This weekend, at a lesbian march in Chicago, three women carrying Jewish pride flags — rainbow flags embossed with a Star of David — were kicked out of the celebration on the grounds that their flags were a “trigger.” An organizer of the Dyke March told the Windy City Times that the fabric “made people feel unsafe” and that she and the other members of the Dyke March collective didn’t want anything “that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism” at the event.
Laurel Grauer, one of the women who was ejected, said she’d been carrying that Jewish pride flag in the march, held on the Saturday before the city’s official Pride Parade, for more than a decade. It “celebrates my queer, Jewish identity,” she explained. This year, however, she lost track of the number of people who harassed her for carrying it.
I’m sorry for the women, like Ms. Grauer, who found themselves under genuine threat for carrying a colorful cloth falsely accused of being pernicious.
But I am also grateful.
Has there ever been a crisper expression of the consequences of “intersectionality” than a ban on Jewish lesbians from a Dyke March?
Intersectionality is the big idea of today’s progressive left. In theory, it’s the benign notion that every form of social oppression is linked to every other social oppression. This observation — coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw — sounds like just another way of rephrasing a slogan from a poster I had in college: My liberation is bound up with yours. That is, the fight for women’s rights is tied up with the fight for gay rights and civil rights and so forth. Who would dissent from the seductive notion of a global sisterhood?
Well, in practice, intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.
By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.
Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise(?), and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.
One of the women who was asked to leave the Dyke March, Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, couldn’t understand why she was kicked out of an event that billed itself as intersectional. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional,” she said. “I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.”
She isn’t. Because though intersectionality cloaks itself in the garb of humanism, it takes a Manichaean view of life in which there can only be oppressors and oppressed. To be a Jewish dyke, let alone one who deigns to support Israel, is a categorical impossibility, oppressor and oppressed in the same person.
That’s why the march organizers and their sympathizers are now trying to smear Ms. Grauer as some sort of right-wing provocateur. Their evidence: She works at an organization called A Wider Bridge, which connects the L.G.B.T.Q. Jewish community in America with the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Israel. The organizers are also making the spurious claim that the Jewish star is necessarily a symbol of Zionist oppression — a breathtaking claim to anyone who has ever seen a picture of a Jew forced to wear a yellow one under the Nazis.
No, the truth is that it was no more and no less than anti-Semitism. Just read Ms. Shoshany Anderson’s ’s account of her experience, which she posted on Facebook after being kicked out of the march.
“I wanted to be in public as a gay Jew of Persian and German heritage. Nothing more, nothing less. So I made a shirt that said ‘Proud Jewish Dyke’ and hoisted a big Jewish Pride flag — a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center, the centuries-old symbol of the Jewish people,” she wrote. “During the picnic in the park, organizers in their official t-shirts began whispering and pointing at me and soon, a delegation came over, announcing they’d been sent by the organizers. They told me my choices were to roll up my Jewish Pride flag or leave. The Star of David makes it look too much like the Israeli flag, they said, and it triggers people and makes them feel unsafe. This was their complaint.”
She tried to explain that the star is the “ubiquitous symbol of Judaism,” and that she simply wanted “to be Jewish in public.” Then, she “tried using their language,” explaining “this is my intersection. I’m supposed to be able to celebrate it here.”
It didn’t work. Ms. Shoshany Anderson left sobbing. “I was thrown out of Dyke March for being Jewish,” she said. Just so.
For progressive American Jews, intersectionality forces a choice: Which side of your identity do you keep, and which side do you discard and revile? Do you side with the oppressed or with the oppressor?
That kind of choice would have been familiar to previous generations of left-wing Jews, particularly those in Europe, who felt the tug between their ethnic heritage and their “internationalist” ideological sympathies. But this is the United States. Here, progressives are supposed to be comfortable with the idea of hyphenated identities and overlapping ethnic, sexual and political affinities. Since when did a politics that celebrates choice — and choices — devolve into a requirement of being forced to choose?
Jews on the left, particularly in recent years, have attempted to square this growing discomfort by becoming more anti-Israel. But if history has taught the Jews anything it’s that this kind of contortion never ends well.
It may be wrong to read too much into an ugly incident at a single march, but Jews should take what happened in Chicago as a lesson that they might not be as welcome among progressives as they might imagine. That’s a warning for which to be grateful, even as it is a reminder that anti-Semitism remains as much a problem on the far-left as it is on the alt-right.