Tolerance, acceptance, deference, dominance

by John Quiggin on December 27, 2019

Warning: Amateur sociological/political analysis ahead

I’ve been thinking about the various versions of and critiques of identity politics that are around at the moment. In its most general form, identity politics involves (i) a claim that a particular group is not being treated fairly and (ii) a claim that members of that group should place political priority on the demand for fairer treatment. But “fairer” can mean lots of different things. I’m trying to think about this using contrasts between the set of terms in the post title. A lot of this is unoriginal, but I’m hoping I can say something new.

Starting from the left (in more senses than one), tolerance involves the removal of legal barriers to being recognised as a participating member of the community, with legal freedom from persecution, voting rights, property rights and so on. Women, gays, religious minorities and people of colour have all had to struggle to obtain this recognition. But, as has been pointed out many times, mere legal tolerance is demeaning and discriminatory. Identity politics involves a demand not merely for tolerance but for acceptance.

Jumping to the right, the idea of tolerance implies the existence of a dominant group that does the tolerating, either as a result of moral suasion or as a response to political pressure. Moving from tolerance to acceptance implies an erosion of that dominance. It becomes unacceptable for members of the formerly dominant group to express or act on the view that the other group is inferior: such views, once expressed openly without fear of adverse consequences, are now criticised as racist, misogynistic, homophobic.

The most difficult term in the series is deference. In sociology/anthropology, it’s typically used in counterpoint with “dominance”, as the attitude displayed by one submitting to dominance. But in the context of identity politics, I think there’s something more subtle going on.

Members of the formerly dominant group may be willing to extend acceptance to others, but they still expect a kind of deference in return. Most obviously, they expect to be treated as the default identity for the community as a whole, as “typical”, “real”, “true”, Americans, Australians, Finns or whatever.

When that expectation of deference is not fulfilled, the choices are to accept the new situation, or to support what might be called default identity politics. More or less inevitably, that implies an alliance with those who want to reassert or restore the group’s dominant position: racists, theocrats, and so on, depending on which aspect of the dominant identity is being challenged.

That makes default identity politics a “double or nothing” bet. If it’s political successful, it’s dragged further and further towards entrenched minority rule by members of the dominant racial or religous group, and typically towards some form of personal dictatorship. If it’s unsuccessful, the divisions it creates risks a reversal of the previous order. Instead of being accepted as one element of a diverse community, the formerly dominant group becomes the object of hostility and derision. The signs of that are certainly evident, particularly in relation to the culture wars around religion.

{ 146 comments }

1

likbez 12.27.19 at 6:47 am

2

Alex SL 12.27.19 at 10:32 am

I am not really sure where a formerly dominant group has ever become the object of hostility and derision, except maybe when colonial powers were expulsed? It seems the formerly dominant religions and the “real XYZians” are still treated with instinctive deference everywhere, even in societies that are now officially secular or multi-cultural, and regardless of how terrible their dominance was before it was broken.

3

nastywoman 12.27.19 at 11:25 am

The most important living US Philosopher Billie Eilish said:
”You know, some people just love horrible people. It’s weird”.

AND it can’t be said more ”philosophically” than here:

https://youtu.be/DyDfgMOUjCI

4

nastywoman 12.27.19 at 11:35 am

– or is it more like that?

https://youtu.be/pbMwTqkKSps

5

notGoodenough 12.27.19 at 11:39 am

likbez @ 1

regarding the first link, as far as I can tell:

So, someone (referred to as EJK by court documents) is assigned male at birth, and has sought legal emancipation from their mother (it is not clear they were successful, though they had been living away from their mother for two years). They wish to transition. Their mother demands she has control over the now 17 year old EJK’s medical rights. EJK has stated that they a) are making the choice to transition of their own free will and b) do not wish their mother to have control over their medical decisions.

How is this “transgender extremism”, and why does this sow the seeds for the destruction of tolerance?

6

notGoodenough 12.27.19 at 12:11 pm

John Quiggin @ 1

[Warning: very-amateur sociological/political thoughts!]

I think, as a rough rule of thumb, there feels quite a bit of truth here – particularly regarding dominant groups. It was baffling to me how communities I had been involved in often became highly toxic regarding issues which seem unrelated to their core principles – and I think that it is due to what you describe (e.g. the dominant group now feels their position is threatened….).

It is also, perhaps, worth noting that some members of the formerly-dominant group then demand tolerance for themselves – i.e. “why don’t you tolerate my beliefs [insert regressive belief here]”.

Interesting post – I appreciate having this to mull over…

7

Ivory Bill Woodpecker 12.27.19 at 1:43 pm

Oh, please.

I’m supposed to believe a couple of stories from wingnut sites, perhaps authored by some GRU operative in Mommie Dearest Russia?

8

Michael 12.27.19 at 3:45 pm

It’s been pointed out more than once (e.g., Wendy Brown https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691136219/regulating-aversion; Beth Povinelli https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-cunning-of-recognition; etc.) that the expectation of deference is built into the very idea of acceptance. Whoever is doing the accepting is in effect granting a sort of favor; they are positioned as having the privilege to dispense acceptance. In this way, acceptance and domination are internally linked. We can see this quite clearly today when young LGBTQ people must still take the affirmative step of “coming out.” Even if “acceptance” is openly promised and largely expected, it must still be extended; it cannot simply be presumed that being queer is unremarkable. Domination ends when no group feels entitled to grant acceptance to others.

9

Ray Vinmad 12.27.19 at 4:01 pm

I’m not sure I’m reading you right but this post suggests that you see identity politics as a strategic choice rather than a thing that often just sort of happens when you have egalitarian ideals but unfair treatment of individuals mainly because of the social groups they belong to.

Can we really avoid identity politics at this point?

It is true that there is now orientation away from tolerance because tolerance depends on dominance.

Another way to look at this is that the more heated battles in identity politics (broadly defined) are occurring now because the dominant group is having difficulty with the shift from noblesse oblige ‘granting’ of equality to others to the insistence by these others on complete and total equality.

To oversimplify, when people in whatever oppressed identity group come to ask themselves ‘why can’t I be on a completely equal footing with those who do well/benefit from, etc. the current system?’ they tend to lose patience with noblesse oblige, and are unwilling to behave with deference. Deference might seem too much like internalizing one’s inferiority or the rightness of someone else’s dominance.. This means that the groups are more likely to demand things from others rather than wait to receive them.

These things are necessary for full social equality but there will be a lot of hostility among some within dominant groups, and you’re now seeing people commit to whatever version of social hierarchy they think works best for them. They ignore or are blind to whatever versions they’d be screwed by. They tend to make common cause on the naturalness of that social hierarchy, and the importance of social hierarchy generally.

This is one reason why affinities between oppressed identity groups aren’t merely strategic. Having recognized the legitimacy of this type of demand for full equality for themselves, people with certain identities are probably more likely to recognize it for others. Certain subcultures within oppressed group develop a set of standard moral responses–and these types of demands for full equality for others will seem par for the course. They’ll commit themselves to meeting them even for groups whose political interests aren’t clearly aligned with their own. Often though, the political interests are broadly aligned but this process does create moral affinities, and general commitments to egalitarianism that the far right ridicules but which follow logically from a broad commitment for social equality.

Even so, there are fights among groups struggling for different types of social equality. Sometimes they are actually in one another’s way or are viewed as competition for resources. Sometimes the concern seems more symbolic and maybe motivated by worries that there isn’t enough equality to go around.

The interesting consequence is maybe the only power some people making claims for equality have is the power of moral suasion. They are depending on the broader acceptance of social equality, and the logical extension to themselves. So naturally a backlash tries to undermine their moral standing. E.g., you have people calling transgender people ‘transgender extremists.’ In order to strengthen their case, they predict a lot of devastating outcomes when full recognition of equality comes to pass. I cannot think of a case where this is not reactionary but the anti-trans movement definitely tries to cloak their backlash in terms that take up earlier moments in identity politics. This is because they are trying to convince people who have already committed to egalitarian norms.

10

Anarcissie 12.27.19 at 4:41 pm

The mere concept of ‘transgender’ is still very strongly contested, as many kinds of identity are not, therefore it (any position) is always extremism of one sort or another. It may be quite a while before deference is demanded in their case; first they have to be allowed to exist at all.

11

Peter Dorman 12.27.19 at 6:57 pm

The dynamic JQ describes does occur often, but it is not the whole story. I think two distinctions can help in separating where it works from where it doesn’t.

The first is between symbolic and concrete relative positioning. JQ is describing a realm in which hierarchies are matters of symbolic exchange: do I relate to you as my inferior, equal or superior? A lot of social interaction is like this. But there are also concrete hierarchies in which people exercise power over others or gain relative advantage irrespective of how their actions are displayed symbolically. In its pure form, for instance, institutional racism is a hierarchy that is not visible at the individual level but shows up through the structural dynamics of the institutions people are embedded in. I think of the interaction between racial segregation in housing, unequal access to credit and the financing of public schools through local property taxes as an example of this. No single individual has to be racist in outlook or intent for the system as a whole to reproduce generation after generation of extreme injustice.

The second is between zero-sum and positive-sum redistributions. Some inequalities are largely zero-sum, in the sense that the benefits to those on the top are due to the deprivations of those on the bottom. An example is the gender division of labor in housework, where more chores for you means more freedom from them for me and vice versa. The Marxist view of profit works that way too (but not necessarily other views). And then there are inequalities in which the benefits of the better off group don’t depend on the deprivation of others, such as the risk of being arbitrarily abused or killed by the police. I’m white and less likely to experience this abuse than someone who isn’t, but ending this abuse for them doesn’t put me at any greater risk.

I think identity politics has been excessively divisive (more precise: has engendered surplus divisiveness) because of the blurring of these two distinctions. Contests over symbolic status, as JQ points out, have an inherent zero sum aspect, especially as we move to the meta level of who should have the right to award respect in the first place. To some extent, these contests are an unavoidable part of social change, and we just have to roll with them. Unfortunately though, symbolic disputes have tended to crowd out concrete ones, where it is often possible to find (ahem) Pareto improvements.

Meanwhile, there is very little awareness of the difference between zero and positive sum situations, as shown by the tendency to call all relative advantages “privilege”. A privilege is an unjust, unearned benefit, typically based on the exclusion of others. (Membership has its privileges because nonmembers don’t get them.) Private equity billionaires who profit from exorbitant surprise medical bills that bankrupt ordinary people drip with privilege. But heterosexual couples who benefit from marriage laws did not gain at the expense of non-hetero couples that were excluded, and changing the laws to benefit the latter does not harm the former (except perhaps in the world of symbolic hierarchies).

We are awash in sloppy thinking about difference and hierarchy. (There’s a lot more than what I’ve brought up here.) Why we’re in this mess is an interesting question.

12

MisterMr 12.27.19 at 7:12 pm

I’m not sure that identity politics works this way.
This is the way identity politics would work if it was really a sort of philosophical argument about the merits of this or that identity.
But what I see is more a sort of tribalism, where for example here in Italy many conservative parties (especially the Lega) are big on how Italy is a Christian (catholic) country and Muslim immigrants are going to destroy our culture, but then when the Pope says we should welcome immigrants they say he should mind his own business, that is not what you would expect from a firebrand catholic.

13

William S Berry 12.27.19 at 7:29 pm

@notGoodenough:

Help us out here if you would and don’t ask questions of the likes of “likbez”, “ph”, “steven johnson”, et al.

They might answer!

14

Chetan Murthy 12.27.19 at 7:37 pm

likbez @ 1: Someone arguing in good faith wouldn’t be posting links from the “Christian Post”. NewsPunch “Where mainstream fears to tread” seems pretty out there, too.

notGoodenough @ 3: It seems clear that this young woman has made the best of a pretty awful situation, and their parents are continuing to fuck with her life, just as they did all during it.

Here’s a link from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/minnesota-transgender-teen-sued-her-own-mom-speaks-out-n712616

According to an extensive brief filed by E.J.K.’s attorneys and shared with NBC News, the teen grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, in a house where unstable parents struggled with substance abuse. In court documents, she describes making her own meals and getting herself dressed for school at a young age, often relying on a “network of other adults who supplied some of the care and nurturing that her biological parents were unable to offer.”

The teen also said when she first came out as gay around age 13, her mother and stepfather became verbally and physically abusive. At age 15, she said, her mom gave her permission to move in with her biological father—who became incarcerated shortly afterward. E.J.K. then stayed with her grandmother and a series of friends before finally getting her own apartment, where she currently lives.

The teen is remarkably self-sufficient: She has her own apartment, a full-time job and will graduate high school in the spring. She has already received two acceptance letters, say court documents, from college nursing programs. She turns 18 in July.

15

Stephen 12.27.19 at 7:38 pm

This is a deep and subtle topic, into which I venture with great caution.

But going through the OPs claims: if identity politics involves “a claim that a particular group is not being treated fairly” can that not be applied to majority groups?

“the idea of tolerance implies the existence of a dominant group that does the tolerating”. Fair enough, unless you are arguing that there should in fact be no dominant groups.

“Members of the formerly dominant group may be willing to extend acceptance to others, but …they expect to be treated as the default identity for the community as a whole.” Well yes, heterosexuals expect to be the default identity. In Japan, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Scotland people of those groups overwhelmingly expect that to be the default identity for their communities. Do you have any problem with that? You may be aggrieved that people in England, Australia etc may believe similarly: why?

“Instead of being accepted as one element of a diverse community, the formerly dominant group becomes the object of hostility and derision.” If you are arguing that no members of minority groups have ever felt hostility and derision against the majority, I think you have never got to know many members of minorities. Or listened to, say, Islamists expounding their views on tolerance of the kuffar.

Yours in the cause of genuine, reciprocal tolerance.

16

Stephen 12.27.19 at 7:59 pm

Alex SL @2: “I am not really sure where a formerly dominant group has ever become the object of hostility and derision, except maybe when colonial powers were expulsed?”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_genocide

You might want to have a look at, for example, the French and Russian revolutions also.

17

politicalfootball 12.27.19 at 9:02 pm

likbez@1 I think you’ll have better luck with this sort of thing if you learn to read the media a little more skeptically, and gain some understanding of how reports like the ones you cite are formulated. The Calgaro suit wasn’t even trying to make a legal point — the arguments were so ridiculous that the judge dismissed them completely. This was a publicity stunt aimed at suckers and abetted by the Christian Post, whose article failed to describe what actually took place in the court, much less what was going on in this young person’s life.

Notably, the C. Post just straight up lies about the school district’s involvement in the case. Calgaro does not allege, as the C. Post claims, that the school district began gender transition treatments on the youth. (Read the decision.) The C. Post just made that up.

The piece in “Newspunch” purports to link “court documents,” but that turns out to be a Facebook page with no court documents. It links to a Federalist article that also appears to be sourced exclusively to the Facebook page and, in the case of Townhall, to a suspended Twitter account.

Newspunch, Townhall and the Federalist didn’t bother to ask the mother what was going on. Can you use your critical thinking skills to ask yourself why they failed in that basic bit of fairness?

But as with all these conversations, in the end the real question is: What is the role of factuality in public discussion. Is there any value in tolerating the truth — or are falsehoods required to arrive at the correct answers?

18

likbez 12.27.19 at 9:42 pm

@notGoodenough 12.27.19 at 11:39 am

likbez @ 1

regarding the first link, as far as I can tell:

So, someone (referred to as EJK by court documents) is assigned male at birth, and has sought legal emancipation from their mother

Why we do not allow teens to drink alcohol, but we allow them to make decisions about their own sexual identity?

Should not such decisions (and irreversible surgery that they involve) be reserved to people who reached at least the age of 21?

19

likbez 12.27.19 at 10:21 pm

John,

I’ve been thinking about the various versions of and critiques of identity politics that are around at the moment. In its most general form, identity politics involves (i) a claim that a particular group is not being treated fairly and (ii) a claim that members of that group should place political priority on the demand for fairer treatment. But “fairer” can mean lots of different things. I’m trying to think about this using contrasts between the set of terms in the post title. A lot of this is unoriginal, but I’m hoping I can say something new.

You missed one important like of critique — identity politics as a dirty political strategy of soft neoliberals.

See discussion of this issue by Professor Ganesh Sitaraman in his recent article (base on his excellent book The
Great Democracy
)
https://newrepublic.com/article/155970/collapse-neoliberalism

To be sure, race, gender, culture, and other aspects of social life have always been important to politics. But neoliberalism’s radical individualism has increasingly raised two interlocking problems. First, when taken to an extreme, social fracturing into identity groups can be used to divide people and prevent the creation of a shared civic identity. Self-government requires uniting through our commonalities and aspiring to achieve a shared future.

When individuals fall back onto clans, tribes, and us-versus-them identities, the political community gets fragmented. It becomes harder for people to see each other as part of that same shared future.

Demagogues [more correctly neoliberals — likbez] rely on this fracturing to inflame racial, nationalist, and religious antagonism, which only further fuels the divisions within society. Neoliberalism’s war on “society,” by pushing toward the privatization and marketization of everything, thus indirectly facilitates a retreat into tribalism that further undermines the preconditions for a free and democratic society.

The second problem is that neoliberals on right and left sometimes use identity as a shield to protect neoliberal policies. As one commentator has argued, “Without the bedrock of class politics, identity politics has become an agenda of inclusionary neoliberalism in which individuals can be accommodated but addressing structural inequalities cannot.” What this means is that some neoliberals hold high the banner of inclusiveness on gender and race and thus claim to be progressive reformers, but they then turn a blind eye to systemic changes in politics and the economy.

Critics argue that this is “neoliberal identity politics,” and it gives its proponents the space to perpetuate the policies of deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity.

Of course, the result is to leave in place political and economic structures that harm the very groups that inclusionary neoliberals claim to support. The foreign policy adventures of the neoconservatives and liberal internationalists haven’t fared much better than economic policy or cultural politics. The U.S. and its coalition partners have been bogged down in the war in Afghanistan for 18 years and counting. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq is a liberal democracy, nor did the attempt to establish democracy in Iraq lead to a domino effect that swept the Middle East and reformed its governments for the better. Instead, power in Iraq has shifted from American occupiers to sectarian militias, to the Iraqi government, to Islamic State terrorists, and back to the Iraqi government — and more than 100,000 Iraqis are dead.

Or take the liberal internationalist 2011 intervention in Libya. The result was not a peaceful transition to stable democracy but instead civil war and instability, with thousands dead as the country splintered and portions were overrun by terrorist groups. On the grounds of democracy promotion, it is hard to say these interventions were a success. And for those motivated to expand human rights around the world, it is hard to justify these wars as humanitarian victories — on the civilian death count alone.

Indeed, the central anchoring assumptions of the American foreign policy establishment have been proven wrong. Foreign policymakers largely assumed that all good things would go together — democracy, markets, and human rights — and so they thought opening China to trade would inexorably lead to it becoming a liberal democracy. They were wrong. They thought Russia would become liberal through swift democratization and privatization. They were wrong.

They thought globalization was inevitable and that ever-expanding trade liberalization was desirable even if the political system never corrected for trade’s winners and losers. They were wrong. These aren’t minor mistakes. And to be clear, Donald Trump had nothing to do with them. All of these failures were evident prior to the 2016 election.

If we assume that identity politics is, first and foremost, a dirty and shrewd political strategy developed by the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party (“soft neoliberals”) many things became much more clear.

Along with Neo-McCarthyism it represent a mechanism to compensate for the loss of their primary voting block: trade union members, who in 2016 “en mass” defected to Trump.

Initially Clinton calculation was that trade union voters has nowhere to go anyways, and it was correct for first decade or so of his betrayal. But gradually trade union members and lower middle class started to leave Dems in droves (Demexit, compare with Brexit) and that where identity politics was invented to compensate for this loss.

So in addition to issues that you mention we also need to view the role of identity politics as the political strategy of the “soft neoliberals ” directed at discrediting and the suppression of nationalism.

The resurgence of nationalism is the inevitable byproduct of the dominance of neoliberalism, resurgence which I think is capable to bury neoliberalism as it lost popular support (which now is limited to financial oligarchy and high income professional groups, such as we can find in corporate and military brass, (shrinking) IT sector, upper strata of academy, upper strata of medical professionals, etc)

That means that the structure of the current system isn’t just flawed which imply that most problems are relatively minor and can be fixed by making some tweaks. It is unfixable, because the “Identity wars” reflect a deep moral contradictions within neoliberal ideology. And they can’t be solved within this framework.

