Intersectionality places labels on people, categorising them according to race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender orientation, class, and so on. These labels then determine how oppressed someone is, and as a result we become defined by these particular characteristics, not by our actions and beliefs. In this way, labels undermine individual agency, whilst at the same time encouraging individualism, where subjective experience rules supreme. Intersectional narratives also divide people according to whether they are oppressors or oppressed. Focusing on victimised identities, it fosters an ‘us versus them’ mentality, typically against cisgendered heterosexual white men. Categories as emotive as ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor’ not only ignore the nuance needed to overcome societal challenges, but they challenge the identity of those grouped as ‘oppressed’ but do not feel that they are. Instead of a long series of battles where specific identities fight for their own liberation, we need a more universalist approach where marginalised groups are not framed as at odds with each other. Intersectionality implies that freedom is a zero-sum game, creating a situation where other identity groups are targeted, and the larger system is not challenged. People cannot be neatly organised into social categories, we need to recognise a more universal humanity to end oppression.
Intersectionality doesn’t place labels on people, these labels are created by a much larger social system. Intersectionality is a way to understand that we are not single-issue individuals, and our identities are complex and unique. The belief that intersectionality introduces a new caste system has things the wrong way round; the larger capitalist social system has created a caste system revealed by intersectional thought.
Rejecting the premises