his recent podcast episodes has displayed his bitterness at the impact of feminism on culture, and the entrance of ‘intersectionality’ – which you can read more about in Evonnia’s blog post here – into the mainstream lexicon.

By Brian’s vast and likely deliberate misunderstanding, intersectionality isn’t a framework to view social and political power, but instead a value system that sets him on the bottom, because he comes from a set of people facing the least oppression. The cognitive dissonance of this interpretation is lost on Brian and his ilk, and he goes deeper into the warped thinking: In other recent episodes of his show, he surmises that the sick abuse and criminality of Jeffrey Epstein is the result of feminism going too far, allowing for a sexual revolution, and “remov[ing] men as a parent during pregnancy.” [2] To Brian, it seems that the only person in this equation who doesn’t deserve blame is the child rapist:

“I am shocked at how our culture is somehow looking at Jeffrey Epstein in disgust. Why? Jeffrey Epstein is a reflection of where the culture is headed: I get to do with whomever, whatever I want to with whomever I want to whenever I want to. It’s the rallying cry of the pro-abortion movement. We look at him with disgust but is that not happening in homes and places and bars across America right now?” [3]

By likening a serial rapist and child abuser to people flirting in bars, Brian wields his white male power like a gavel, judging those in a similar social standing to his as absolved for their crimes because they’re the products of a rape culture – though it’s a culture they helped create by imposing a patriarchal, gender-rigid, sex-negative social structure.

Brian can’t muster up the same compassion for innocent transgender people as for Epstein, apparently, because he believes their access to more rights is a threat to the predominance of people like him. In his recent episodes, Brian has joined the chorus of anti-abortion figures spouting hate against transgender people, [1, 2] in a deplorable display of bullying and transmisogyny that attempts to invalidate inclusive feminism and the very existence of trans people. [4, 5]

Beyond misunderstanding intersectional feminism, it’s clear that “pro-life” leaders are fanning the flames of gender panic, racial dog whistles, and Christian fundamentalism to shore up their base. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to paint their movement as scrappy do-gooders motivated by godliness as they dismiss and even stump for every new atrocity inflicted on the country and the world by the Trump administration. They hitched their wagon to an admitted sexual assaulter and self-appointed authoritarian who has made abhorrent racist comments and lies just about every time he speaks, and now that they’re bought in, they have to stay in to see their goals through.

They can blame feminists, they can blame trans people, and they can blame ethnic and racial minorities, but intolerant people themselves are responsible for moral decay of the country they claim to love. To quote Brian in the podcast: “We now have so many victims in our culture it is impossible to identify who is actually a victim and who is pretending to be a victim.” He’s right in a sense: Men like him, conservatives, and anti-abortion extremists love to play the victim. They love to keep the focus on themselves to pull it away from the people they hurt using the levers of white supremacy and patriarchy. We won’t let them minimize the plights of marginalized people to inflate their own egos, and we certainly won’t let them pretend that justice and equity for all people equals oppression of the powerful.


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