20

Ray Vinmad 12.27.19 at 11:03 pm

@ 11 “And then there are inequalities in which the benefits of the better off group don’t depend on the deprivation of others, such as the risk of being arbitrarily abused or killed by the police. I’m white and less likely to experience this abuse than someone who isn’t, but ending this abuse for them doesn’t put me at any greater risk.”

I would say that they do not but they *believe* they do because many white people are irrationally afraid of black people and other people of color (esp. Latinos) at higher risk of being killed in an encounter with police. They believe that they are protected by these murders, and in general may also believe that they are protected overall by the extremes of the criminal justice system, e.g., police violence and mass incarceration. This is why many defend this system, and other authoritarian aspects of the state that are clearly unjust but that they know they are very unlikely to be harmed by.

Maybe this is not germane to your point but since we’re talking about motivations and collective social action (mostly) it makes sense to draw from people’s likely beliefs rather than their absolute social positioning. Many reactions on the part of dominant groups against subordinate groups are irrational. Anti-semitism shows us that. Though pogroms, murder, and expulsion always involve appropriation of Jewish property most people who signed on to an anti-semitic genocidal project did not directly benefit.

Some understandably hope that people would see their objective interests first. But the targeting of people with stigmatized identities shapes their objective interests quite a lot since personal security is always of major interest. The social status people gain from whiteness in a system of white supremacy might not seem like much if you look at direct concrete benefits but social status and self-perception not merely ‘symbolic’ because they have real effects. (In a better world, they might be. But we do not live in this world.)

Overall, not a happy situation but it’s not clear there is currently a path around it for the USA.

21

Nicholas 12.27.19 at 11:37 pm

I agree, John. Identity politics reifies categories that are abstract. It divides people instead of uniting them behind universal rights and entitlements. We should be aiming for a more equal distribution of power, a more equal distribution of stuff, and more security and stability for everybody. Framing politics in terms of abstract identity groups distracts attention from the economic justice framing that can appeal to people from all racial, gender, sexuality, and religious categories.

22

Jake Gibson 12.28.19 at 12:07 am

“majority groups not being treated fairly.”

At first I was tempted to respond with an unequivocal no, but them I thought about Democrats in our national elections.

Actually, I am very much in favor of no dominant groups. That is what egalitarian democracy means.

In respect to Evangelical Christians, almost on some level want dominance.

23

notGoodenough 12.28.19 at 12:58 am

William S Berry @ 13

Fair point. Honestly I did spend quite a bit of time thinking about posting that comment – on the one hand I think it is good to query when someone makes a statement like that to pushback, on the other I’m not sure if I am legitimising a debate over people’s humanity.

I suppose I also hope that asking people to actually provide evidence and a logical argument to validate their position will pay off – of course, it rarely does.

Chetan Murthy @ 14

Indeed. The first link seems pretty egregious – even on its own merits and without being aware of the additional story, it is pretty clear that EJK’s wishes are being overridden (and the additional statements by EJK make it evident the situation is even worse). I am uncertain as to why anyone would post this as an example against people wishing to transition (I also note that they continuously misgendered EJK, against their wishes, all the way through – so that’s nice).

24

notGoodenough 12.28.19 at 1:13 am

Stephen @ 15

Out of interest, why do you assume there is a necessity for a default identity, and why do you feel that that default identity must necessarily include sexuality?

” Fair enough, unless you are arguing that there should in fact be no dominant groups.”

Do you think there should be dominant groups, and if so why?

25

SamChevre 12.28.19 at 1:20 am

the idea of tolerance implies the existence of a dominant group that does the tolerating

I’m not certain this is true; the history of religious tolerance seems to feature many cases where no group was a majority, and “we’ll argue but not fight, and the government won’t take sides” was designed to be the best available system when everyone was a minority. I’d say a very key feature of US politics since the 1960’s is that the elite have been increasingly unwilling to tolerate, or provide equal protection of the law to, those who disagree with them–so principles like “free speech doesn’t include malicious falsehoods” or “the government doesn’t take sides between conceptions of the good” only last until they would protect a previously-normative group that the elite has turned on.

I also think you are missing a key point in the discussion of deference: a normative identity creates both a Schelling point and some incentive to assimilate, and so builds its own majority; think of “white” identity in the US.

26

notGoodenough 12.28.19 at 1:29 am

An observation – I once heard it said that the word “right” is irregularly declined, as in:

I have rights
You have liberties
They have privileges

27

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 1:35 am

Stephen @ 15:

This is a deep and subtle topic, into which I venture with great caution.

You should have used more. In sum, your argument is (for instance)
that white cis-het people of traditionally German ancestry are the
only true Germans. And while that might work for Germany (though IIUC
work like Tony Judt’s _Postwar_ demonstrates pretty conclusively that
this is bollocks — many European countries had many ethnicities going
back for centuries) it certainly doesn’t work for Australia or the US.
Just to give an example, black Americans almost all have far, far
greater claim to being “real Americans” than most white Americans, for
the obvious reason (slavery, rape of female slaves by white masters).
And yet, black Americans continue to live under a reign of terror
(witness “talk talk” that parents give their children, in hopes it’ll
help keep them alive to adulthood).

And this matters, because along with “who gets treated as the default”
is also “who gets treated as an exception”. And so we get “sundown
towns” where black people better not be found after dark. The
kerfuffle over “cake baking for lesbian weddings” is really a stalking
horse for denying service to LGBT people at hotels,
bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, etc. After all, if they’re not
“normal,”, then people don’t need to treat them like other folks. It
wasn’t that long ago, that women were explicitly and blatantly in this
category, too: Senator Elizabeth Warren has talked about how a female
teacher who got pregnant would lose her job, and it wasn’t done
surreptitiously at all. I’ve read the same for teachers who got
married, in an earlier time, but Warren’s story is obviously within
living memory. The treatment of women at Catholic hospitals is another data-point — that anybody even pretends that it’s justified that an entire gamut of treatment (reproductive care) is basically off-limits at Catholic hospitals is an opprobrious scandal. And it gets justified because “being male” is the “default”. And there, there’s no possible argument from “the majority”: it’s a simple argument from power.

One last thing:

If you are arguing that no members of minority groups have ever felt hostility and derision against the majority, I think you have never got to know many members of minorities. Or listened to, say, Islamists expounding their views on tolerance of the kuffar.

This is a pretty serious tell. The vast, overwhelming majority of
Muslim-Americans are just as assimilated as any other immigrant
minority — just as assimilated as (say) Hindu-Americans, just as
successful, etc. To cite the extreme behaviour of (a few) Islamists
against these communities, is the same as to tar every white American
(*every one*) with the behaviour of David Duke.

Here, let me demonstrate: “Are you a stone racist? The kind of man
who kills black Americans without compunction, because they’re less
human? [maybe you remember the case of that white guy with a sword to
went to NYC and basically killed the first random black man he met,
b/c he wanted to kill a black man (and cofessed to this fact, afterwards)?] I mean after all, you’re white,
and there are whites who do that, d00d.”

28

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 1:44 am

Peter Dorman @ 11: Thank you for this: I like the delineation you draw. But I think that in fact there is a strong connection between the “symbolic” hierarchies, and the concrete systems of oppression. In case after case, I think we’ll find that the concrete oppression follows from the symbolic denigration, and that without the demolition of the symbolism, it would be very, very difficult to demolish the concrete oppression. Some examples:
(1) segregated schools/pool in the South turning into private schools/pools
(2) the manifold ways in which women are treated as second-class citizens, e.g. Catholic hospitals, the within-living-memory ban on pregnant teachers, etc, etc.
(3) the way that LGBT people were made to suffer many injustices (right down to visiting privileges in hospitals) until after our -culture- started accepting gay people as equal citizens, just as worthy as anybody else …. and *then* we got gay marriage …… and (joke, joke, joke) Andrew Sullivan pulling up the ladder behind him, sigh.

29

Alex SL 12.28.19 at 1:49 am

Stephen,

Maybe then I misunderstand what this is about. I understood the original post to be about scenarios like this:

“Society X was dominated by blue-skinned Pastafarians. Over time immigration turned the society multicultural, and the Pastafarian church lost many of the young, resulting in an increasingly diverse and secular society. Laws and constitution were changed to reflect that, removing the official and institutional discrimination against orange-skinned people and against the minority Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Political backlash occurs; white protestants form a radicalised political movement, recapture the state for several electoral cycles by gerrymandering, political appointments to the judiciary, etc., and oppress the heck out of minorities. But sixteen years later they finally lose power for good, and now being blue-skinned and/or Pastafarian is a liability, as they have completely discredited themselves.”

First, a genocidal civil war is a totally different situation than the one I thought this was about. Second, in any of the situations that I saw this post being about I do not see the discrediting having happened. France, for example, is now secular, and the former power of the Catholic church has been broken; but unless I completely misinterpret the political situation in France, today’s Catholics are not an ostracised, despised minority.

30

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 1:52 am

John,

One thing that I don’t think is so obvious to a lot of people, is why people from certain minorities make such a fuss about their ethnic/religious identities. And I think the answer is actually pretty simple. First, nobody wants their children to grow up handicapped in life. And this includes immigrants. So of course they want their children to be completely conversant in (e.g.) American culture, and even in those cases where they do not (I know of such) the children want it anyway. So why do these children (who often are extremely immersed in American culture) reach for ethnic identities? I think it’s a reaction to the racism they see every day. Every day they’re taught that they’re not the normal American, that they’re different and by implication less worthy. And so, they reach for attributes from their ancestral ethnicity, as something they can be proud of — to push back against the racism they receive every day.

I’ve never met a young immigrant who didn’t want to be a full-fledged American, right down to the house in the burbs, the car, married with kids to a nice school, etc, etc.

To those who decry “identity politics” I would say this: treat people of these groups as fully American, as fully American as yourselves, and you’ll see identity politics disappear.

31

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 2:28 am

Stephen @ 16:

(1) Your example of the Rwandan genocide in fact has roots in colonialism.

(2) the French and Russian revolutions were revolutions overturning the prior regime, and not about any sort of “identity groups” in any real sense — unless you’re going to argue that “the rich” is an identity group, as is “the poor”, in which case, uh, you’ll have reduced the term to meaninglessness.

32

c u n d gulag 12.28.19 at 2:55 am

Unless I’m badly mistaken, what’s described was once called, “Noblesse oblige.”

But that, too, has changed in the last 30+ years.
And not for the better…

33

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 3:01 am

likbez @ 19:

To be sure, race, gender, culture, and other aspects of social life have always been important to politics. But neoliberalism’s radical individualism has increasingly raised two interlocking problems. First, when taken to an extreme, social fracturing into identity groups can be used to divide people and prevent the creation of a shared civic identity.

You quote from this guy, and others have written the same thing (e.g. Mark [spit] Lilla). Their argument, simply put, is that “identity politics” is a fracturing of society into smaller groups who don’t/won’t unite.

BUT. THEY. AND. YOU. ARE. WRONG.

At least in the United States (thankfully) “identity politics” unites us all in our opposition to white supremacy.

And here’s the thing: White Supremacists were doing this “divide-and-conquer” routine decades ago: pitting Hispanic Americans against black Americans, black Americans against LGBTQ Americans, etc, etc, etc.

This is what you’re really afraid of, isn’t it? That all these oppressed groups will come together and then you won’t be able to play your old tricks on them. Yeah, if I were you, I’d be afraid, too.

34

John Quiggin 12.28.19 at 3:07 am

@Alex SL Although Catholic identity politics was present on the French right before 1945 (the anti-Dreyfusards and Action Francaise for example), it was totally discredited by its association with the Vichy regime. The countervailing force of anticlericalism, which used to be a big deal in France, ceased to have much of a rationale after that. But in an alternative history where someone like Petain held on to power for a long time, the outcome might have been different.

The Marian persecution in England, a failed attempt at restoring dominance, fed into anti-Catholic attitudes well into the 19th century and even beyond.

35

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 3:11 am

Alex SL @ 29:

But sixteen years later they finally lose power for good, and now being blue-skinned and/or Pastafarian is a liability, as they have completely discredited themselves.

It’s actually even more anodyne. Being blue-skinned and/or a Pastafarian is not a liability — it merely doesn’t confer any advantages *whatsoever*. B/c, as you noted, they’ve completely discredited themselves. And throughout it all, the blue-skinned have remained the majority demographically. Even at that future date when they aren’t the majority, they’ll remain the plurality. And this, *this* is their “apocalypse.”

A (white) friend of a relative of mine (in Texas) once noted that the reason white people fight so hard against all this ‘equality’ is that they know how badly they’ve treated black people (and other people of color) and they’re quite certain they’ll get that back. What those white people don’t understand, is that (for example in the US) black people are firm believers in the rule of law, in our democracy, in the arc of justice. And in not being the kind of scum that so many Deplorables seem to be.

There won’t be a bloodbath on that day when white people are no longer a majority, for the same reason that there isn’t one in California *today*: nobody wants to do that sort of thing — they’re all too busy being Americans.

36

notGoodenough 12.28.19 at 4:48 am

With apologies to William S Berry, and any others who are also irritated, but this statement provokes a response.

likbez @ 18

Why we do not allow teens to drink alcohol, but we allow them to make decisions about their own sexual identity?

Factually incorrect statement. In the UK and France, we allow teenagers to drink without adult permission (age 18). It might behove you to consider that US standards are not universal. You could then further ruminate on how such considerations are a general rule of thumb applied by society, and also that they can change over time. It might then occur to you that making reasoned and evidenced based arguments is the best way to determine how society should make these rules. You might even extend this thought to considering making some such arguments of your own.

[but, you know, well done on picking one specific thing which is held at a threshold higher than their age].

It is also worth noting that EJK appears to be eligible for a driving license. To reverse your argument, if you trust EJK to pilot a large object at fast speeds where they could kill and injure multiple people, why not trust them to make decisions regarding their gender?

It is also noteworthy that you are demanding that EJK should have to submit their personal medical decisions to their abusive parent. Is it really necessary to point out why this is reprehensible? Why do you feel that someone EJK ran away from, has said was abusive to them, and has not lived with them for years should have a priority regarding EJK’s medical decisions?

Interestingly, a side note of your argument is that EJK should be prevented from making any decisions about their medical care and lacks the necessary maturity to make those decisions. Given that you are demanding that the right to self determination regarding medical choices should be taken away from someone who has demonstrated they have given considerable thought to this matter, justify that.

By which I mean, justify why EJK should be prevented from making this decision. And please have the courtesy not to insult my intelligence to just point to other things people are not permitted to do at that age (in the US, at least), but actually make an argument as to why EJK should not be allowed to make a decision regarding this specific choice. With evidence, and sound logical arguments.

Finally, you still have not answered my original questions:

How is this “transgender extremism”, and why does this sow the seeds for the destruction of tolerance?

37

Aubergine 12.28.19 at 5:23 am

JQ:

In its most general form, identity politics involves (i) a claim that a particular group is not being treated fairly and (ii) a claim that members of that group should place political priority on the demand for fairer treatment.”

To understand critiques of idpol from the left, we need to add a few limbs to this definition:

(iii) a claim that anyone, member of the group or otherwise, who doesn’t place political priority on the demand is an enemy, and should be excluded from the movement (whatever the movement is, and whether or not they have their own problems to deal with);

(iv) a claim to absolute epistemic privilege with respect to all matters concerning the group, such that nobody outside the group can legitimately represent it (or maybe even speak about it).

These claims leave open the possibility of groups working together against a common enemy (the dominant ethnic group, minority ethnic groups, the rich, the poor, feminists etc.) but make it very difficult for them to work together to achieve anything positive that might require compromise between competing interests.

This is really the basis of the leftist critique of idpol; identity-based groups that lack (iii) and (iv) don’t tend to be criticised from the left so much.

38

Peter T 12.28.19 at 5:50 am

Having/continually constructing/renewing identities is an inescapable part of being human. The issue is: what is to constitute the most salient identity? What bundle of markers are to make up being “American” or “British” or “European”? These things are always contested, but the pace of change is usually slow. We live in a time when the question is unusually prominent, so more heavily contested. If, as Chetan says, lots of groups just want to be “American”, then by that want they change “American-ness”. If they can’t agree on some new definition, then the US fractures.

I’m finding it hard to think of examples where the formerly norm-giving group becomes derided or humiliated. Usually their former identity remains, but loses salience – becomes a subordinate marker and nobody cares much.

39

bad Jim 12.28.19 at 5:51 am

“All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)

40

MisterMr 12.28.19 at 7:15 am

Likbez @19 cites a guy with whom I totally disagree, and then gives an economic explanation with which I also disagree.
Likbez, if you think the various sovereignist movements like the Lega in Italy are pro worker and anti inequality you’re drinking something strong.
But going back to identity politics, there is a big and obvious difference electorally between :

A) minority identity politics

And

B) silent majority politics.

From an electoral standpoint, minority identity politics is not really a vote winner : for example, being pro the right of Muslim immigrants in Italy cannot be a vote winner, because they largely can’t vote (as many are still first generation) and even if they could vote they are less than 5% of the population. The same goes for transgender rights : what percentage of the population is transgender? Obviously there are not many votes to be gained there.

On the other hand, silent majority identity politics rocks because you can cater to the biggest block of voters by speaking of family values, motherhood, apple pie and often the cross.

So while we often hear the accusation that identity politics is a creation of the left, in reality what happened is the opposite :

1) the left has a self image of being pro equality and pro social justice (which matters because this is how it justifies snatching money from the rich)

2) various minority groups jump on the let’s bandwagon, correctly claiming that they too are subject to injustice, so if the left cares for social justice it should care for them too

3) people on the right then use silent majority identity politics against the left.

Honestly the idea that the left use identity politics as a primary vote winner is stupid, because the left is mostly into minority identity politics. It is generally the right that use identity politics as a vote winner, but to do so it has to blame the left first.

To put it in other words, there is a graph going around that splits people on two axes: economic left-right and cultural left-right.
In the four quadrants, both left-left and right-right have many people inside, but left cultural – right economic has almost no one inside, while right cultural – left economic is chock-full.

So from the point of view of the right it is better to fight elections on cultural values, where they win, while for the left fighting the elections on economic grounds would be better.

But right lining cultural values are by definition the same of silent majority identity politics.

41

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 7:33 am

Peter T @ 38:

What bundle of markers are to make up being “American” or “British” or “European”? These things are always contested, but the pace of change is usually slow. We live in a time when the question is unusually prominent, so more heavily contested. If, as Chetan says, lots of groups just want to be “American”, then by that want they change “American-ness”. If they can’t agree on some new definition, then the US fractures.

Well, I also argued that many immigrants, and certainly their children, want to be American in *precisely* the same way as native (white) Americans are. And this is also true of black Americans. A friend said to me 25 years ago, that “the American dream is the most corrosive social force ever known.” By which he meant that the desire to be like other Americans was so strong, that no amount of “back in the old country we did it thus” can withstand it. And he was right. If not for the pervasive and pernicious forces of racism in American culture, we’d all be “white on the inside, {black,brown,yellow,whatever} on the outside.” And the same is true for gay people. Here in San Francisco at the corner of Castro and Market, on good days there’ll be some guys out there fully nekkid. Our district supervisor got an ordinance passed to ban the practice. And several gay residents of the neighborhood, including a well-known gay-rights crusader from back in the day, were quoted talking about property values, and “how do we explain these guys to our children” as an argument for the ordinance.

And all of this goes a thousand times for the way that black Americans are treated. Black Americans are *precisely* as American as white Americans: they worship the same God, listen to the same music, eat the same food, like the same fashions, and on and on and on. And yet, because they have a different skin color, they’re foreign, alien, not-American.

More than anything else, this is what convinces me that a great part of American racism is literally skin-deep. They don’t actually care about the -person- — only about what that person looks like.

To come back to your quote: yes, if we can’t agree that what makes us American is what’s -inside-, not what’s on the outside, then YES, America will fracture.

