On Intersectionality, Empathy and Feminist Solidarity: A Reply to Naomi Zack

Journal of Peace and Justice Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 14-37, 2009

24 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2009

See all articles by Alison Bailey

Alison Bailey

Illinois State Universtiy, College of Arts and Sciences - Philosophy Department

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

Naomi Zack’s "Inclusive Feminism: A Third Wave Theory of Women’s Commonality" (2005), begins with an original reading of the paradigm shift from gender essentialism to intersectionality that ended U.S. second wave feminism. According to Zack there has been a crisis in academic and professional feminism since the late 1970s. Her project is to explain the motivation behind the shift from commonality to intersectionality, to outline its harmful effects, and to reclaim the idea that all women share something in common (2005, 2). To accomplish this Zack careful retools essentialism in ways that simultaneously acknowledge women’s differences and dodge what she perceives to be intersectionality’s fragmenting effects.

This paper addresses Zack’s critique of intersectionality and her effort to ground a feminist empathy-based solidarity in women’s commonalities. My discussion begins with a basic account of intersectionality. I explore Zack’s reasons for rejecting this popular approach by replying to her two strongest arguments against intersectionality: (1) that intersectionality complicates the category woman by multiplying genders beyond necessity, and (2) that intersectionality has a segregating effect on feminist political movements. I argue that Zack’s inclusive feminism generates an oversimplified account of empathy and thus fails to engage the tensions among feminist movements that intersectionality makes visible. I conclude that her view requires a more robust epistemology of empathy if political solidarity is to be grounded in the FMP category.

Keywords: Intersectionality, Solidarity, Feminist Politics

Suggested Citation

Bailey, Alison, On Intersectionality, Empathy and Feminist Solidarity: A Reply to Naomi Zack (2009). Journal of Peace and Justice Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 14-37, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1504779

Alison Bailey (Contact Author)

Illinois State Universtiy, College of Arts and Sciences - Philosophy Department ( email )

412 Stevenson Hall (4540)
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61790-4540
United States
309.438.5617 (Phone)

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