Sunday, November 30, 2008

The origin of identity politics

Certain bloggers have, as a major reason for their opposition to same-sex marriage, insisted upon the existence of a monolithic usage of "identity politics" by gays and lesbians as some sort of evil, echo-chamber-y, brainwashing mentality used by The Gay Agenda to take over the world. Or something. They never quite illicit why identity politics is bad. It just is. And these men expect us to just sort of take their word for it. You know, like red-scare tactics that are all too common of other similar bloggers.

So let's discuss identity politics a little bit deeper for once, shall we?

First, one common definition of identity politics from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is that it "has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination."

The explanation continues a little later, "Identity politics as a mode of organizing is intimately connected to the idea that some social groups are oppressed; that is, that one's identity as a woman or as a Native American, for example, makes one peculiarly vulnerable to cultural imperialism (including stereotyping, erasure, or appropriation of one's group identity), violence, exploitation, marginalization, or powerlessness."

I don't think many would disagree that certain groups, based on identity alone, are oppressed. People are killed in many parts of the world for their same-sex orientation. Many children in the U.S. alone are raised to believe that being gay is wrong.

Fathers are still telling their sons they would rather them commit murder than be gay. (as a gay college professor's dad told him once)

To deny that gay people are oppressed is a farce. And I think most people can at least acknowledge that much, whether or not they think the oppression is justified.

I also don't think that many people, in theory, would disagree that it is okay that these groups should seek to empower themselves. I mean, no one wants to openly be an asshole.

Yet, those same oppressed groups, in reality, often face a huge amount of resistance when they do try to empower themselves. (see women's rights, civil rights, etc.)

My argument here is that identities are defined by the in-group, the ones who hold power. Not the oppressed. Gay people wouldn't know they were "gay" or "queer" or "fags" or "dykes" if it weren't for all the hooting and hollering about it by conservative, right-wingers. By parents. By classmates. By teachers, oftentimes.

Yelling that LGBT folks are playing "identity politics" to get gay marriage passed is merely an attempt to disarm the LGBT person or ally to stop them from fighting for equality.

It is a blatant denial of oppression that is very real.

I understand that many white, heterosexual cis-gendered males may be able to toss around terms that to them are only theories. But to the rest of us, these rights we are fighting for are real. They are our lives.

The formation of identity politics for most LGBT people started on the schoolyard, when a boy called another one "faggot." Or when another boy was beaten up for being "too much of a sissy." Or when the athletic girls were called "dyke" by their classmates, or made an outcast by homophobic teammates.

The formation of politic action groups to protect these people kinda makes sense then, right?

That's why I am extending an open invitation for Chairm, Op-Ed, or anyone else at Opine Editorials to explain why identity politics is bad. Do it on your own blog, do it here. Just explain it for once.

I won't hold my breath. But I just wanted to get my piece out there.

I had the privilege of watching the movie "Milk" yesterday, and though he was assassinated, his words ring on. Everyone should come out of the closet. It will help others see that we really are no different, that we are normal, that we are usually friendly, nice, successful human beings with real needs, too. And none of us deserve to be treated as anything less.



WaltzInExile said...

Oh thank God. Finally, I get useful information out of opine-ed. Of course, what I really got was your username from your comments, and clicked through to here, so it's not like they should get any credit or anything. I'm just glad to see someone willing and able to stand up to them (as I, myself, am really only willing but not quite so much able [in my defense, I totally got tag-teamed and lost interest.]) Will be back to read and learn :)

Fannie said...

Your post can be summed up quite simply:

"Identity politics" would neither exist nor be required if people were not oppressed because of some aspects of their identities.

That simple little concept is what people opposed to "identity politics" inevitably fail to understand.

We didn't start this fun new thing called "identity politics." Their prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance did.

WaltzInExile said...

Jane, I wonder if you would mind emailing me so I could ask you something privately...?

Jane Know said...

Fannie, yes. That is what I was trying to say. It's not like we just woke up and said, "I think I will start marching in gay pride parades and fighting for same-sex marriage. Oh, and then I will be a lesbian. Just because, playing identity politics is, like, funnn-a." *giggle* *snort*

It doesn't work that way.

We wouldn't know we were different or "bad" if certain segments of society didn't tell us that.

WaltzinExile, sure I would be more than happy to. But I can't find your email address. My email is

Jane Know said...

And surprise... not a word from any of the Opine eds.

Their silence speaks for itself.

Fannie said...

They'd rather call you a lying, perverted, troll than deal with you like a human being.

Jane Know said...

It's because when questions people ask don't fit into a category of their predetermined overused, cut and paste answers they don't know what to do. So they start calling people names instead. Funny, they accuse and whine about everyone else doing it, yet they are the worst offenders.

Seriously delusional men over there.

Steve Moxon said...

Complete nonsense, I'm afraid.
I've just completed a detailed investigation into the origin of 'identity politics', and you clearly know little about the topic.

antwan andreson said...

lol pwned, xcellent point steve xD to be fair jane couldn have known wat identity politics TRULY entail/represent back in 2008 lmao, it took an entire generation of lil fascists n they tumblrs to demonstrate dat