42

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 7:38 am

Aubergine @ 37:

I think that one of the rebuttals from identity groups (including from women’s rights groups) is that we can look at the history of class-based movements, and they never get around to addressing the injustices and oppression suffered by these minority groups. From the New Deal and the way it failed (on purpose) to extend its benefits to black Americans, to the GI Bill (ditto), to the way that the counterculture was pretty misogynist, and on and on. It required that women and minorities (and gay people) speak up for themselves, demand their rights, before things started changing.

I mean, it’s a fine thing to say “don’t worry, come the revolution, you also will be taken care of” but after a times around that particular playing-board, and things not getting better, people realize it’s a mug’s game.

43

nastywoman 12.28.19 at 7:57 am

@30
”One thing that I don’t think is so obvious to a lot of people, is why people from certain minorities make such a fuss about their ethnic/religious identities. And I think the answer is actually pretty simple. First, nobody wants their children to grow up handicapped in life. And this includes immigrants. So of course they want their children to be completely conversant in (e.g.) American culture, and even in those cases where they do not (I know of such) the children want it anyway. So why do these children (who often are extremely immersed in American culture) reach for ethnic identities? I think it’s a reaction to the racism they see every day”. Every day they’re taught that they’re not the normal American, that they’re different and by implication less worthy. And so, they reach for attributes from their ancestral ethnicity, as something they can be proud of — to push back against the racism they receive every day…”

Yes – as traveling a lot with ”(mixed) minorities” who can’t be ”identified” that easily anymore – and always get asked:
”What – or who are you – woman or man? black or white – or perhaps – even ”asian”?

The only solution is – to completely ”mix” it up – with no possibility anymore to say that – for example – likbez – is the –
”tough guy –
chest always so puffed guy”
(in the green shirt at TC 1:01)
of –

https://youtu.be/DyDfgMOUjCI

44

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 8:07 am

Peter T @ 38:

There’s something I left out in my reply. I discussed the children of immigrants. But the immigrants themselves can be old enough, that it’s near-impossible for them to assimilate American culture. So they’ll always speak and dress and maybe even think in a foreign way. But this has been the case for well over a century: in our history classes we learn about German immigrants who lived in German-speaking communities with German newspapers, etc, etc. To literally judge that some ethnic group is un-American, when other acceptable ethnic groups whose first generation also act/speak/dress/live in foreign ways, and when children of all these ethnic groups are, well, fully American in their thoughts and habits, is pretty racist. And again, given the ways in which the groups selected for such treatment seem to be chosen, it sure seems that it’s based on a skin-deep sort of racism.

45

likbez 12.28.19 at 9:17 am

Peter T 12.28.19 at 5:50 am @38

I’m finding it hard to think of examples where the formerly norm-giving group becomes derided or humiliated.

You can probably try to look at the situation in (now independent) republics of the former USSR. Simplifying previously oppressed group, given a lucky chance, most often strive for dominance and oppression of other groups including and especially former dominant group. This is an eternal damnation of ethno/cultural nationalism.

And not only it (look at Mutual Help and The State in Shantytowns.) In them ethnic comminutes often own protection markets, offer services that hire people and replace the state, pay off gang leaders. they also provide some community support for particular ethnic group, enforce the rules of trade within themselves, etc. In GB the abuse of children by ethnic gangs was sickening ( https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/sep/30/abuse-children-asian-communities )

In many cases of ethnic/cultural nationalism this looks more like a competition for resources with the smoke screen of noble intentions/human rights/past oppression/ humiliations/etc

Or you can look at the language policy in the USA and the actual situation in some areas/institutions of Florida and California and how English speakers feel in those areas/institutions. Or in some areas of Quebec in Canada.

That actually suggests another meaning of famous Randolph Bourne quote ” War is the health of the state ” (said in the midst of the First World War.) It bring the unity unachievable in peace time or by any other methods, albeit temporarily (from Ch 14. Howard Zinn book A People’s History of the United States ):

…the governments flourished, patriotism bloomed, class struggle was stilled, and young men died in frightful numbers on the battlefields-often for a hundred yards of land, a line of trenches.

In the United States, not yet in the war, there was worry about the health of the state. Socialism was growing. The IWW seemed to be everywhere. Class conflict was intense. In the summer of 1916, during a Preparedness Day parade in San Francisco, a bomb exploded, killing nine people; two local radicals, Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, were arrested and would spend twenty years in prison. Shortly after that Senator James Wadsworth of New York suggested compulsory military training for all males to avert the danger that “these people of ours shall be divided into classes.” Rather: “We must let our young men know that they owe some responsibility to this country.”

The supreme fulfillment of that responsibility was taking place in Europe. Ten million were to die on the battlefield; 20 million were to die of hunger and disease related to the war. And no one since that day has been able to show that the war brought any gain for humanity that would be worth one human life. The rhetoric of the socialists, that it was an “imperialist war,” now seems moderate and hardly arguable. The advanced capitalist countries of Europe were fighting over boundaries, colonies, spheres of influence; they were competing for Alsace-Lorraine, the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East.

Neo-McCarthyism now serves a somewhat similar purpose in the USA. Among other thing (like absolving Hillary from her fiasco to “deux ex machine” trick instead of real reason — the crisis and rejection of neoliberalism by the sizable strata of the USA population) it is an attempt to unify the nation after 2016.

46

bad Jim 12.28.19 at 10:26 am

The destiny of a formerly dominant group is typically irrelevance, or at worst gentle derision; hostility is only provoked by its attempts to retain power. Anglicans, Catholics, Mormons and even evangelicals are mostly mocked, sometimes affectionately, by those who escaped their clutches. The efforts of the various magisteria to retain or regain their power are met with much the same hostility as any other sort of contention.

The sort of religious liberty sought by the Puritan founders of Massachusetts is exactly the sort sought by evangelicals today, a community bound by a common belief with the power to exclude dissidents and punish misbehavior, however defined. It was not then, and is not now, a particularly stable model for a polity. People are too various.

After the Revolution, all but one of Boston’s churches became unitarian: not only do we not have a king, we also don’t believe Jesus is God. See also Milton, also unitarian, who like Mark Twain equated innocence with ignorance, worked for Cromwell: chopping off the king’s head is good fun. Cause and effect are difficult to tease apart. Revolution and regicide and apostasy tend to coincide.

The revolution was, lamentably, followed by the second great awakening, a general resurgence of religiosity, which has hardly diminished since. Hope abides, as does despair.

47

Aubergine 12.28.19 at 11:38 am

Chetan Murphy @ 42:

I think that one of the rebuttals from identity groups (including from women’s rights groups) is that we can look at the history of class-based movements, and they never get around to addressing the injustices and oppression suffered by these minority groups.

I mean, it’s a fine thing to say “don’t worry, come the revolution, you also will be taken care of” but after a times around that particular playing-board, and things not getting better, people realize it’s a mug’s game.

This is definitely fair. The problem is that the kind of uncompromising and divisive idpol that I was talking about @ 37 doesn’t seem to be working either, for anyone. Maybe there is no solution.

48

nastywoman 12.28.19 at 12:31 pm

and then the ”tough guy – chest always so puffed guy – in the green shirt at TC 1:01 – quotes (from Ch 14. Howard Zinn book A People’s History of the United States ) –
and adds:
”Neo-McCarthyism now serves a somewhat similar purpose in the USA. Among other thing (like absolving Hillary from her fiasco to “deux ex machine” trick instead of real reason — the crisis and rejection of neoliberalism by the sizable strata of the USA population) it is an attempt to unify the nation after 2016”.

”Neo-McCarthyism”?
A ”term” which (supposedly?) was ”coined by Mike Newhouse in the classic movie Dazed and Confused” –
and which ”dazed and confused Clownstick Fans” used –
”in deep anger and dismay about liberals and even progressive Democrats and their media” – about impeaching the Corrupt and Criminal Trump”?

Seriously? –
”tough guy – chest always so puffed guy”?!

49

nastywoman 12.28.19 at 12:38 pm

Or was:

”Transgender extremism suggests that tolerance contains within itself the seeds of its destruction”.

a ”cold opening line” from ”SNL”?

(but by whom? – as words like ”tolerance” and ”seeds” couldn’t have been uttered by Mr. Baldwin impersonating ”the Don”?)

50

oldster 12.28.19 at 3:59 pm

Just poking my head in to say that I always like hearing from Chetan Murthy.

I tend to agree with you on the substantive issues, and always like the clarity of your exposition.

51

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 4:41 pm

nastywoman @ 43:

The only solution is – to completely ”mix” it up – with no possibility anymore to say that

Heh, we have a word for that: “Californian.” I see groups of young Californians, and they’re almost always mixed-race. I remember taking Lyft a bunch of times to a short-term job I had, and talking with the drivers about their lives and backgrounds. “Miscegenators R Us!”

I must say, likbez’s last comment is just brilliant! He can’t stop putting his foot in it, can he? He equates minority ethnic groups with gangs of pedophiles, moves on to equating them with drug gangs in shantytowns, and awaaay we go! It’s as if he hasn’t heard of … *California*! Minority-majority and nobody seems to mind (except the Nazis who can’t seem to get any traction in the voting booth).

52

bianca steele 12.28.19 at 4:55 pm

I was just thinking about this this morning. I picked up a dead tree Atlantic Monthly to read offline and given their new paywall policy. There is a piece by Danielle Allen and one by Lin Manuel-Miranda. There is a piece by David Frum and one by Jonathan Rauch. There’s a profile of a group that brings the two halves of America together. It’s illustrated by a collage of over-40 white people. There’s a piece that notes in passing that the interviewee feels New York is parochial because it’s segmented, while in Iowa rich and poor talk to one another. He doesn’t talk about whether he also socializes with the Native inhabitants, refugees, Jews, gay people, or African Americans who live in his Iowa small town. It occurred to me he would feel the way the OP describes the “default” community does. Iowa is “not parochial” because it allows everybody to assimilate to the same community. (This presumably also allows poor people to be aware, as is “objectively” the case, that they are poor, rather than allowing them “parochially” to view themselves on their own terms.) It occurred to me that all of the writers for the magazine who made a show of adhering to “elite” and even “academic” culture took it for granted that white middle American culture is the default for everyone. Still. After decades of multiculturalism and two or three times as many decades of immigration and expansion of what a “default” American looks like. In a journal founded on abolition.

Anyone who’s spent time in some quarters of the Internet is probably not shocked by this. It still shocks me. I wonder how long it will be before the Atlantic addresses this parochialism.

53

Orange Watch 12.28.19 at 5:08 pm

CM@42:

we can look at the history of class-based movements, and they never get around to addressing the injustices and oppression suffered by these minority groups.

Several questions present themselves from this: first, how good of a job do identity-based movements do at addressing injustices and oppression based on class? Is every movement supposed to solve all problems, and are we to assume we can only solve one problem at once? The above quote sounds like it implicitly denies the idea that class-based injustices and oppression is even possible, or at a minimum it is not worthy of our collective attention. It’s quite understandable why a putative leftist would be unwilling to explicitly articulate that.

Second, how comparatively successful were contemporaneous identity-based movements at the time in terms of addressing injustices suffered by members of minority groups – to include members of minority groups whose intersectional identities included the identities “poor” and/or “poorly educated”? There is a certain “perfect is the enemy of the good” implied by your stance – is improving the lives of many members of minority groups unworthy simply because it does not simultaneously improve the lives of the most privileged among them?

Third, were there successful or at least impactful identity-based movements during the window you’ve graciously defined for economic-oriented justice movements to solve all of society’s problems? And perhaps more to the point, did these movements succeed in their aims, or were they partial measures forced on an uncooperative hierarchy and hobbled and subverted as soon as was feasible? In addition to defining single movements as needing to solve all ills, you seem hellbent on pitting economic justice against essentialist identity politics in a binary zero-sum game. It is entirely possible to work towards multiple ends simultaneously, yet you seem unwilling to consider that – tellingly, you damn class-based movement politics for failing to solve identity-based injustice, but seem to have no problem with the idea of identity-based movements failing to address class-based injustices. Indeed, your framing of identity-based movements as including a strong desire to impart socio-economic privileges on the members’ children is even more telling. As is your statement that identity politics can’t include class (intersectionality would like to have a word with you!) and that identity politics’ work will be done as just as soon as essentialist identity injustices are no more (but until then, economic reforms need to be de-prioritized, and this is totally different than the “come the revolution” rhetoric you ridiculed?)

54

bianca steele 12.28.19 at 5:28 pm

It occurs to me also, reading over my comment and the others, that the biggest divide is still between people who feel their feelings reflect reality, even when evidence strongly suggests otherwise, and give them license to tell others how it is, and those who assume the opposite, unless evidence strongly suggests otherwise: roughly, between masculine and feminine.

55

Orange Watch 12.28.19 at 5:44 pm

Members of the formerly dominant group may be willing to extend acceptance to others, but they still expect a kind of deference in return.
[…]
When that expectation of deference is not fulfilled, the choices are to accept the new situation, or to support what might be called default identity politics.

There is at least one more option – carve out exceptions. A recurrent trend in identity politics – both the modern essentialist variety and the older class identity politics – is for some members of the dominant group to extract or reclaim their threatened deference not in identitarian terms, but personally – namely, by positioning themselves is-à-vis the identity-based movement as an ally or even leader and then expecting their persons, ideas, and opinions be treated with deference or allowed dominance as architects or commissars of the new flattened or inverted hierarchy. Communist intellectual vanguards are the most glaringly obvious example of this, but it’s certainly also present in modern Western essentialist identity politics, particularly within academia.

56

Stephen 12.28.19 at 7:18 pm

notGoodenough@24:

Good questions. I’m not sure there is a necessity for a default identity and dominant groups; I merely observe that in most if not all stable, long-lived societies there has been such. If you can think of exceptions, they would be very interesting.

As for the default identity including sexuality: I’m not sure it’s necessary, just that it mostly goes that way. I have trouble in imagining a society in which the default identity does not exclude bestiality or trandgenderism (not that I’m equating the two).

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Stephen 12.28.19 at 7:41 pm

Chetan Murthy@27

Oh dear, you are a very angry person. Cool down and think, please.

When I wrote “in Japan, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Scotland people of those groups overwhelmingly expect that to be the default identity for their communities”, you are going far beyond the bounds of logic to conclude that I mean ‘white cis-het people of traditionally German ancestry are the only true Germans.” I see no difficulty in someone believing both that being German is the default identity for that community – you know, something that one would believe to be normal, but not invariably so – and that people who do not meet the default identity may still qualify as Germans. And I have known a few homosexual Germans – there have been many in German history – who nobody would doubt qualify as true Germans.

I quite agree that the situation of black Americans has been and is deplorable. I don’t think you can generalise from America to other countries.

Lastly, it would help if you could learn to distinguish between “some” and “all”. You say, indignantly, that the majority of Muslim-Americans are well assimilated, which I do hope is true. But that does not at all mean that I am wrong in denying that “no members of minority groups have ever felt hostility and derision against the majority.” Some Muslim-Americans do, surely, even if most don’t.

Yours in the cause of genuine, reciprocal tolerance.

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Fake Dave 12.29.19 at 3:11 am

Just chiming in to say that I don’t think this process of “circling the wagons” along ethnoreligious lines ever “just happens” in the sense of being a passive or reactive force. I don’t believe it really has much to do with grievance or backlash, either. Those are just modern pretexts for an ancient yet ongoing injustice.

Colonialism, slavery, and genocide by European empires wasn’t justified by some imaginary grievance against West Africans, Indians, etc. Colombus’s letters don’t say a thing about gender pronouns or affirmative action. No one ever contended that the Arowak were the real racists. Yet he and his successors were eloquent speakers of the language of greed, opportunism, and lust for power.

The brutalization of most of the planet by Europeans may well reflect the brutality of Medieval and Early Modern European societies toward their own subjects, but the “other” has rarely been seen as more than a convenient scapegoat. The rage at “uppity” minorities came after they were subjugated and reflects the internalization of the colonial hierarchy as “proper” or “normal.”

To me, the fact that different European (and adjacent) societies from different eras and with different cultures and values erected very similar colonial hierarchies and perpetrated similar crimes means that the particular circumstantial grievances that supplosedly prompted particular incidents (pogroms, lynchings, massacres, etc) are almost irrelevant to the structure of oppression.L

These acts of violence were too disproportionate to be retribution and their victims were too weak to justify preemption. I think that in every case where we are being honest with ourselves, we will find a faction within the elite that had no illusion that such oppression was just or necessary for self-preservation. We are used to discussing bigotry through the language of hate or fear (xenophobia, homophobia, etc.), but Columbus didn’t hate the Arowak and he certainly didn’t seem to fear them. He was just a predator who saw other human beings as his natural prey.

I don’t think we can talk about bigotry or oppression without talking about predation and the drive to possess others as objects. There is a generationally reproduced ideology of dominance that has existed openly and continuously on the political right wing and is especially obvious when we delve into the reactionary imagination (ie: the Turner Diaries or Ayn Rand’s rape fantasies). The key element is not the fear of a victim, but rather the glee of a bully who has found a way to justify endless cruelty.

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Collin Street 12.29.19 at 3:17 am

Lastly, it would help if you could learn to distinguish between “some” and “all”.

In mathematics, the difference between zero and one matters hugely, because numbers are predictable and consistent.

In social studies this is not true. People vary, and they vary enough that the difference between one and zero ceases to have any import.

In mathematics you — we! — use the word “some” in the way you describe. In social studies, actually-zero vs actually-non-zero is rarely if ever a useful distinction, so we’ve repurposed the word “some” to reflect the distinctions we do actually find useful, between low-frequency and vanishingly-low-frequency events.

[the same thing applies to the way they write dictionary definitions, btw: they might be written all absolutely, but the actual way you’re supposed to read them includes this sort of variation. Simpler to put limits to the vagueness in the preface once rather than reiterate it in each definition, no?]

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likbez 12.29.19 at 4:22 am

Communist intellectual vanguards are the most glaringly obvious example of this, but it’s certainly also present in modern Western essentialist identity politics, particularly within academia.

With this quote I think we reached the point in this discussion when it might be appropriate to discuss the appropriate scope of repression for deviant minority groups when their demands conflict with the larger society or more powerful groups ethics and cultural norms. The usual “woke” argumentation is very weak in issues outlined below and opposite arguments have a real weight:

I would repression of the minority groups start with pedophiles and financial oligarchy especially vulture funds leadership such as Romney, Paul Singer, etc. But this is just me.

IMHO insatiable “demanding” and proselyting of transgender identity already brought us very close to a strong corporate and community backlash against transgender rights and by extension LGBT rights as a whole.

Of course transgender folk is just minor, expendable pawn in a bigger game of Dem Party identity politics, but still.

The backlash is already reflected in recent attempts by the Trump administration to reduce protections for transgender people under federal civil rights laws and prohibition of transgender individuals in military.

Many Christian parents now prohibit their children to join Scouts of America and their fears and not unfounded ( https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/04/24/boy-scouts-face-hundreds-new-sexual-abuse-claims/3547991002/ )

Bathrooms craziness also face a very strong community and corporate backlash. It essentially compromised the whole LGBT movement, which now is viewed more skeptically.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/a-look-at-the-cultural-backlash-to-the-transgender-movement.html

“We were able to successfully communicate the onerous threat the ordinance presented to the privacy and safety of women and children in public facilities such as restrooms, showers, locker rooms and changing rooms, as well as the threat to the freedom of religion and speech in punishing individuals, business owners and employees who declined to provide service for same sex ‘weddings’ or allow biological males into women’s private facilities,” said Welch.

See also https://www.christianpost.com/news/a-look-at-the-cultural-backlash-to-the-transgender-movement.html

President Barack Obama’s directive for public schools demanding that they interpret Title IX’s measure against sex discrimination to include gender identity met several defeats after its issuing.

The move was unpopular, with a May 2016 Rasmussen poll finding 51 percent of parents opposed to it, 33 percent in favor, and 16 percent undecided.

Within a week of the directive being released, over 82,000 people signed a Family Research Council petition denouncing the guidance.

“The Obama administration’s overreach in bullying parents and local school districts by threatening loss of federal dollars if they do not follow its guidance in allowing students to use facilities such as restrooms, showers, and locker rooms of the opposite biological sex is both unlawful and dangerous to our children,” stated the petition in part.

