“What’s Arabic for Intersectionality?”
Weaning myself from mainstream feminisms born in a Western context required a concerted effort on my part. I had begun to realise that these feminisms – with their biased histories and understandings of the self, subjectivity and self-actualisation, narrow understanding of economic equality and ways to achieve it and racist rhetoric were beginning to alter my consciousness.
But I do have my moments when I feel rather exasperated by critiques of mainstream feminisms; a critique that once again is born in a Western context. I wonder whether through centering this critique that is born out of the West, we unwittingly contribute to the dominance and hegemony of mainstream western feminisms.
That is to say that if my feminist awareness is informed by a rejection of mainstream western feminisms, am I somehow admitting to their primacy?
I’ve been following recent writings on intersectionality of oppressions and hierarchies of privilege with an avid interest, but every so often find myself wondering, “To what extent is this relevant to me?”
Several months ago, I set out to find whether similar scholarship existed in the region, if Arabic equivalents to the terms existed, and if so, how were they imported and adjusted to fit local contexts. It didn’t take me long however to realise the futility of the exercise as the imported terms would not be neutral and would carry its own baggage.
And herein lies my frustration – the realisation that the bulk of my knowledge is based on a normalised western subject and context. ‘western’ of course does not equate with whiteness; for even the indigenous peoples, the immigrants, the feminists of colour, the queers and other groups that worked hard to unpack and dismantle mainstream hegemonic feminisms are – from my vantage point – western subjects.