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 4:26 am

Stephen @ 57:
Let’s quote your original comment:

[quoting the OP] “Members of the formerly dominant group may be willing to extend acceptance to others, but …they expect to be treated as the default identity for the community as a whole.” [now your words] Well yes, heterosexuals expect to be the default identity. In Japan, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Scotland people of those groups overwhelmingly expect that to be the default identity for their communities.

Yep, yep, I agree, you’re not, not, not saying that people of Turkish descent in Germany aren’t just as German as ancestrally-German people in Germany. Yeap, I agree with you completely. And for sure, you’re 100% on the side of LGBT folk getting treated just like hetero folks.

Gosh, I stand corrected.

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 4:29 am

Stephen @ 56:

I have trouble in imagining a society in which the default identity does not exclude bestiality or trandgenderism (not that I’m equating the two).

Clearly you don’t live in San Francisco (or maybe Los Angeles). I grew up in lily-white small-town Texas, and for sure back then I was a homophobe. I pretended I was enlightened, but deep down inside, I was mosdef a homophobe. But eventually I learned that gay people were just like me, only different sexual desires, and so what, didn’t affect me any. And then I met and interacted with, worked with, transgender people, and yanno, I don’t see what the big fuss is.

Maybe you need to get out more.

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 5:24 am

Orange Watch @ 53:
TL;DR: And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

I wrote a(n even) long(er) point-by-point answer to your questions. But then at the end, I realized that in fact, there is a simple and single answer. Your questions all presuppose that the economic harm, the class-based harm, is more important than the other harms that people in these identity groups suffer. Also that it’s fair to judge these identity groups by how much progress they make towards resolving the “class-economics-oppression problem.” And I think this is both unfair and a double-standard. At every level of society, in every class, men oppressed women. It isn’t like there was some enlightened part of the proletariat, where women were equals. And the same is true for gay rights. The situation for our black American fellow citizens was just as awful, and it remains so, even in so-called enlightened places like Califnrnia. [then again, the same can be said for women’s conditions of labor and life.] In all these cases, it’s not just economic oppression, but also physical oppression in daily life. And again: in none of these instances, did any part of the proletariat stand up and act to relieve this oppression, until these groups stood up for themselves (and had to endure violence, again often at the hands of that same proletariat) and demanded their rights.

Remember what Margaret Atwood wrote: “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will kill them.” Until the gay rights movement really started going (and even today in many places) gay men fear for their physical safety: I grew up in such a place. And black people have had to take that into account everywhere. These are not inconsiderable.

Look: I’m a cis-het highly-educated male in a very technical profession. Outside of my time growing up in a racist hellhole Weatherford, TX, I’ve never experienced even one *iota* of the kind of discrimination and threat that my female, gay, and black fellow citizens have experienced.

But I have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel. And it is manifestly evident that unless these people (and others) speak up, demand their equal rights, and refuse to settle for less, they’re not going to get them.

And that’s true even when they’re demanding them of some proletarian class-based movement to take power back from the wealthy.

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 6:00 am

Orange Watch @ 53:

It is entirely possible to work towards multiple ends simultaneously, yet you seem unwilling to consider that – tellingly, you damn class-based movement politics for failing to solve identity-based injustice, but seem to have no problem with the idea of identity-based movements failing to address class-based injustices.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but ….. the history is pretty clear: the class-based movements cane first, and they failed to make any progress toward (or even care about) the rights of these oppressed groups. Then these groups got busy, loud, angry, and got (some) results. This chronology is pretty clear. Also, many of these movements explicitly recognize the importance of intersectionality — why else would you see feminists and gay rights groups so heavily involved in immigrant rights?

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faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 6:42 am

Yeoman’s work being done, as always, by Chetan Murphy here. Ganbatte, Chetan!

“Identity politics” is a bullshit concept made up to attack civil rights and to divide the left. We should be ignoring it, lest we fall for the kind of junk that we see on this thread[1].

As an example of how this division works, let us consider this pithy piece of junk from Nicholas at 21:

Identity politics reifies categories that are abstract

No, what “reifies categories that are abstract” is the police or other armed agents of the state hunting down black people on the streets and murdering them; or stealing their babies and raising them in orphanages to be forced into domestic servitude. What “reifies categories that are abstract” is white cishet men hunting gay men on the streets of Sydney, and beating them up because of who they choose to love. That is some reification right there.

What happens then is that the victims of those actions fight back, and to fight back they first gather around the flag that the white ruling cishet men stuck in the ground – the flag of their identity, that they didn’t care about reifying until white cishet men started murdering them.

Once you understand who is “reifying” what “abstract” categories then you can dispense with arguing about identity politics, and pay attention to building a world where everyone lives equally, regardless of their identity. But if you’re a white cishet male leftist, that means sharing a bit of your political and personal privilege with people who aren’t like you. Don’t be surprised when those people organize around the categories you assigned them to demand the rights that you are denying them because of their identity. And don’t be so shallow as to think their political projet is the problem!

fn1: Likbez is an out-and-out fascist, and yet John Quiggin’s posts have basically become his personal playground. How is this cool?

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bad Jim 12.29.19 at 6:56 am

On Christmas day the family gathered at its ancestral residence on the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, my house. (It was also a dark and stormy night). My youngest grandnephew, nearly four, brought his biggest gift, a crane with supports extending to the sides, insisting that I watch while he set it up. He drove it all over the house.

My heart sank; my gift couldn’t measure up. But it did: “A trash truck!” Which he proceeded to drive all over the house. His father affirmed that he had three other trash trucks, but my gift had a specific feature the others lacked.

If you care to draw such distinctions, the kid and his 6mo sister are biracial. Father’s family came from the dangly western parts of Eurasia, mother’s from a dangly eastern part. Both are native Southern Californians who grew up running barefoot on the beach. I had to ask: how prehensile are your toes? She laughed, balancing the baby on her hip. That’s how she picks things up.

So: we Californians are always in search of the next new thing, another flavor, some food we’ve never tasted? Of course! We also have our comfort foods, mostly Mexican staples not universally available. Apparently DC restaurants still serve enchiladas with tomato sauce. I shouldn’t judge; perhaps that’s comfort food for some.

Standing athwart history, yelling Stop! is not only futile, it’s a deliberate disremembering. Undiscover America? Give up tomatos and potatos? Send everybody back to where they came from? When? Ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years ago?

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Seren Rose 12.29.19 at 7:20 am

There is a horror at finding myself – as a gender critical feminist – adjacent to arguments like Likbez’s @1 that I think puts the fear of God in me. So I feel compelled to write a comment, though I usually just observe the conversation here.

Likbez @1 is, I think, similar to those people who would pop up in conversations about gay rights in the 90’s and say, “What about this man, who had sex with 300 strangers in one week,” as an example of “gay rights extremism.” The difference I notice here is that there is no longer any concern, on the conservative or progressive side of the argument, with prurient interest. We glibly discuss the most private details of a child’s life and body, and it’s incumbent on everyone involved to either hash out the details while condemning, or hash out the details while celebrating.

I * do * think a child accessing sterilising medical and surgical treatments for the purposes of gender affirmation is extreme (and to me it’s no less extreme when that child has a supportive family around them). Another useful parallel might be the conversations we had about whether it was respectability politics to not include “bareback” subcultures in gay pride. But again, even there, we had a stable liberal position which could acknowledge the subculture / without / having to condemn or celebrate it.

I wonder if it isn’t the gay marriage debate that has evacuated that liberal posture. Well might a social conservative answer a question about the decriminalisation of sex between men by saying, “You can engage in x, y, or z sexual practice, but don’t expect me to like it,” and it’s not really remarkable – why would I expect or require a stranger to / like / the sex I have?! But when it’s said about marriage there is something mean about it – marriages, or at least weddings, are by definition the communal celebration of a sexual relationship.

Can we as a liberal society tolerate the miserliness of refusal to celebrate gay marriages? And if we can’t, what do we do with this blurring of public and private, this need to endorse and celebrate what is done by strangers (even the compulsion to have a clear formed opinion on all the private activities of strangers).

– I wonder if there isn’t a further connection with the anxieties of young people, a need for the approval of strangers.

***

“Instead of being accepted as one element of a diverse community, the formerly dominant group becomes the object of hostility and derision. The signs of that are certainly evident, particularly in relation to the culture wars around religion.”

I immediately thought John was talking about Catholics. For centuries, where Catholics have lived as a minority in predominantly Protestant and Anglican societies, they have been exposed to all the bigotry and mistreatment we associate with minority status. But this has had no effect on the institution of the Catholic church, or its hegemony in Catholic societies (and even Catholic communities in protestant / Anglican societies).
(On reflection, I’m not sure that’s what JQ is referring to at all).

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 9:38 am

Stephen @ 56

“Good questions. I’m not sure there is a necessity for a default identity and dominant groups; I merely observe that in most if not all stable, long-lived societies there has been such. If you can think of exceptions, they would be very interesting.”

As I’m not an expert in the area, I’m probably not a good person to ask. If we assume the observation is true, however, while it may be interesting I don’t see that it is particularly helpful.If the number of attempts were zero then that doesn’t really tell you anything about if it would work or not.

For example, from my understanding monarchies were the “default” organisational structure in Europe for a long period of history. One can imagine someone who lived during those eras saying – correctly – that most if not all stable, long-lived societies were monarchies. I hope you’d agree that that wouldn’t really tell us much about if Monarchies are the only, or indeed even best way of organising a society?

In short, I think that while your observation may be true (I’m afraid I lack the evidence to make any claims one way or another), I don’t think it really gets us any closer to understanding whether or not a default identity and/or dominant group are a) necessary, b) useful, and c) beneficial.

As for the default identity including sexuality: I’m not sure it’s necessary, just that it mostly goes that way.

Again, I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that the male/female binary is a) not necessarily biologically supported (from asking biologists) and b) may in fact not be the default identity (I believe there are examples outside of western culture, in the Philippines, Mexico, etc.). Of course, I am not an expert (I believe you’ve already said your not either?) so perhaps it would be better to ask someone who is rather than us speculating in ignorance?

I have trouble in imagining a society in which the default identity does not exclude bestiality or trandgenderism (not that I’m equating the two).

Out of interest, why did you include bestiality alongside being transgender? I don’t see that it is helpful or clarifying in any way – bestiality is about what you have sexual intercourse with (and implies a problematic lack of consent), while being transgender is (as the name helpfully implies!) about your personal gender identity (which is not about preferences regarding sexual intercourse, and does not have the problematic inherent consent issue), so these would seem to be very different categories.

[Moreover, and I mean this as a helpful future tip, perhaps if you want to avoid fully any doubts people might have about whether or not you are equating these two things, but you feel it is useful to include a form of sexual attraction, why not pick homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. instead?]

Perhaps I am a bit odd in this respect, but if you ask me to imagine a “default” English person, I don’t think I could. It may be a failure of my imagination, but I would think of the people I know who are English, and I don’t think there is enough commonality for me to make an assessment. I suspect (though I don’t have evidence) that if there is such a thing as a default identity, it is probably most similar to a stereotype. And, as far as I can tell, stereotypes are a) generally not excessively helpful to accuracy and b) vary from area to area and region to region.

Moreover, I would think that “dominant culture” is something that can change (as the OP implies). For example, homosexuality was illegal until fairly recently (if I recall correctly England and Wales: 1960s, Scotland and Ireland 1980s), but I think that now the number of people who would support recriminalizing it is pretty small. The dominant culture which was hostile to homosexuality is now – at the very least – indifferent, if not actively absorbing it. While I certainly wouldn’t suggest homophobia is a thing of the past, perhaps in future eras (assuming we don’t wipe ourselves out due to our incompetence at handling looming crises) people objecting to homosexuality will be thought of as odd and irrelevant – changing the dominant culture still further. Is it not possible, then, that such a thing could happen with transgender identities?

In short, with respect, I’m not sure what you (or I) can imagine is particularly relevant. Given that neither of us appear to have much expertise in this area, perhaps we should wait for others with better evidence and understanding to way in?

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 9:41 am

[Blast, apologies to the OP, but could you accept this instead of my previous post, I made a HTML tag error which makes it seem as though one of Stephen’s statements is actually mine.]

Stephen @ 56

“Good questions. I’m not sure there is a necessity for a default identity and dominant groups; I merely observe that in most if not all stable, long-lived societies there has been such. If you can think of exceptions, they would be very interesting.”

As I’m not an expert in the area, I’m probably not a good person to ask. If we assume the observation is true, however, while it may be interesting I don’t see that it is particularly helpful.If the number of attempts were zero then that doesn’t really tell you anything about if it would work or not.

For example, from my understanding monarchies were the “default” organisational structure for a long time – and one can imagine someone who lived during those eras saying – correctly – that most if not all stable, long-lived societies were monarchies. I hope you’d agree that that wouldn’t really tell us much about if it is the only, or indeed even best way of organising a society?

In short, I think that while your observation may or may not be true (I’m afraid I lack the evidence to make any claims one way or another), I don’t think it really gets us any closer to understanding whether or not a default identity and/or dominant group are a) necessary, b) useful, and c) beneficial.

As for the default identity including sexuality: I’m not sure it’s necessary, just that it mostly goes that way.

Again, I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that the male/female binary is a) not necessarily biologically supported (from asking biologists) and b) may in fact not be the default identity (I believe there are examples outside of western culture, in the Philippines, Mexico, etc.). Of course, I am not an expert (I believe you’ve already said your not either?) so perhaps it would be better to ask someone who is?

I have trouble in imagining a society in which the default identity does not exclude bestiality or trandgenderism (not that I’m equating the two).

Out of interest, why did you include bestiality alongside being transgender? I don’t see that it is helpful or clarifying in any way – bestiality is about what you have sexual intercourse with (and implies a problematic lack of consent), while being transgender is (as the name helpfully implies!) about your personal gender identity (which is not about preferences regarding sexual intercourse, and does not have the problematic consent issue), so these would seem to be very different categories.

[Moreover, as a helpful future tip, perhaps if you want to avoid fully any doubts people might have about whether or not you are equating these two things, but you feel it is useful to include a form of sexual attraction, why not pick homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. instead?]

Perhaps I am a bit odd in this respect, but if you ask me to imagine a “default” English person, I don’t think I could. It may be a failure of my imagination, but I would think of the people I know who are English, and I don’t think there is enough commonality for me to make an assessment. I suspect (though I don’t have evidence) that if there is such a thing as a default identity, it is probably most similar to a stereotype. And, as far as I can tell, stereotypes are a) generally not excessively helpful to accuracy and b) vary from area to area and region to region.

Moreover, I would think that “dominant culture” is something that can change (as the OP implies). For example, homosexuality was illegal until fairly recently (if I recall correctly England and Wales: 1960s, Scotland and Ireland 1980s), but I think that now the number of people who would support recriminalizing it is pretty small. The dominant culture which was hostile to homosexuality is now – at the very least – indifferent, if not actively absorbing it. While I certainly wouldn’t suggest homophobia is a thing of the past, perhaps in future eras (assuming we don’t wipe ourselves out due to our incompetence at handling looming crises) people objecting to homosexuality will be thought of as odd and irrelevant – changing the dominant culture still further. Is it not possible, then, that such a thing could happen with transgender identities?

In short, with respect, I’m not sure what you (or I) can imagine is particularly relevant.

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faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 11:18 am

Seren Rose, likbez is a straight-up christian fascist. If you find your politics overlapping with his in any way shape or form, it might be a good idea to assess whether the overlapping part is something you want to keep. Here’s a tip: if the overlapping part is based on excluding a minority from public spaces, there’s probably a reason it appeals to likbez.

Also as a gender critical feminist I’m guessing you are in favour of preventing trans women from using female-only spaces. I recommend you read this so that when natal women start being harassed and beaten up as a consequence of your policies, you can’t make the excuse that you weren’t warned.

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Aubergine 12.29.19 at 2:32 pm

Well, I wasn’t going to bring it up, but now we’re here…

Rightwing trolls or troll-like posters like likbez don’t focus on transgender activism by accident. It’s the ne plus ultra of identity politics gone wrong: it seems superficially reasonable, by association with LGB liberation movements, but its claims are irreconcilable with long-standing goals of other movements usually found on the left (particularly many kinds of feminism); it demands the use of language that makes it difficult or impossible to express disagreement and harrasses, threatens and deplatforms people who refuse to submit; it is relentlessly, viciously misogynistic. And when otherwise sympathetic people get a glimpse into the nastier side of trans activism and who exactly it is protecting (the Dana Rivers, the Karen Whites, the Jessica Yanivs, etc. etc.), and especially what its goals mean for women and girls – the stuff that the activists try with all their might to stop feminists drawing attention to – they tend to begin to regard it as completely bonkers. Which is of course one reason why all dissent must be silenced before it can spread.

It’s the perfect wedge, and the trolls know.

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 2:53 pm

Likbez @ 60

I am trying very hard right now to give you the benefit of the doubt in your arguments. You haven’t addressed any of my criticisms or comments in my post at 36 (fair enough, you don’t owe me any answers). I would assume normally you have missed it, didn’t think it was worth replying to, or are formulating a response. However, your most recent comments at 60 are, to put it mildly, very problematic.

First, have you got around to making a working definition for transgender extremism yet? I only ask, because if I think religious extremism I imagine beheadings, massacres, suicide bombings; if I imagine political extremism, I imagine violence, bombings, terrorism; but as far as I can tell your definition of transgender extremism is…apparently daring to exist and ask maybe if they could be treated as human beings rather than evil incarnate. One of those does not seem like the others.

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 2:53 pm

Likbez @ 60

Here are my problems with your post at 60. I hope you will at least consider this, and perhaps re-evaluate what you are saying and how you are saying it.

” With this quote I think we reached the point in this discussion when it might be appropriate to discuss the appropriate scope of repression for deviant minority groups when their demands conflict with the larger society or more powerful groups ethics and cultural norms.

“deviant minority groups”. OK, so Mormons? Or were they not the deviant minority group you were thinking of? You see, that’s one of the fundamental problems with your assertions – you are unable or unwilling to offer any clear ideas as to how you come to decide the term and who it applies to. You seem to operate on what you personally feel comfortable with – which is not a particularly useful starting point.

The usual “woke” argumentation is very weak in issues outlined below and opposite arguments have a real weight: I would repression of the minority groups start with pedophiles and financial oligarchy especially vulture funds leadership such as Romney, Paul Singer, etc. But this is just me.

Funnily enough, people pushing for transgender awareness are not pro-paedophile. I know that you seem to struggle with understanding this (or, indeed, anything judging by your inability to reason), but paedophilia = having sex with children; being transgender = taking on a gender identity in-keeping with your internal model and different to that assigned at birth. The key difference there, and bear with me as apparently you find this very complex, is that one group are raping children, the other isn’t. Try repeating this a few times in the mirror – I am optimistic you will eventually get it.

”IMHO insatiable “demanding” and proselyting of transgender identity already brought us very close to a strong corporate and community backlash against transgender rights and by extension LGBT rights as a whole.”

You know, people said the same thing about gay rights. And you know what was interesting? It turns out the whole “line to far” was that they existed. Given you haven’t really made any attempt to explain why you think “personal medical decision” is functionally extremism, I am not overly confident in your ability to determine what constitutes “too much” demanding.

“Of course transgender folk is just minor, expendable pawn in a bigger game of Dem Party identity politics, but still.”

Yes, because the Democratic party of America basically rules Europe. That was sarcasm, by the way. I did point out before that making US based judgements and assessments without considering how it fits into the global phenomena makes you look ignorant. Apparently you don’t think that that was a point worth considering.

”Many Christian parents now prohibit their children to join Scouts of America and their fears and not unfounded ( https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/04/24/boy-scouts-face-hundreds-new-sexual-abuse-claims/3547991002/ )”

Again, when discussing transgender people, you start bringing in sexual abuse with children. Yet no-where in the article is any reference to transgender people. I am now a lot less optimistic in your ability to understand the difference. It is also worth considering that the Catholic Church – which arguably has a little more power and privilege than the LGBT – has been complicit in covering up a horrific amount of child-rape. Interestingly, you don’t seem to be railing against them.

To summarise

You don’t seem interested in researching anything or gaining any facts. You don’t appear to consider other arguments. You repeatedly conflate transgender people with paedophiles. You don’t support your arguments, don’t define your terms, and don’t seem to care whether or not anything you say is rooted in evidence.

This is why I am having a very hard job considering you someone who is arguing in good faith right now.

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 2:58 pm

Likbez @ 60

Finally, as a few comments I hope you will consider.

1) Paedophilia and transgender people

The reason I object to paedophiles is not because they are a small number of people who are different to me. I object to paedophiles because they are causing harm. They are causing harm, because they are committing an action (sex) with someone who cannot give consent (a child).

Transgender people are committing an act (adopting a different gender identity) which affects only themselves (who give consent because they are undertaking it).

If you do not make a case to link transgender people and child rape, I would appreciate if you stopped conflating the two. Even if I assume the absolute best case – that you don’t think the two are the same but are trying to incoherently make a point – it makes for a completely incoherent argument to include here.

2) Transgender people in society

If you want to argue that transgender people should be denied privileges available to other people, that is your prerogative. But you should probably actually make a case, and try to support it with evidence. For example, if you could prove that people being allowed to determine their own gender is objectively bad in some way, that would be a good starting point. You don’t though – and, though I try to avoid ascribing motivations to other people, I suspect it is because you don’t actually have an argument that it is harmful – merely that you don’t like it. And apparently, for you, “I don’t like this” is a good reason to deny rights to one group of people you extend to others. It might be worth reflecting on what that says about you as a person.

3) likbez

When someone repeatedly refuses to make their case after adopting the burden of proof, it is very difficult to take them seriously on that topic. It also impacts how you precieve them on other topics.

You don’t owe me anything, and if you wish to continue making unsupported statements, falacious arguments, and equivication falacies, by all means do continue. I won’t however, consider you as someone who should be considered worth listening to – which I hope you’d agree is my prerogative.

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William Timberman 12.29.19 at 3:03 pm

Undiscovering America. It’s too late for that, I think. The muddying of the waters, i.e. post-historical tribalism, can’t obscure the fact that the underlying conflict is between our individual and our collective identity(ies). It doesn’t really matter whether the collective is family, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sports team. If we aren’t, as individuals, the ultimate arbiters of our own allegiances, and if the collective(s) we belong to, either by accident, affinity, or choice, are unwilling to give up on the project of defining us without asking us what we prefer, then our present conflicts will continue, and in all likelihood get nastier as the stakes in our-post hierarchical, post-literate universe rise ever higher.

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William Timberman 12.29.19 at 3:13 pm

I should probably add that China’s much-touted ignoble experiment in Gleichschaltung is going to introduce modes of historical failure which the world hasn’t seen since Roman times. Xi Jinping has absolutely no effing idea of the doom he’s trifling with. Compared to Donald Rumsfeld, I suppose you could call him a visionary, but only if you love the smell of apocalypse in the morning.

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 3:35 pm

Seren Rose @ 67

I’ve no wish to tell you “this is how you should think”, and am open to having a dialogue with anyone who is interested in doing so (it helps me refine my position or, when I am wrong, to re-evaluate my premises). I hope, therefore, you’ll be will to indulge me a little when I make the following comments – I would, if you are interested, value your thoughts (though I don’t wish to make demands on your time).

I don’t particularly enjoy discussing anyone’s private details – I generally prefer it if private lives can remain private – and certainly would hope I don’t do so glibly. Unfortunately, when there is a discussion about whether or not a person should be permitted to make a private decision, sometimes it is necessary to discuss the facts surrounding the case. I would state, however, that to me it is important that as much anonymity as possible is afforded the individual, and as little of the details are discussed as necessary. Do you think that that is unreasonable?

My first comments were regarding Likbez’s first link. To me, it is not only the first mentioned, but also the most clear cut. Someone who is 17 wishes to transition, their mother (who they have alleged was abusive, whom they left 2 years ago) objects. Given that the individual seems to have made well-reasoned comments, their mother does not seem to be well-placed to make any evaluations (or indeed make any decisions regarding their child), and I have no reason to think they are unable to make an assessment regarding their own gender, I don’t see any reason to object. Do you think there is?

Hopefully you’ll agree that I have managed to avoid discussing them or their body too much. If not, I’d certainly appreciate it if you pointed out where I’ve erred – this is not sarcasm, I genuinely want to do better.

You appear to have considerable concerns regarding Likbez’s second link. You know what – so do I. It isn’t quite as portrayed – further reading indicates that what was proposed was a reversible treatment with no surgery, which allays some of the concerns – but I agree that “what age can someone make a reasonable decision regarding their gender” is a good discussion to have. As is, “what is the best way to handle this”, and “how do we ensure that people are afforded freedom proporitionate with their maturity and responsibility”. However, I would want such a discussion to involve evidence (not specific details of people, but anonymised scientific evidence), logical arguments, and conclusions which come as close as possible to achieving the best decision. I hope you would agree that that is a good approach?

Now, I am not an expert. However, as far as I can tell, the people who study this for a living seem to say that biology and gender are far more complex that traditional models allow for. That being the case, it does not seem unreasonable to change these models. After all, if you are worried about the effects of peer-pressure on children, I would think that being forced into an identity which causes you incredible discomfort (or even feelings of dissonance) is probably not good for their long term health. For example, trying to force people who are homosexual to be heterosexual does not seem to have been good for them, or for society. I imagine, as a gender critical feminist, you can think of similar examples of the harm resulting from women being forced into roles far better than I.

In short, my position is that people should be afforded the maximum reasonable ability to make their personal decisions. In cases where there are concerns regarding their ability to do so, I am fine with society coming to an evidence based conclusion about where to draw the line. This will, as always, lead to some inherent unfairness (our systems are “one-size-fits-all” and this will inherently lead to some people being let down), but hopefully we can make our society as fair as possible. And, continue to refine.

If you think I am being unreasonable, unnecessarily prurient, or am on a path which is detrimental, I would certainly appreciate your pointing it out to me – I am always keen to do better.

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likbez 12.29.19 at 3:54 pm

faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 11:18 am @.70

Here’s a tip: if the overlapping part is based on excluding a minority from public spaces, there’s probably a reason it appeals to likbez.

Imbecilization of discussion of controversial issues like in case of your comment is a normal development typical for the periods of intellectual declines which naturally follows the economic decline of a given empire.

There’s growing evidence the West is going through the same process as the USSR.

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Orange Watch 12.29.19 at 5:23 pm

CM@64:

the history is pretty clear: the class-based movements cane first, and they failed to make any progress toward (or even care about) the rights of these oppressed groups. […] Also, many of these movements explicitly recognize the importance of intersectionality — why else would you see feminists and gay rights groups so heavily involved in immigrant rights?

Well, since you’re all about fairness and avoiding double standards… let’s compare contemporaneous movements. How much did abolitionists help alleviate the oppression of women? How much did suffragettes fight segregation? Did the LGBTQ rights movement include BTQ for most of its history? Did any of these historical movements fight against ablism? How much did they achieve WRT immigrant rights, indigenous rights, and the rights of minority religions? Or are you comparing very, VERY recent developments in these movements with historical class identity movements? I’d point out, BTW, that it’s very disputable whether gender/racial right movements came after class identity movements – both are far older than their recent (to say nothing of modern) forms. And throughout the history of all of these, there have been not just unhelpful but actively repressive elements in all of them. Yet you’re only comparing contemporary intersectional essentialist identity politics to historical class identity politics… why is that? Especially when modern class identity politics are also influenced by intersectional thinking and ally themselves with more than than just class-based movements even if they prioritize class. Yet here we have you telling us that socioeconomic status is not an identity – that the idea of identity becomes meaningless if we consider it as such. That has a very particular and somewhat suspicious look.

To pull this back more closely to the subject of OP, your pile of unexamined privilege looks an awful lot like you’re uncritically accepting the highly-educated/rich/socially & professionally networked/managerial-professional-executive workers’ (i.e., upper class) “default” cultural perspective, and are insisting that failure to see it is deviant and immoral (no more and no less than a cis het white Xian man insisting that a mythical 1950s represents the objective reality of Americanism). The rich minority is dominate in that epistomology, and the managerial-professional minority is deferred to. Among lower-class conservative adherents, this translates to education being suspect, but wealth & social status is taken as proof that these classes are reliably jus’folks who haven’t been corrupted by too much learning; among lower-class liberal adherents, wealth is suspect but the education & social status proves our elites are woke egalitarians who haven’t been corrupted by greed and power… but in both cases, the rich are dominant and the managerial-professionals are deferred to. 100 years ago this would have been a harder sell, as our culture was more disparate in terms of class identity, but mass media driven by consumption (and advertising) homogenized our worldview and humanized the rich to a great degree, with the result of aggressively encouraging the “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” mindset and belief in the myth of meritocracy.

The point of everything you TL;DR’d in order to lecture me about How Things REALLY Are again was not that you’re a hypocrite – it’s instead how very telling it is that you don’t simply want to de-prioritize the idea of economically-oriented reform, but de-legitimize the very idea of it. It’s appalling to see you invoke intersectionality in this context; are you so come-lately to it that you don’t know its history before it was housebroken? A common early criticism of intersectionality was that it placed too much focus on just three intersecting identities: gender, race, and, yes, class. The subsequent trend to view intersectionality as a thing distinct from class identity is a development that looks an awful lot like institutional co-opting as former outsiders addressing an insurgent critique of distorted elite analysis made peace with the academic hierarchy, got tenure, and mysteriously lost their impetus to challenge privilege based on wealth, education, profession, or social status. What you’ve done here has unintentionally been extremely instructive in terms of what OP discusses; you’re providing a case study of a privileged minority arguing against perspectives that do not conform to the dominant default culture in order to protect the deference you feel due, and the dominance of the hierarchy which entitles you to that deference.

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 5:43 pm

Seren Rose @ 67:
You write about a lot of things, and some of them I don’t feel qualified to comment upon. But at least this, seems pretty obvious:

Can we as a liberal society tolerate the miserliness of refusal to celebrate gay marriages? And if we can’t, what do we do with this blurring of public and private

The record here is pretty clear: gay marriage advocates fought for gay marriage not for the private celebration, but because in ways big and small, myriad public and publicly regulated institutions and organizations confer advantages upon the married. From family health insurance policies to “who gets to visit you as you lie dying,” to “who gets to pick up your kids at school.”

I think this is a good example of the way that demands by identity groups can get misinterpreted, either inadvertently or intentionally. Nobody asked for Evangelical pastors to be compelled to perform gay marriages. What they -did- ask, was that in any public accommodation or regulated business of any sort, that prefers advantages to married couples, this advantage be extended to gay couples who are married. And this is no different from the “full faith and credit” clause that makes marriages in one state valid in another.

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Orange Watch 12.29.19 at 5:51 pm

(One thing I’d add to tie the idea of class identity politics to the discussion here is that contemporary upper class resistance to it vs. comparative upper class acceptance of essentialist identity politics fits well into the zero-sum vs. positive-sum distinction made by Peter Dorman. Class identity movements seek to flatten the socio-economic hierarchy via wealth redistribution, progessive taxation, increased democratization of political processes, etc. Essentialist identity movements do not directly threaten the hierarchy that entrenches the rich as dominant and professionals as deferred to – it changes the pool of available candidates within the heirarchy, which may lead to individuals or sub-groups resisting if they feel unable or unwilling to compete with individuals previously below them on other hierarchies, but more diversity in the C-suites is not an existential threat to the upper class.)

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Chetan Murthy 12.29.19 at 5:54 pm

notGoodEnough @ 68:
Stephen: “I have trouble in imagining a society in which the default identity does not exclude bestiality or trandgenderism (not that I’m equating the two).”

notGoodEnough: “Out of interest, why did you include bestiality alongside being transgender?”

I have to laugh. We both know why he included that reference, don’t we? It’s the same reason “Box Turtle Ben (Domenech)” included it in that speech that Texas Senator John Cornyn was to deliver (“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right… Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife”). It’s the same reason likbez pretends that pedophiles are an identity group like gay people.

Decent people must feel that bestiality and pedophilia are beyond the pale. By juxtaposing them with LGBT, the goal is to subtly induce decent people to associate their feelings of disgust toward (e.g.) sex with box turtles, and gay people and oh-so-icky ways.

It’s a tell that Stephen hasn’t got a tolerant bone in his body.

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Jake Gibson 12.29.19 at 9:01 pm

TBH, likbez seems to be regurgitating typical transphobic arguments. Linking to homophobic hate groups does not enhance his position.
He/she clearly does not think that trans people have any rights that he is obligated to honor.
On the other hand, seems to expect that we are obligated to respect his bigotry.

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John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:10 pm

likbez, you’ve derailed the thread, and your comments are trolling at best. Nothing further from you on this thread, please. Also, if I write further on identity politics, please refrain from commenting.

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notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 10:57 pm

John Quiggin @ 84

On reflection, I believe I should apologise for contributing for the derailment – not the first time I’ve helped sidetrack a thread, but I will try to do better in future and be a bit more restrained before jumping down a rabbit hole. CT is a pretty tolerant place regarding ramblings, but it isn’t fair to go off topic at such length – either to you or the other comentators. William S Berry probably said it best, and I should have heeded the advice.

I think, out of a desire to avoid detracting from your original points, I will refrain from commenting on this thread and leave my (layperson) thoughts regarding gender identity for a post which actually relates to that.

For what its worth, you have my sincere apologies. I hope the ideas and lively discussion regarding the OP continue – I found the topic raised intersting.

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Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 11:06 pm

Orange watch, every question you asked chetan Murphy about “identity” movements can be asked about unions or radical left movements in spades. The reason that identity movements sprung up despite the presence of broad based class and revolutionary movements can be easily summarized in one simple question: when did Marx stop banging his maid?

These movements wouldn’t exist if the mainstream left had been at all inclusive when they formed.

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Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 12:37 am

Orange Watch @ 79:

Oy, it looks like you’ve made my point for me. Let me recap:

(1) Aubergine pointed out that some of these identity groups tend to absolutely privilege pursuit of their group’s goals over the pursuit of a broader class-based agenda

(2) I agreed that this was the case, and that it was only natural, because (a) historically broad class-based movements have done zilch for oppressed minorities and interest groups, and (b) indeed, to a great extent, for many of the kinds of physical oppression faced by minorities, women, and LGBT folks, the oppressors are well-represented in the proletariat also.

In short, the only way any of these groups got their very real concerns about the conditions of their labor and life addressed, was by speaking up for themselves.

(3) To this your argument was first that these groups don’t work toward a class-based agenda, and now that there’s no evidence in history that they have worked to support each other, either. [As if the latter matters; I never argued that class-based movements -should- support (e.g.) gay rights: I noted that they DID NOT, and hence it made sense that gay rights groups FOCUSED on gay rights. Notwithstanding, in recent years these interest groups DO support each other.]

(4) Throughout, you’ve focused on the economic issues, and denigrated the issues that drove these groups into being:

To pull this back more closely to the subject of OP, your pile of unexamined privilege looks an awful lot like you’re uncritically accepting the highly-educated/rich/socially & professionally networked/managerial-professional-executive workers’ (i.e., upper class) “default” cultural perspective, and are insisting that failure to see it is deviant and immoral

What can I say? You’re making my point for me. If you can’t see that the goals #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, ACT-UP and others are important, even though they’re not economic, well, is it any surprise they refuse to subordinate them to your goals?

[What “unexamined privilege” do you speak of? Do you mean the right to be attacked by my entire high school PE class for being gay (I was not — I was instead brown, and knew to keep my adolescent urges as silent as the grave I did not want to end up in). Is it the “unexamined privilege” of one of my closest college friends, who grew up in Texas and came out literally the first week of school in New York State? [because he knew how dangerous it was to be gay in Texas]? Is that the unexamined privilege you speak of? Maybe you should be clearer about what you mean.]

(5) You also argue that I’m looking into deep prehistory with my argument that class-based movements have been worthless when it comes to (e.g.) feminism and anti-racism. But y’know, we don’t have to look to deep prehistory: it’s well-known that Bernie Sanders’ campaign was a hotbed of sexual harrassment (and who-knows-what worse?), and he was sufficiently clueless on matters of race that Black Lives Matter had to school him onstage. And he still didn’t learn. I don’t want to go too far with this, because eventually it seems (so far, only seems ….) that he’s getting better. But really, is it any wonder that some people of color are skeptical? And this isn’t “history” — this is last cycle.

(6) near the end you write:

The point of everything you TL;DR’d in order to lecture me about How Things REALLY Are again was not that you’re a hypocrite – it’s instead how very telling it is that you don’t simply want to de-prioritize the idea of economically-oriented reform, but de-legitimize the very idea of it.

There are two things wrong with this:

(a) Just because Greta Thunberg got up in front of the UN and talked only about climate change, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about gay righs. But she’s got a platform, and she’s gotta choose what she promotes. You’re basically arguing that unless she ALSO argues (and at some level, focuses on) the class struggle, she’s a capitalist stooge.

(b) But worse, it seems you can’t imagine that (for instance) I care about both anti-racism AND ALSO about economic redistribution. I mean, I care about gay rights, and I’m not gay. [I care about defeating misogyny, but then I have a mother, so that can’t possibly count *grin*] Members of these identity groups are ALSO poor, and they care about remedying that TOO. I mean, the idea that somehow groups focused on the rights of black Americans, don’t care about economic issues …. is risible. I recall a feminist pointing out that the right to physical safety is an economic issue: if you cannot be safe in your person while working, coming to-and-fro, you are fundamentally handicapped in your economic life.

So nobody’s deprioritizing economically-oriented reform here. What we’ve noticed though, is that women, people of color, LGBT people, get pushed to the bottom every time, and we’re pretty committed to making sure that it doesn’t happen next time.

(7) You mentioned “able-ism”. Gee I wonder if we’ll find that unions were big forces behind the ADA, or we’ll find out that it was mostly due to the disabled themselves kicking up a huge ruckus.

(8) One last thing: throughout your comments, there’s been a consistent subtext, that these “interest groups” are really about securing more rights for already-privileged members of these minorities. It is as if the only feminists are Sheryl Sandberg; the only members of Black Lives Matter are Robert Johnson (founder of BET) and the only LGBT activist is David Geffen. It seems plain that you think that these interest groups’ goals are more “acceptable” to corporations and the rich, than the class-centric goals of a economic justice movement.

Black Lives Matter isn’t just fighting for economic rights: they’re fighting for the right to not be executed in the street. #MeToo is fighting for the right to not be physically assaulted as a pre-condition of employment. Gay people are fighting for the right to live their lives in peace, and not under the constant threat of a beatdown due to “gay panic”.

These aren’t inconsiderable, and the idea that somehow they’re less important than economic rights is offensive.

And one last thing: again, it seems like you think that the right of a well-educated woman or black man to have a good job on the same terms as a white man, is less important than lifting up all the poor people. It is as if you’re saying

Do you remember what LBJ said?

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Do you see the similarity with your rhetoric? You’re arguing that the effect of these interest groups is to aid entry of members of these minorities into the rich class, and per se this is bad.

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Fake Dave 12.30.19 at 12:40 am

@Chetan Murthy 82

I agree wholeheartedly with your takedown, except for one thing: pedophiles are an identity group. They might use euphemisms like “loli” or whatever, but they’re around. NAMBLA was even public about it in the pre-internet era, which took guts if nothing else.

You can pretty readily find hints of a shared pedophile ethos or even subculture online in a creepy fixation with “moe” anime and other ostensible children’s entertainment, plus an inordinate interest in the love lives of the ancient Greeks and lots of hair-splitting relativism about “legitimate” age of consent throughout history (apparently a pass-time of French intellectuals as well). It’s all pretty gross to run into, but disturbingly common in online nerd circles, especially certain subcultures like otaku, gamers furries, etc. Most of this (hopefully) stays on the internet and away from actual children, but, unfortunately, not all of it.

Online subcultures in general are a good case against accepting all claims of identity at face value. There have been a disturbing number of cases where boring straight white people pretended to be LGBTQ or other “interesting” minorities for attention (remember that vanished lesbian Syrian dissident?) The online trans community is also infested with people who aren’t quite who they say they are. It’s been all but impossible for trans people to shed their association with mental illness and unsavory sexual predilections in part because there are a bunch of creeps and nutjobs online who hide behind purported trans or other queer identity. A little discernment is essential.

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Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 12:41 am

Orange Watch @ 81:

One thing I’d add to tie the idea of class identity politics to the discussion here is that contemporary upper class resistance to it vs. comparative upper class acceptance of essentialist identity politics fits well into the zero-sum vs. positive-sum distinction made by Peter Dorman.

I should have included this in my (interminable) comment. This is a great example of how you’re characterizing these identity groups as being acceptable to the upper class. As if BLM or #MeToo are acceptable to the upper class.

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ph 12.30.19 at 12:54 am

“Identity politics involves a demand not merely for tolerance but for acceptance.”

For me this is the critical issue. When we ‘demand’ something from another, or another group, we are making an explicit statement of our own intolerance, we refuse to accept the values, attitudes, and/or behaviours of another. And the framing of this demand as a right, rather than a request, or a suggestion, is a problem for many here.

The levels of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance expressed towards MAGA people in general, and a few individuals in specific, over the last three years has been breathtaking. The notion that respect, tolerance, and acceptance cut both ways is routinely explicitly rejected. Indeed, so much so that both the NYT and the WAPO this weekend felt the need to remind readers of the need to respect MAGA people. The same might be said of people of faith, another much-maligned group, especially if these folks happen to be white and Christian.

I’m glad that JH posted the ‘amateur’ warning, because that’s precisely what too much of what CT has become. People may or may not be engaging in good faith arguments. Calling people racists and fascists, as a matter of course, in no way contributes anything to any discussion, and would seem to be a direct violation of the comments policy. Yet, in thread after thread, that’s what we continue read – racist, Christian, fascist, racist,white fascist, racist, fascist until the terms have lost all meaning, lo these many years.

The ground is moving beneath our feet. If the last few months (years?) are any indication, the CT community has very few ideas about what is happening in America, Europe, and other nations, or what to do about it. Or, people are expressing their ideas elsewhere.

Buying into myths does the community no good: remember all the time wasted on Koch Conspiracy Theories? Then, from 2016 up to the present, leading Democrats and ‘progressive’ bubbleheads literally channelled Joe McCarthy ‘I have secret evidence, which I cannot divulge now, that leading members of this administration are in fact agents of a foreign power!’ I mean, you couldn’t make that stuff up.

Night after night, day after day for the last three years – TRAITORS, RUSSIAN AGENTS, and no matter how many times a few (Greenwald, Taibbi, Tracy) tried to point out that the accusations had been crafted literally by the same intelligence agents that brought us Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, these factual cautions fell on deaf ears.

Lost in all of this is reality: which is that the world is not twitter. All firsthand reports I receive from family and friends in Canada, America, and Europe is that people of different faiths and opinions work hard, if not harder now, to demonstrate respect and compassion to one another and sincerely enjoy doing so. Huh?

Happy Holidays and the best to everyone in 2020!

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Aubergine 12.30.19 at 2:24 am

JQ: To get back to the criticism of identity politics from the left, consider what would happen if your original post was made in a less sedate, more idpol-friendly forum. Nobody would be engaging with the arguments you’ve made, which at least some commenters on this thread have been doing. Instead, they’d be focussing on you, working out which classes of privilege you enjoy – particularly racial, gender-based and (dis)ability-based privileges – so that they can attack you from those directions in the knowledge that any response from you would be considered an expression of privilege, and thus subject to further criticism.

Since this post is pretty unobjectionable you might get away with it, but I can see at least a couple of angles of attack in the first line (“Warning: Amateur sociological/political analysis ahead”): if you’re an “amateur”, why are you speaking instead of listening to the people who have direct personal experience of [whatever marginalised identity]?, and why does this analysis need to come from you when you could be making space for someone less privileged to give their own, more valuable analysis?

Now, sometimes people really are blinded by the advantages of their own position, and say dumb stuff as a result, and deserve to be criticised for it. But eventually people get tired of being told to shut up and listen every time they try to say something, and just quietly drift away (if they aren’t banished first). I’ve seen this happen in various online places that used to be left-leaning but pluralistic, but are now bubbles spiralling into ever more extreme rhetoric that never has to justify itself because nobody is left to question it.

This kind of thing has always happened, of course, but the internet seems to make it worse, and it’s this tendency that is the target of most leftist critique.

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dbk 12.30.19 at 4:25 am

I read the sequence in the OP differently, I think, from most commenters (and, I think, from JQ):

Tolerance: Women allowed the vote (19th Amendment, 1920);
Acceptance: Women admitted to all-male Ivy League universities (Yale, 1969)
Deference: Affirmative Action (EEOC, 1965)
Dominance: ? The election of Barack Obama (2008) ?

[Note: This is the interpretation given by those on the right – those currently in power.]

Identity Politics has served to mask the real problem in the U.S. over the past 30-40 years: growing inequality. Yes yes, I know: intersectionality – but how successful has that been, really? Examples, please. [Note: Idpol imho belongs to the so-called “private sphere,” not the “public sphere” – I have no interest in the private life of others; their public life, however, is of considerable interest to me and other citizens.]

I don’t think this was accidental. It is to the ruling class’s benefit that citizens/voters coalesce emotionally around issues which detract attention from growing inequality.

The U.S. is governed by the rich, the 1%. But if this were broadly understood and accepted, the 1% would be voted out of office at all levels (local, state, national).

Identity politics ensures that voters will be more or less equally distributed between Ds and Rs, with Ds = pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-abortion; Rs = anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-abortion (+ other issues).

I invite CT commenters to engage in a small thought-experiment: What would it be like in the U.S. if its Gini score were half what it was in 2016 (so, 20 instead of 40+)?

On a related – though not, for some, alas, obviously so – note, I recommend an about-to-be-published book by labor historian Toni Gilpin: “The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland,” which will come out early in 2020. Gilpin analyzes the Farm Equipment Workers (FE) union and their strike in Louisville, KY against IH (International Harvester), during which blacks and whites united against IH for economic reasons, and won.

Full economic equality goes a fair way towards advancing tolerance and acceptance, obviates the need for deference, and does away with the existence of dominance.

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Anvil 12.30.19 at 5:42 am

faustusnotes @ 70

I’m responding to you because I’m also a gender critical feminist: talking about “excluding a minority from public spaces” is dishonest; it sounds as though feminists are trying to prevent trans people from strolling through parks. What we’re trying to prevent is single-sex spaces being turned into mixed-sex spaces, because we know that males, as the dominant sex class, have the power in those spaces.

Speaking of overlapping politics, does it bother you that both trans advocates and conservative Christians believe in the female brain, the womanly soul and/or women’s feminine essence?

94

faustusnotes 12.30.19 at 12:44 pm

Well then Anvil, you should read the linked piece to, so you can see how your policies will lead to the bullying and exclusion of natal women from women-only spaces.

It’s not only trans advocates and christians who think that women and men are fundamentally different: almost everyone does. Lots of feminists do too. But most gender critical feminists don’t seem to be aware of that, given some of your leading spokespeople think the debate about women’s spaces and trans people started in 2009, and not in the 1970s. But that’s a separate issue. What I raised here was the very real practical consequence of the policies you espouse, which will lead to bullying of and violence against natal women, the women you claim to be trying to protect.

95

MisterMr 12.30.19 at 12:59 pm

@orange watch 79

It seems to me that in this thread there is a lot of confusion about the idea of identity and groups, and your comment doubles down with the idea that economic class is an identity.

First from a old fart Marxist point of view, you are mixing up base (the economic structure, the relationship with the means of production) with superstructure (blue collar identity). These two are not the same thing, the same way sex (a biological fact) is not the same as gender (a cultural thing). Only gender is a matter of identity, biological sex cannot be, precisely because it is not a cultural thing. For similar reasons class proper is not the same as identities based more or less on class.

Second, however you want to put it high education at best makes you upper middle class, not ruling class (although many people of the ruling class also have high education, but they aren’t ruling class because of this). This again is the old (19th century) distinction by Max Weber between classe and ceto, I use the Italian words because they both translate as “class” in English damn you anglophones. I recently chatted with a friend who has a degree in statistics who confirmed that this is still a taught as a bread and butter distinction in statistics, at least in Italy.

Finally there is a big distinction between identities and the often (but not always) different moral assumptions that go with that on the one hand, and on the other the way these identities are used in terms of political marketing, that is something different and mostly make sense in democracies, but not for example in an argument about colonialism where identities still exist but the political situation is totally different.

Finally, the problem is that with each identity or set of identities comes a set of moral values. Now if we see morals as coming from identities but identities as a natural thing, we enter in a world of moral relativism where only the identity group who cries louder can manage to force its values on others.
This is in fact the implicit idea in right wing populism, and the reason they sometimes seem to think that political might makes right.
But in reality:
1) identities are not a natural thing at all, for example gender identities depend on forms of the family that are obviously historical and linked to economic structures, so is the low education blue collar identity;
2) many disequalities are objective and we can measure them, for example we know that economic inequality increased in recent decades.

So on the whole I think it is possible to make a case about objectively more egalitarian (and therefore better) sets of values and identity.

96

EB 12.30.19 at 1:10 pm

Three questions:

1. There is a missing category in the 4-stage paradigm, and it is “affirmation.” People can feel tolerated and then accepted, but not affirmed as much as the majority group feels affirmed, and this is a significant. Although what, specifically, it feels like to be affirmed, or to extend affirmation, can be murky. Is affirmation even a legitimate or realistic thing to expect or demand from one’s social environment? Why or why not? What proportion of the social environment should extend affirmation in order for an individual from a marginalized group feel that they are being treated equally?

2. In every society in which there are dominant identities (I can think of few where the dominant group is singular and monolithic), there is history to contend with. The four (or five) states of intergroup relations are not like a light switch that can be turned on or off. What rate of changed attitudes and relationships of power are realistic to expect?

3. How do we feel about groups who are in some senses marginalized, but that within their own community, express dominance in harmful ways against some members of their group or against some members of other groups? What about feminists who look down on specific (or all) religions, and within their group do not tolerate religious individuals? what about religious minorities that persecute LGBTQ individuals? and so forth.

97

bianca steele 12.30.19 at 4:51 pm

I’ve become amused that majority-white, majority male spaces avoid talk of “racism” while being appalled at state violence, and avoid talk of “feminism,” “sexism,” or “misogyny” while being appalled at sexual immorality by men, all while posing as the sole defenders of what they gladly call “identity politics.”

People who say allowing women to vote belongs to “the private sphere” can’t be taken seriously.

98

Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 6:27 pm

dbk @ 92:

I invite CT commenters to engage in a small thought-experiment: What would it be like in the U.S. if its Gini score were half what it was in 2016 (so, 20 instead of 40+)?

There’s been considerable academic work on this subject. Just off the top of my head, there’s the seminal paper by Bland, Castile, Crawford, Garner, Martin, Rice et al. And another important study of labor force effects by Argent, Arquette, Beckinsale, Garth, et al. And no literature review would be complete without discussing the groundbreaking work by Boyne, Carroll, Crooks, Harth, Holvey, Zervos et al.

99

SusanC 12.30.19 at 6:49 pm

An alternative take on what “identity politics” might mean:

A style of politics in which people are people are divided – for the purposes of political organization – on the basis of a small number of characteristics, which initially appear to be relative hard to change and easy to determine. Further, such groups are treated as if they were homogeneous, with a shared political interest.

But:

a) Such characteristics are typically not mutually exclusive. A political group that is “homongenous” wrt to one characteristic may well contain members that differ in some other politically relevant characteristic, with consequent divergence of political objectives. eg. “woman” contains both “white women” and “black women”. cf. bell hooks

b) Who is a member of the group and who isn’t often turns out to be more vexed than it might initially appear. There exist people of mixed race, people with intersex conditions, transgendered people, white momen who have grown up in a household with African-American step-siblings (cf. Rachel Dolezau), etc. etc. A noted feature of “identity politics” is people getting very, very upset about the existence of a small number of borderline cases whose political group membership is being argued.

100

soru 12.30.19 at 7:12 pm

Black Lives Matter isn’t just fighting for economic rights: they’re fighting for the right to not be executed in the street.

I think this gets to the heart of the matter: the very thin definition of the word ‘economics’ held by certain liberals, mostly referring to the precise timing of the next stock market boom/bust cycle.

To those with a less restrictive definition, people being executed in the street is, absolutely and centrally, a matter of economics. Those who support or enable those executions do so because they do not trust the government to effectively defend their private property rights without such measures.

The radical economic solution to that is the abolition of private property; it is of course perfectly understandable that those most affected are not keen on waiting for that.

Nevertheless, the less radical solution is still economic in nature, mainly involving raising taxes in order to spend the money on a police force adequate to the task of maintaining public order without such executions. Most of Europe provides the existence proof that such a thing is possible.

Measurable social issues require the commitment of non-symbolic amounts of societal resources to solve them. In an ideal world, this would leave the phrase ‘identity politics’ for those issues which could potentially be resolved by the right person tweeting the right thing …

101

Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 10:46 pm

soru @ 100:

I think this gets to the heart of the matter: the very thin definition of the word ‘economics’ held by certain liberals, mostly referring to the precise timing of the next stock market boom/bust cycle.

Also, who gets to divide up the spoils.

All issues of physical security, of reproductive autonomy, of sexual autonomy, are economic issues, because if you can’t control your body, control your private life, without fear of being raped, killed, beaten, fired, then you’re not going to be able to fully participate in economic life.

The feminist philosophers have known this for a long time, as have black civil rights activists. It’s a source of some sadness, that clearly many “class-centric leftists” can’t even bring themselves to *acknowledge* this.

It’s also quite disappointing, that people like Orange Watch argue that this sort of idpol is buying into the priorities of the rich, when …. it’s obvious that black people in America are wildly poorer than white people. I mean, you’d think that economic redress for black Americans would be a *priority* for these redistributionist crusaders; you’d think they’d know their history and know that previous movements didn’t do right by black Americans, and make it a *priority* to get it right this time.

You’d think that Orange Watch would be writing about reparations; instead, we get (in effect) his complaint that reparations would reward Oprah Winfrey and Robert L. Johnson.

Similarly, it is well-established that sexual harrassment (and worse) is everywhere on the job ladder: that poor women are just as harrassed as rich women, and that those poor women have *less* (not more) ability to resist when the job depends on sleeping with the boss. And again, previous mass movements did *nothing* to address this. Yet, Orange Watch doesn’t prioritize this at all.

It’s clear that he, Aubergine, and others Really. Don’t. Care. Do. U?

102

Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 10:49 pm

soru @ 100:

The radical economic solution to that is the abolition of private property; it is of course perfectly understandable that those most affected are not keen on waiting for that.

It’s like an Underpants Gnomes theory of how we’ll stop murdering black people, raping women, etc:

(1) abolish private property
(2) ????
(3) No more executing black people, no more rapes!

It’s that infantile. And yeah, understandably the people who actually are suffering the harm today, aren’t impressed.

103

Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 10:57 pm

SusanC @ 99:

A style of politics in which people are people are divided – for the purposes of political organization – on the basis of a small number of characteristics, which initially appear to be relative hard to change and easy to determine.

I would take issue with this on two grounds:
(1) idpol doesn’t demand that a person have certain characteristics in order to be in a particular idpol group: I support gay rights, and BLM, and yet I am neither gay nor black (though pretty damn brown, so maybe that’s why? henghhhh!?!) I support women’s rights, and yet I’m a male.
(2) idpol doesn’t divide people.

Identity politics unites decent people and divides them from white supremacy.

Here’s a different formulation: a style of politics in which people form groups that each pursue the redress of wrongs towards, and the rights of, particular groups of people who can be identified by a small number of characteristics, which initially appear to be relatively hard to change and easy to determine.

Who is a member of the group and who isn’t often turns out to be more vexed than it might initially appear. …. A noted feature of “identity politics” is people getting very, very upset about the existence of a small number of borderline cases

I’m not black. But it’s kind of obvious even to me, why black Americans might get a little bothered by Rachel Dolezal. Black people can “pass” as white, at risk to their lives. White people can “pass” as black, at risk of being ridiculed everywhere they go. It’s like Atwood’s “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will kill them.”

104

Chetan Murthy 12.30.19 at 11:01 pm

In case it’s not obvious (and gee, I kind suspect it won’t be to those class-centric crusaders commenting here) the papers I alluded to in #98 are, respectively, black Americans unjustly murdered by police (and in one instance, a viligante white man), women raped and/or sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, and women raped and/or sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.

I’m sure they’d all have lots to say about an America where the GINI coefficient were lower. For the first group, nothing would change (though maybe the Underpants Gnomes say different); for the second and third, maybe the identities of the assaulters and rapists might change (again, the Underpants Gnomes probably have a theory for why it’ll all be different).

105

Aubergine 12.31.19 at 4:31 am

Chetan Murthy:

It’s clear that he, Aubergine, and others Really. Don’t. Care. Do. U?

What? You seem to have misread my comments, maybe because we are working from different understandings of what “identity politics” is.

(1) idpol doesn’t demand that a person have certain characteristics in order to be in a particular idpol group: I support gay rights, and BLM, and yet I am neither gay nor black (though pretty damn brown, so maybe that’s why? henghhhh!?!) I support women’s rights, and yet I’m a male.
(2) idpol doesn’t divide people.

Yeah, this is not what I am talking about at all (also, I’m not in the US, and I don’t know too much about how these movements work there). I would put it like this:

(1) To be in any particular idpol group you must share the identity. If you don’t you might, at best, be considered an “ally”, which puts you under permanent suspicion and allows any group-member to require you to justify your presence at any time.
(2) This tends to be very divisive, at least in my experience, because “allies” get bored of the mandatory self-criticism and drift away; when enough of them do, the definition of the identity becomes narrower and a new set of people near the edge become acceptable targets.

A group that doesn’t share these characteristics isn’t the kind of “identity politics” I was talking about.

106

Chetan Murthy 12.31.19 at 4:52 am

[JQ: sorry, I mis-spelled a tag, so I’m resubmitting; could you put this in place of my just-previous comment?]
Aubergine @ 105:

(1) To be in any particular idpol group you must share the identity. If you don’t you might, at best, be considered an “ally”, which puts you under permanent suspicion and allows any group-member to require you to justify your presence at any time.
(2) This tends to be very divisive, at least in my experience, because “allies” get bored of the mandatory self-criticism and drift away; when enough of them do, the definition of the identity becomes narrower and a new set of people near the edge become acceptable targets.

I’m a cishet male, and long ago, I read Warren Farrell and believed his bullshit. But then, y’know, decades of life taught me different. The most succinct way of putting this learning would be: “It’s not about you, is it?” [this was Farrell’s fundamental mistake — thinking that any story about women’s liberation had to have a part for him to play — and an *important* part (roflmao) at that.] A hard lesson to learn. Y’know, as a brown man, I want my fellow black Americans to get their equal measure of America and all she offers. But I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to live their lives, and when and if I try, and get it wrong, I need to know to just apologize and try to be better.

There’s nothing wrong with being an ally. Uh, unless, like most men, one is used to being the center of the action, decisions, and attention.

107

Anvil 12.31.19 at 5:24 am

faustusnotes:

I’m sorry that women who might be mistaken for men are occasionally received with hostility in places like bathrooms, but the solution is not to eliminate single-sex spaces by allowing in anyone who doesn’t identify as a man. We wouldn’t be so touchy if we didn’t have good reason to fear men.

What are the fundamental differences between men and women, unrelated to biological sex, that you believe in?

108

J-D 12.31.19 at 8:22 am

Anvil, I would like to understand what you are proposing, but so far it isn’t clear to me.

As far as my personal observations go (which isn’t very far, and there may well be a lot that I’m missing), when people use public toilets, nobody checks on them: I mean, nobody checks that the people using the women’s toilets are women and nobody checks that the people using the men’s toilets are men. It’s not clear to me whether your position is that there should be checks. If it is, it’s not clear to me who would conduct those checks, or how they’d check, or whether the checks would be universal for all users or at random or only when prompted in some way.

Going a little bit further, I can imagine somebody (let’s say, for example, it’s me) being in the relevant role (let’s say, for example, that of a police officer) and being called on by somebody (let’s say, for example, that it’s you) who is reporting a breach of the law (let’s say there is a relevant law). So, I imagine, you report to me that a man is using or has just used a women’s toilet, in breach of the law. I investigate. I speak to the person in question, ‘Excuse me, but I have received a report of a breach of the law; I have been informed that you, a man, have been using the women’s toilet here, which is illegal.’ The suspect, I imagine, responds, ‘No, officer, I’m sorry, but there’s been some mistake; I am a woman and not a man.’ I say, ‘Thank you, that’s all I needed to know, and I’m sorry there’s been a mistake.’ ‘That’s all right’, says the suspect, ‘I understand that you are obliged to investigate reports that the law has been violated, and I’m glad I was able to clear this case up for you’, and we part on terms of mutual regard. Are you, as the person who reported to me, as the police officer, satisfied with this; and, if you aren’t, what else do you want?

109

eg 12.31.19 at 10:44 am

Which dimension of my identity is to be salient in idpol terms? And who has the power/authority to make that decision?

Is this about how groups determine their own boundaries, or are those boundaries chosen for them by others?

It seems to me that this is about power, and where power is concerned I see only three questions:

What are the sources of power?
How do I get control over them?
Once I have control over them, how do I keep it?

110

J-D 12.31.19 at 11:03 am

Now, sometimes people really are blinded by the advantages of their own position, and say dumb stuff as a result, and deserve to be criticised for it. But eventually people get tired of being told to shut up and listen every time they try to say something, and just quietly drift away (if they aren’t banished first). I’ve seen this happen in various online places that used to be left-leaning but pluralistic, but are now bubbles spiralling into ever more extreme rhetoric that never has to justify itself because nobody is left to question it.

Citation, please.

111

lurker 12.31.19 at 11:47 am

‘it’s kind of obvious even to me, why black Americans might get a little bothered by Rachel Dolezal’ (CM, 103)
Dolezals are rare: she made a major effort to be as black as possible, and passing as black means you lose lots of your privileges.
More common are lily-white ‘Indians’ who suffer no loss of privilege and make no effort to join or contribute to any Native American community.

112

Collin Street 12.31.19 at 12:00 pm

Anvil: “single sex” spaces are single-sex for a purpose: because the purposes differ, the way in which they need to be single-sex can — and evidentally does — differ too.

Your unexamined insistence that all single-sex spaces need to be identically single-sex isn’t just an obvious mistake, it speaks of epistemological weakness and a tendency to reification.

(the key is, the way you use “single sex” as if it has an agreed meaning that is your meaning is what’s called “question begging”)

113

Anvil 01.01.20 at 2:27 am

@ J-D

I don’t know which sites Aubergine is referring to, but I remember Shakesville being put on lockdown years ago, with Melissa spelling out how she expected commenters to react to each post and which types of comments were allowed. Her blog, her choice, but it became much less worth reading. This is a good summary.

About the bathroom issue: we don’t currently have guards at the doors because we can rely on most people to obey the rules. If someone who appears male does enter a women-only bathroom, he can be challenged. Someone can fetch an employee or a security guard, if necessary. This might end up being messy, but the alternative is to make all bathrooms gender-neutral so that women can enjoy worrying about spycams and assault.

In your scenario, the police officer could ask to check an ID to determine whether you were male or female, though that’s less effective now that we have ID based on completely meaningless self-identification. I say completely meaningless because none of the males-who-don’t-identify-as-men whom I’ve met irl have been different from a million cis men, expect perhaps in having even more confidence than left-leaning cis men in telling women what to do.

114

Collin Street 01.01.20 at 4:16 am

Anvil: the problems with your approach have been widely documented.

I’m not setting a high standard here, but looking for what other people have said on a topic and responding to problems they’ve seen is about what we expect from high-school kids, and that’s a standard you’re not meeting.

115

Aubergine 01.01.20 at 8:18 am

Chetan Murthy @106:

We seem to be talking about different things: you seem to be talking about how people should react to identity politics in general; I’m talking about how, in my experience, they actually do react to a particular style of idpol rhetoric. Maybe in a better world people would joyfully embrace all opportunities for self-criticism, but we don’t seem to live in that world. (Also, I never mentioned class, and I wasn’t really thinking about the “it’s all about class” argument, which I think is very culture-specific and probably works better in, say, the UK than the US. I haven’t been to either of those places, though, so I may be wrong.)

J-D @ 110

Citation, please.

All I can offer is my own experience (as I said, “I’ve seen this happen…”). I’m not sure how one would even go about researching this in a way that could be cited, to be honest.

J-D @ 108

As far as my personal observations go (which isn’t very far, and there may well be a lot that I’m missing), when people use public toilets, nobody checks on them: I mean, nobody checks that the people using the women’s toilets are women and nobody checks that the people using the men’s toilets are men. It’s not clear to me whether your position is that there should be checks. If it is, it’s not clear to me who would conduct those checks, or how they’d check, or whether the checks would be universal for all users or at random or only when prompted in some way.

In addition to what Anvil said @113, one benefit of being able to make general assumptions about who does and who does not belong in various spaces is that when these assumptions are broken, it is an immediate indication that something is wrong and that the space is not safe. That is one benefit of having sex-specific spaces like changerooms, toilets etc. even if there is no guard posted outside checking IDs – if a male is present in a space for females (and it is almost always obvious when they are; people are very good at clocking sex), it is a very clear signal.

For example: if I was the father of a young girl (say, 6 or 7) who was just starting to use the female toilets and changerooms by herself, I would probably like to be able to tell her that there should not be any men there, and that if there are, she should leave. Making all female spaces open for anyone except non-trans males would make that meaningless. Do you see?

(This was discussed in <a href="http://crookedtimber.org/2019/09/23/three-thoughts-on-the-debate-between-gender-critical-feminists-and-the-advocates-of-strong-transgender-rights/&quot; title="another post" a little while ago.)

I should add that my experience of identity politics has included seeing arguments like the above dismissed as bigoted hatred and treated as grounds for banishment (especially when made by women), which has definitely affected my view of online Twitter-style idpol.

116

Aubergine 01.01.20 at 8:18 am

Stupid html. I can never get the hang of those link tags.

117

J-D 01.01.20 at 11:53 am

Anvil

I’m sorry if I failed to make my meaning sufficiently clear.

I don’t know which sites Aubergine is referring to, but I remember Shakesville being put on lockdown years ago, with Melissa spelling out how she expected commenters to react to each post and which types of comments were allowed. Her blog, her choice, but it became much less worth reading. This is a good summary.

Thank you for linking to the summary, which I read with interest. However, I can’t find in that summary a description of Shakesville ‘spiralling into ever more extreme rhetoric’ (the words Aubergine used).

About the bathroom issue: we don’t currently have guards at the doors because we can rely on most people to obey the rules. If someone who appears male does enter a women-only bathroom, he can be challenged. Someone can fetch an employee or a security guard, if necessary. This might end up being messy, but the alternative is to make all bathrooms gender-neutral so that women can enjoy worrying about spycams and assault.

In your scenario, the police officer could ask to check an ID to determine whether you were male or female, though that’s less effective now that we have ID based on completely meaningless self-identification. I say completely meaningless because none of the males-who-don’t-identify-as-men whom I’ve met irl have been different from a million cis men, expect perhaps in having even more confidence than left-leaning cis men in telling women what to do.

In my earlier comment I wrote

It’s not clear to me whether your position is that there should be checks. If it is, it’s not clear to me who would conduct those checks, or how they’d check, or whether the checks would be universal for all users or at random or only when prompted in some way.

In case that did not make my enquiry clear enough, I am going to enlarge on it in the hope that at a greater length I may be able to make my meaning clearer.

In my earlier comment, I wrote that it’s not clear whether the checks (under your proposal) would be universal for all users or at random or only when prompted in some way. It’s not clear to me from your response whether you are proposing that a check should take place whenever somebody entering a women-only bathroom appears to be male, and if that is what you mean it’s still not entirely clear because to me it’s not clear what the answer is to the question ‘appears to whom to be male?’: is it to be anybody present who can require a check if the person to be checked appears to that observer to be male, or is it to be that only people from some stipulated category can require a check if the person to be checked appears to that stipulated person to be male?

In my earlier comment I wrote that it wasn’t clear who (under your proposal) would conduct the checks. From your response it still isn’t clear to me whether you are proposing that the checks be conducted by anybody present who takes on the function of making a challenge or whether you are proposing that the checks be conducted by a person from some stipulated category. In your response you refer to ‘an employee or a security guard’. In my experience, some public toilets are located in places where there are security guards (as there are, for example, in some shopping malls) and some are located in places such as restaurants where there are generally no security guards but there are other employees, but some public toilets are located in place such as public parks where there are typically neither security guards nor other employees present.

In my earlier comment I wrote that it wasn’t clear to me how (under your proposal) the checks would be conducted. It still isn’t clear to me: in particular, it isn’t clear to me whether you are proposing that the method of checking should be to ask for the production of identification. When I need to produce identification, like many people I generally rely on my driver’s licence, which I normally have with me (even when I’m not driving). However, a New South Wales driver’s licence does not indicate whether the bearer is female or male. Sometimes at work I use my employee ID card, which I also normally have with me (even when I’m not at work), but that too does not indicate whether the bearer is female or male. My daughter doesn’t have a driver’s licence or an employee ID card: I don’t know whether she routinely carries any form of identification at all.

There’s multiple questions there to which I can imagine multiple answers and therefore I can come up with multiple scenarios: I don’t know whether any of them is the one you are proposing, but no matter which one I think about I can’t tell whether you would be satisfied. Just for one example: I can imagine that you observe, entering a women’s toilet in a public park, somebody who appears to you to be male; I can imagine you summoning a police officer to deal with the situation; I can imagine the police offer requesting the production of ID; I can imagine the person challenged saying, ‘I’m afraid I don’t have any on me’. What would you want the police officer to do then?

Finally, from your response it is not clear to me whether you are suggesting that the risk of spycams and/or the risk of assault is greater in unisex bathrooms than in women-only bathrooms and if you are making that suggestion it is not clear to me what the basis for it is.

118

Hidari 01.01.20 at 5:30 pm

@107/108
If people were simply to adopt nominalism, especially predicate nominalism, one would quickly find the abstract problems of this situation disappear, and one would simply be left with specific concrete problems which can be solved on a case by case basis, perhaps by reference to some form of utilitarianism.

119

Moz in Oz 01.01.20 at 11:35 pm

EB@96:

3. How do we feel about groups who are in some senses marginalized, but that within their own community, express dominance in harmful ways against some members of their group or against some members of other groups?

Typically those groups include considerable argumentation, at least those groups in the generally progressive side. That was, I think, one of the major causes of the third wave feminist movement to give but one obvious example. There’s also common patterns of uneasy alliance between lesbian and gay groups caused by sexism from the gay side… although they sometimes resolve that with a common dislike of bisexuals (almost always those who identify as such more often than those who behave that way).

This is why, for example, Julian Assange makes a poor rallying figure for civil liberties concerns… not every progressive feels comfortable claiming that journalists should be free to commit rape.

120

Collin Street 01.02.20 at 1:58 am

My (victorian) working with childrdn card doesn’t list gender either, and that whole system was designed from scratch less than ten years ago with the explicit purpose of identifying sexual threats.

(and in fact we know historically thanks to the royal commission that groups unconcerned with policing trans toilet use did significantly better in identifying child rapists amomg their number.)

121

faustusnotes 01.02.20 at 3:21 am

Anvil, my post makes very clear that unless you and all your mates are very very good at identifying natal women, the overwhelming majority of people you harass in bathrooms will be natal women. We don’t know what proportion of the population is transgender but we do know it’s very small, and the smaller the proportion of transgender women the more natal women you have to harass in order to kick out one transgender woman. We’re talking ratios of 4:1 or 5:1 here, at least. This isn’t something I’m imagining or making up: it’s a well known and well established fact about systems of discrimination. The fact that none of you gender “critical” feminists have bothered to figure out how your bathroom exclusion laws will work in practice or who they will actually effect should serve as a pretty sobering warning to you that you don’t know what kind of damage you’re going to do with your obsessions.

As an example of this, look at your response to J-D’s question:

the police officer could ask to check an ID to determine whether you were male or female

What happens if this person doesn’t have ID? Then the police officer is going to have to check, and under your definition of natal women, this means a genital check. This is your feminist policy: mandatory genital checks. Saudi Arabia much? Not to mention this ludicrous idea of having to carry id to use the bathroom. Or the fact that in the majority of cases it won’t be a police officer doing the checking, it’ll be some white Becky’s jock boyfriend, called into the bathroom to harass a natal woman who doesn’t present as feminine enough to satisfy Becky.

The gender critical feminist world’s reaction to Caster Semenya should tell us all we need to know about who will be the real victims of the policy: non-feminine women, disabled women, non-white women and butch-presenting lesbians will be regularly harassed in bathrooms because of your terror of transgender people you have never met, who just need somewhere safe to take a dump.

It’s ironic that in a thread about identity politics, we have someone cropping up to attack the supposed idpol of transgender rights, with a solution that requires everyone to have a document that specifies their identity, and a system of harassment of anyone who doesn’t openly conform to a rigid set of ideals for the physical representation of that identity. While simultaneously demanding everyone admit that there are no essential differences between the identities! It’s a terrible, evil mess you’ve created for yourself.

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J-D 01.02.20 at 3:51 am

All I can offer is my own experience (as I said, “I’ve seen this happen…”). I’m not sure how one would even go about researching this in a way that could be cited, to be honest.

You wrote about ‘… various online places … spiralling into ever more extreme rhetoric …’ Therefore, what I was (and am) requesting was (and is) some examples (or at least one) of spirals of ever more extreme rhetoric and the online places where you have encountered them.

In addition to what Anvil said @113, one benefit of being able to make general assumptions about who does and who does not belong in various spaces is that when these assumptions are broken, it is an immediate indication that something is wrong and that the space is not safe. That is one benefit of having sex-specific spaces like changerooms, toilets etc. even if there is no guard posted outside checking IDs – if a male is present in a space for females (and it is almost always obvious when they are; people are very good at clocking sex), it is a very clear signal.

For example: if I was the father of a young girl (say, 6 or 7) who was just starting to use the female toilets and changerooms by herself, I would probably like to be able to tell her that there should not be any men there, and that if there are, she should leave. Making all female spaces open for anyone except non-trans males would make that meaningless. Do you see?

No, I don’t. That’s not clear.

I take if from your use of the counterfactual that you don’t actually have a daughter (please correct me if I’m wrong), but as it happens I actually do. When she was young, as far as I recall, it never occurred to me to have the sort of conversation with her that you are suggesting. However, if I had, I can’t figure any way that anybody could have prevented me. Besides, as far as I know (again, please correct me if I’m wrong) nobody is even suggesting that parents shoud be prevented from having that kind of conversation with their daughters (if that is what the parents want to do).

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Chetan Murthy 01.02.20 at 7:02 am

Aubergine @ 115:

We seem to be talking about different things: you seem to be talking about how people should react to identity politics in general; I’m talking about how, in my experience, they actually do react to a particular style of idpol rhetoric.

Let me restate your position: “There are lots of people who don’t believe they’re misogynists, but in fact are misogynists; we should adjust our rhetoric to not make them feel badly.” [mutatis mutandis racism, homophobia, etc]

I will note that I was certainly in that camp (thought I was a feminist, wasn’t really), and perhaps I still am. But at least, I’m trying, and at least I engaged in that self-criticism. You could make your argument on a tactical basis (“if we anger these (self-deluding) racists, they’ll become outright racists, and that’s even worse”) but I don’t see any other decent basis for not calling out their awful attitudes, and certainly there’s no other basis for coddling their poor widdle sensitive feelings.

Bluntly put, nobody took such care for Trayvon Martin’s feelings, or Sandra Bland’s feelings, so why should we care about these particular moral basket cases?

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Hidari 01.02.20 at 10:17 am

‘not every progressive feels comfortable claiming that journalists should be free to commit rape.’

Even by the standards of CT comments threads, this is an egregiously appalling statement. It’s true that most Anglo-American progressives don’t feel comfortable defending Assange, but the fact that they don’t feel comfortable defending Chelsea Manning (a trans woman) either, demonstrates that their squeamishness has little to do with allegations of rape (now, of course, dropped) and a lot to do with ‘liberals’ typical fear of offending the United States (that their instinctive genuflection to American power has not been in the slightest bit altered by the fact that the US is now led by the quasi-elected Trump regime demonstrates how empty and vacuous the ‘#resistance’ is.)

In any case, here’s Chelsea Manning; https://twitter.com/xychelsea/status/1212133957258620928

currently being tortured in an American gulag after being found guilty of being innocent.

Also here is Nils Melzer calling out the torture of Assange and asking for those who have tortured him (British officials) to face criminal charges https://twitter.com/NilsMelzer/status/1211812961737740289

The odds of this happening under the Johnson regime are of course non-existent.

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Aubergine 01.02.20 at 1:34 pm

J-D @ 122

You wrote about ‘… various online places … spiralling into ever more extreme rhetoric …’ Therefore, what I was (and am) requesting was (and is) some examples (or at least one) of spirals of ever more extreme rhetoric and the online places where you have encountered them.

One example is metafilter. See threads like , with its absurd comparisons to Nazis, neo-Nazis, “quislings”, etc., its occasional dehumanising rhetoric and its endless strawmanning of The Enemy (gender-critical feminists); they would regard me as nazi-adjacent based on my posts in this thread alone. Any comment disagreeing with the groupthink is immediately deleted, although the moderators also seem to have started deleting the threats of physical violence against “TERFs” that used to be posted regularly, which is nice, and pushes the site back along the spiral a bit.

Another example: somethingawful.com, although it’s harder to link to (perhaps for the best).

Besides, as far as I know (again, please correct me if I’m wrong) nobody is even suggesting that parents shoud be prevented from having that kind of conversation with their daughters (if that is what the parents want to do).

I wouldn’t bet on that! (Unless by “prevented” you mean prevented by some sort of force or legal sanction, which isn’t what I said at all.) But let’s ask faustusnotes! Faustusnotes, do you see any problem with a parent telling their 5- or 6-year-old daughter that seeing an obvious natal male adult, regardless of “gender identity”, in a female toilet or changeroom means that something is wrong and that she should leave?

Chetan Murthy @ 123

Let me restate your position: “There are lots of people who don’t believe they’re misogynists, but in fact are misogynists; we should adjust our rhetoric to not make them feel badly.” [mutatis mutandis racism, homophobia, etc]

Not quite. How about this: “Give me six lines written by the least misogynist man in the world, and I will find enough in them to call him a misogynist. But what would that achieve?” Or, to put it another way: dividing humankind into the good non-misogynists and the evil misogynists and then banishing the latter from all polite company might be fun for a while, but turning every conversation into a game of spot the misogynist and mark them for exile is less fun.

You could make your argument on a tactical basis (“if we anger these (self-deluding) racists, they’ll become outright racists, and that’s even worse”) but I don’t see any other decent basis for not calling out their awful attitudes, and certainly there’s no other basis for coddling their poor widdle sensitive feelings.

That works as long as you have an easy way of telling a racist from a not-racist. And a definition of “racist” that everyone agrees with…

Bluntly put, nobody took such care for Trayvon Martin’s feelings, or Sandra Bland’s feelings, so why should we care about these particular moral basket cases?

…but again, I think you’ve misread me. I’m talking about the left purging its own members for trivial thoughtcrimes, not the kind of people who excuse what happened in those cases. Unlike, say, pH, I’m not too troubled by “the levels of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance expressed towards MAGA people in general”, for example.

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Aubergine 01.02.20 at 1:36 pm

The curse of a href strikes again! Oh well, it’s not too hard to work out what I meant.

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Adam Roberts 01.02.20 at 4:58 pm

@123 “why should we care about these particular moral basket cases?”

This is a rhetorical question I suppose, and I daresay you will not be interested in my answer. But the answer is: because we live in democracies where the route to power (without which we can do nothing meaningful to address these injustices) involves winning over a majority of people, not sending them away with a flea in their ear for failing our ideological purity tests. Remorseless, relentless self-criticism may well be a tonic for the individual soul, but it’s too harsh regimin for most folk.

We (for values of “we”) are losing the current culture war. That’s hard for some of us to accept, because it’s hateful, but also because it feels wrong: after all, “we” won, at least within certain tolerances of the word win, the previous three culture wars: civil rights, women’s rights and gay/lesbian rights. Not that everything is perfect for people of colour, women and gay people of course, but for the democratic majority, outwith hard-core fortresses of extremism, those were battles that shifted the way most people thought about these issues. It has sometimes occurred to me that the passionate commitment of non-trans liberals to trans-rights mediates, at least in some cases, a sense of belatedness for people who weren’t of the generation to fight those three righteous fights and who are now looking for a contemporary equivalent. But people of colour are the majority, globally speaking; women are half the whole population and even if gay people only make up 5-10% of the population that still aggregates into a very significant population, size-wise. As noted upthread it’s not clear what proportion of the general population are trans, but it’s assuredly not large. I’d argue that means fighting for trans rights dictates a different set of approaches: setting winnable goals. Just speaking strategically (rather than in terms of right-and-wrong) I don’t see that the current scorched-earth intensities are doing that.

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Collin Street 01.02.20 at 9:24 pm

“people who don’t look like what I think women are supposed to look like using the women’s toilet is a reliable sign of a dangerous breakdown of the social order that vulnerable people should flee from” is a not a political position but a product of actual diagnosable mental health or cognitive issues, and not something I’m willing to debate on the merits.

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Moz in Oz 01.02.20 at 9:41 pm

” this is an egregiously appalling statement.”

It accurately describes the position of some of the “free Assange” people I’ve seen in Sydney. They are quite explicit that the rape charges do not matter even if they were proved because Assange is a journalist and must be free to commit journalism wherever and however he likes. You don’t have to like having those people helping your progressive cause, but they’re there and they’re pretty darn visible.

You’re right that Chelsea Manning doesn’t seem to have the same level of support, at least in Sydney, and I have no idea why.

I don’t follow these cases much because it’s not my cause. The people turn up to stuff I’m at for other reasons and wave their signs saying “fake rape charges” and so on at (most recently) the International Day for Indigenous People but then so do the 25 different socialist factions and the equally interchangeable 12 different christian sects. Meanwhile I’m there with my XR sign and my FIRE shirt because IMO there’s a clear link between indig issues and environmental ones (FIRE = Fighting In Resistance Equally)

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Kiwanda 01.03.20 at 3:31 am

Chethan Murthy:

Let me restate your position: “There are lots of people who don’t believe they’re misogynists, but in fact are misogynists; we should adjust our rhetoric to not make them feel badly.” [mutatis mutandis racism, homophobia, etc]

Let me restate your position: “There are lots of people are not misogynists, but who we like to call misogynists; since any possible negative reaction from them shows that they are not only misogynists, but *fragile* misogynists, we are always right”.

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Anvil 01.03.20 at 3:56 am

Just for one example: I can imagine that you observe, entering a women’s toilet in a public park, somebody who appears to you to be male; I can imagine you summoning a police officer to deal with the situation; I can imagine the police offer requesting the production of ID; I can imagine the person challenged saying, ‘I’m afraid I don’t have any on me’. What would you want the police officer to do then?

I would not actually summon a police officer, but this hypothetical officer could say, “Okay, bring one next time,” and take it from there. Park staff would be made aware of a repeat offender.

You and faustusnotes both seem to take the position that because enforcing a law might be troublesome, that law shouldn’t exist. How do you think access to women’s changing rooms, women’s gyms, women’s clubs, women’s sports teams, and women’s shelters should be regulated? Do you simply believe that we have no right to exclude males from anything?

The gender critical feminist world’s reaction to Caster Semenya should tell us all we need to know about who will be the real victims of the policy: non-feminine women, disabled women, non-white women and butch-presenting lesbians will be regularly harassed in bathrooms because of your terror of transgender people you have never met, who just need somewhere safe to take a dump.

What’s funny about this is that non-feminine women and butch lesbians are probably more strongly represented among gender critical feminists than any other subgroup. Also, I’ve never read a feminist–radical or not–analysis of Caster Semenya’s situation that wasn’t sympathetic. Her sex testing was not initiated by feminists. We’re concerned with people like Rachel McKinnon.

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J-D 01.03.20 at 5:51 am

Besides, as far as I know (again, please correct me if I’m wrong) nobody is even suggesting that parents shoud be prevented from having that kind of conversation with their daughters (if that is what the parents want to do).

I wouldn’t bet on that! (Unless by “prevented” you mean prevented by some sort of force or legal sanction, which isn’t what I said at all.) But let’s ask faustusnotes! Faustusnotes, do you see any problem with a parent telling their 5- or 6-year-old daughter that seeing an obvious natal male adult, regardless of “gender identity”, in a female toilet or changeroom means that something is wrong and that she should leave?

If that’s not what you understand ‘prevented’ to mean, then it’s not clear to me what you do understand ‘prevented’ to mean. However, it’s true that ‘prevented’ is my word and not yours. Your exact words were ‘I would probably like to be able to tell her’. Now, if faustusnotes (or somebody else) sees a problem with your doing something, that doesn’t render you unable to do it. I would say that if (some) parents tell their children something, and if (some) other people see a problem with those parents doing so, it is still correct to say that (whatever it was the parents told their children) it was something the parents were able to do. I would have been able to say things like what you described to my daughter when she was five or six (I didn’t, but I would have been able to), and I still would have been able to even if faustusnotes saw a problem with it.

I would not actually summon a police officer, but this hypothetical officer could say, “Okay, bring one next time,” and take it from there. Park staff would be made aware of a repeat offender.

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but around here there are public parks (with public toilet blocks) with no staff (that is, none regularly on-site or on-call; the local council does have a parks department, or something of the sort).

What would you want the police officer to do if the person challenged denied possessing any ID documents? What would you want the police officer to do if the ID documents produced did not indicate whether the bearer was female or male? What would you want the police officer to do if the person challenged asserted a legal right to use public facilities without producing ID documents?

If you personally would not actually summon a police officer, then what would you actually do?

You and faustusnotes both seem to take the position that because enforcing a law might be troublesome, that law shouldn’t exist. How do you think access to women’s changing rooms, women’s gyms, women’s clubs, women’s sports teams, and women’s shelters should be regulated? Do you simply believe that we have no right to exclude males from anything?

I feel as if I have been trying to elicit from you an explanation of the system you would advocate for, and you have not provided that explanation but are now asking me to offer an explanation of the system I would advocate for. I feel that’s a little unfair. However, since you ask, I will offer something: it’s not intended to be a complete answer, but I hope it provides at least some useful indication of how I think.

I can’t find any serious problems with Division 15B of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which you can find online here:
https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/1900/40/part3/div15b

What’s funny about this is that non-feminine women and butch lesbians are probably more strongly represented among gender critical feminists than any other subgroup.

Citation, please.

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Chetan Murthy 01.03.20 at 6:28 am

Kiwana @ 130:

Let me restate your position: “There are lots of people are not misogynists, but who we like to call misogynists; since any possible negative reaction from them shows that they are not only misogynists, but *fragile* misogynists, we are always right”.

Why, no. Lots of people who think of themselves as feminists, aren’t feminists at all. I was one of those, and perhaps I still am. I can describe point-by-point the ways in which I was not a feminist, even though I thought I was. And similarly, lots of people who don’t think of themselves as racist, in fact -are- racists. I was one of those too, and perhaps I still am.

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Hidari 01.03.20 at 2:35 pm

‘It accurately describes the position of some of the “free Assange” people I’ve seen in Sydney. ‘

No it doesn’t.

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Hidari 01.03.20 at 2:38 pm

‘ We’re concerned with people like Rachel McKinnon.’

Why?

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CaptFamous 01.03.20 at 4:11 pm

Wouldn’t your use of the word “deference” make more sense as “approval”? I’ve been thinking of this very topic a lot, both broadly and also within the context of my personal life and interactions, and the difference between acceptance and approval is one that I come to a lot.

Specifically: Acceptance is, in theory, unconditional. It’s the act of acknowledging who/what a person or group is, and recognizing it as part of the social fabric, whether you personally agree or not, and pointedly not declaring it to be better or worse than yourself

Approval is highly conditional. All benefits of approval are contingent on one side continuing to meet the standards of behavior or discretion set by the other side, and only going in one direction. It’s “you get to play be we get to make the rules, and we also get to change them whenever we want”.

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ph 01.04.20 at 2:36 am

Students Afraid to Ask Questions…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qLjQyQVWc0

At the 8:00 minute mark, the university lecturers describe the silence that descends in classrooms when discussions such as this come up – using real life examples. As in “how do you feel when…?” Young people don’t have the life experience to stand tall and withstand accusations of “racist, racist scum, fascist, white nationalist” which are part and parcel of the ‘discussions’ on any CT thread on any topic, at any time. Some folks, sadly, evidently get-off on implying that others aren’t really concerned about rape.

The consequences of these form of discourse here at CT are dire. Yes, even on a silly thread populated by the usual suspects on a blog few read. Because many here have the ability to influence countless others, as teachers, lecturers etc. Some may feel that the ‘conservative’ claim that students today are afraid to engage in good faith debates (not just sing with the choir) on topics of race, etc., well, because, or because ‘that’s a right-wing talking point.’

They’re right, reporting that students are afraid to speak or write freely at universities is often and loudly discussed in non-choir circles, and given that something like 90 plus percent of US academics support Dems, it’s unlikely that the 90 plus percent ever hear of their students’ fears except as ‘right-wing talking points’ and so dismiss reports of fears as such.

What are the stakes? Real debate suffers because people who seriously disagree with the premises and parameters of the debates aren’t engaged in the discussion. How well does that work in real life – where every major foreign policy ‘expert’ believes that pro-democracy interventions justify military action and regime change? In domestic policy, conditions are slightly better, not because the 90 percent are keener to listen, but because minority parents demanding alternatives to failed public schools and programs are now migrating to the GOP, and charter schools.

Discussing trans-tolerance and bathrooms when 80-90 percent of a cohort of high-students are functionally illiterate borders on the obscene. What about regular folks denied access to schools for their kids in 2020? We’re willing to tolerate that inequality, it seems. How about middle-class cocaine abuse, buying illegal drugs from people who massacre villages? Well, liberals sigh, what can be done?

Many believe we need to be more intolerant of attacks on free speech and we need to do more to protect children in schools and at homes from the ravages of widely-accepted abuses. Democrats/social democrats are running out of solutions. Have you noticed?

All that’s missing from Labour in the UK, or the Democrats in the US are winning candidates and solutions that make sense to voters. Which is perhaps why we spend so much time focusing on the ‘really important’ issues.

Happy 2020

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faustusnotes 01.04.20 at 5:35 am

Anvil asks me:

Faustusnotes, do you see any problem with a parent telling their 5- or 6-year-old daughter that seeing an obvious natal male adult, regardless of “gender identity”, in a female toilet or changeroom means that something is wrong and that she should leave?

And I ask Anvil – what is an obvious natal male adult? In your brave new world, do you think all 5 year old girls are good at identifying natal males without checking for cocks?

Your arguments always circle back to this fundamental problem: you think you and everyone else can easily and perfectly identify natal males and natal females. You have no proof of this. My blog post shows very clearly, using basic maths, that if you are even imperfect just a little, just a little tiny bit, your policy will mostly lead to the harassment of natal women.

You also now have hand-waved away the problem for butch-presenting lesbians, and the gender critical feminist treatment of Caster Semenya. In my blog post I give specific examples of the harassment of butch lesbians, to the extent that they have started wearing badges; and I give a link to a gender critical forum that makes some pretty negative views of Semenya very clear.

You haven’t thought through the consequence of your policy, and when presented with solid evidence and clear logic, you just refuse to budge. This is because your prejudice against trans people is much stronger than your desire to protect natal women, and it shows.

J-D and I have asked you what the police would do to someone without ID, and you simply will not answer. You “would not call a police officer.” That’s good! But we’re not talking about you. What about the average Becky who goes into a toilet, sees someone she thinks is a man, and then calls her boyfriend from outside? What happens then?

I’m guessing that Anvil has never been confronted and demanded to prove she’s a woman. I’m guessing Anvil has no idea how awful it is to be told you’re not a woman by random women in the street, and forced to either use the men’s toilets or flash her genitals to prove she is a woman. I’m guessing that if Anvil experienced that even once in her life, Anvil would stop being a gender critical feminist really really quickly. But apparently Anvil also lacks the empathy required to consider how it would feel for other people to experience such confrontations and aggression. And so she wants to introduce a brave new feminist world where:
– everyone needs an ID card to enter a toilet
– children of 5 years old need to be trained to distinguish between natal men and natal women
– public harassment of anyone who doesn’t look feminine enough is acceptable

Is that feminism? I think it might not be!

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Anvil 01.04.20 at 6:24 am

@Hidari

Because, in most sports, women can’t compete against men and win. This is why they’ve fought to establish leagues of their own. The fastest female runners may be faster than most men, but they are not faster than the best men. There’s a reason that only male sprinters have beaten the 10 second barrier for the 100 meter dash, and that male cyclists take about ten percent less time to complete races than female cyclists. If sports weren’t segregated by sex, women would largely vanish from professional sports. Allowing male athletes to compete on the basis of gender identity makes as much sense as allowing a 200 pound wrestler to compete in the lowest weight class because he identifies as a small person.

Apart from fairness, one of the reasons women value female-only spaces is because it provides them with a chance to escape from men and boys. This is particularly true of high school girls. At my German school, physical education classes were divided by sex. While it startled me at first, I soon came to appreciate it.

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Anvil 01.04.20 at 6:27 am

@ J-D

If I felt confident that the person standing in front of me was a man, then depending on how nervous he made me, I would either retreat from the bathroom, therefore ceding space which was meant for me, or say, “Hi, this is actually the women’s bathroom?”
Your link has nothing to do with the legal mechanism for enforcing single-sex spaces, but only addresses voyeurism. If this hypothetical man in a public park bathroom claimed to have no ID whatsoever (where I live, all state IDs have a gender marker), nothing he could bring the next time he wanted to use the bathroom, then he could be informed that the women’s bathroom was off-limits to him. If multiple women reported men using the women’s bathrooms at this park, then maybe the park staff would need to move the bathroom closer to its office so they could keep an eye on it. If they wanted to establish an additional gender-neutral bathroom, fine. This situation is not likely to arise often, but there’s no point in having a rule if you don’t enforce it.

Citation, please.

My citation is my own experience. Participating in radical feminist discussion groups is the only time I have ever felt like the most feminine woman in the room.

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Aubergine 01.05.20 at 1:07 am

J-D @ 132

Your exact words were ‘I would probably like to be able to tell her’. Now, if faustusnotes (or somebody else) sees a problem with your doing something, that doesn’t render you unable to do it. I would say that if (some) parents tell their children something, and if (some) other people see a problem with those parents doing so, it is still correct to say that (whatever it was the parents told their children) it was something the parents were able to do.

Do you honestly not understand that figure of speech? I would like to be able to tell people that they shouldn’t worry because there are sane adults in charge of US foreign policy at the moment, and nobody would try to stop me if I did, but that wouldn’t make my statement correct or useful.

faustusnotes @ 138

You also now have hand-waved away the problem for butch-presenting lesbians, and the gender critical feminist treatment of Caster Semenya.

Caster Semenya is intersex (as was revealed when the International Association of Athletics Federations released a policy that applied to her and clearly identified her specific intersex condition), and the long-standing issue of intersex people in women’s sport is not at all the same as the new issue of males in women’s sport, as much as trans rights activists love to confuse people by conflating the two.

You haven’t thought through the consequence of your policy, and when presented with solid evidence and clear logic, you just refuse to budge. This is because your prejudice against trans people is much stronger than your desire to protect natal women, and it shows.

You still haven’t grappled with the problems with your argument that were pointed out the last time you brought it up. But I’ll try to simplify the main one.

Consider two alternative premises:

Premise A: Women have the right to female-only spaces (including toilets, changerooms, shelters for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, etc.).

Premise B: Women do not have the right to female-only spaces. While some women would like to be able to exclude males from certain spaces (as above), the interest of some males in accessing those spaces is paramount. Questioning that male interest is a form of bigotry.

If one accepts B, then one may also accept your argument. Since women have no right to female-only spaces, and even the act of claiming that right is harmful, they can reasonably be blamed for the consequences of them requesting those spaces and attempting to exclude males from them (the consequences being the false positives you mention).

On the other hand, A suggests that the fault lies with the males who are creating the expectation that males are likely to be present in female-only spaces.

Since gender-critical feminists obviously accept A and reject B, they have no reason to be convinced by your argument. Neither does anyone else who accepts A. And using your argument to add support to Premise B, as you do, is begging the question. Agreed?

Anyway, back on topic (or closer to it): I’ve realised why likbez started this thread (@1) with the apparently strange gambit of linking to the Christian Post and Newspunch (wikipedia: “NewsPunch is a Los Angeles-based fake news website known for spreading conspiracy theories and political misinformation peddling fake news, mixed in with real news stories…NewsPunch has published false stories, including … [f]alse claims that Justin Trudeau was the love child of Fidel Castro”). This achieves a number of things:

– it immediately sets the tone of thread by focusing on the idpol wedge issue of trans rights vs women’s rights,
– it invites readers to associate gender-critical feminist arguments with conservative propaganda and fake news,
– it feeds the trans activists’ ever-growing persecution complex.

If likbez isn’t being paid for this, he should be!

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Collin Street 01.05.20 at 8:02 am

Last chance on this. Any further comments using autism as an explanation for rightwing bad behavior will lead to an immediate ban. I’ll offer the obvious counterexample of Greta Thunberg, and request no responses of any kind, in particular, no rejoinder from Collin Street. Responses won’t be published, and responders will be banned – JQ

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faustusnotes 01.05.20 at 9:02 am

Aubergine, I’m well aware of the existence of premise A and premise B. I’m not taking issue with whether you genuinely believe premise A or premise B or whether they have any valid basis in feminism, philosophy or astrology or anything else. I’m simply pointing out that any attempt to enforce premise A will lead to the harassment of the women you claim to want to protect, that this is inevitable and there is no avoiding it. I have given specific concrete examples (with pictures!) of the consequences of enforcing premise A the way you want. Both you and Anvil simply don’t want to talk about what actually happens when you enforce your exclusionary principles. You have some vague handwavey ideals, but you refuse to grapple with the practical implications of your policies. Until you do, you’re just being irresponsible.

I’m also well aware of what the actual issue was in the case of Semenya. However I gave evidence (a link to a gender critical feminist reddit) of GCFs treating Semenya as a trans woman (not intersex), no doubt because of racism. I would point you to Kathleen Stock’s tweets on the matter, and the disgusting replies, but in between writing for Quilette and defending an actual fascist she has found time to delete all the tweets she wrote about Semenya. Probably because they revealed just a little too much about what she really thinks of intersex people …

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faustusnotes 01.05.20 at 9:17 am

anvil at 140, when we assess the impact of a public policy we don’t assess it in terms of what we individually think we might do, we assess it in terms of what the broad public will do and what forces it will unleash. It doesn’t matter one squished fly what you would do. What matters is what a) suburban Beckies with aggressive male partners would do and b) how the police would deal with the situation. Given what we know about suburban Beckies and police in the USA, it really isn’t much of a stretch to figure out what would happen is it? You’re basically handing bigots and killers a license to express their bigotry.

What happens to a natal woman who gets kicked out of a woman’s bathroom by Becky and her boyfriend because she lacks ID, and then is forced to use the men’s toilet? In a park where there are no police? Is that making women safer?

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Orange Watch 01.05.20 at 7:11 pm

I’m not going to go back into the weeds of this conversation; I was sick for the better part of the last week and was all too glad to not get in arguments on line for a few days. However:

CM@87:
What “unexamined privilege” do you speak of? […] Maybe you should be clearer about what you mean.

The unexamined privilege of being able to uproot your life and move to another region where you do not, per your prior comments, suffer from significant discrimination or marginalization – while not only failing to suffer materially for doing so, but also by your above account, apparently improving your standard of living. This should be clear. Perhaps if you “don’t see class” it’s difficult, but it really should not be.

I’d also note that just because I don’t weaponize my identities nor brandish them for epistemological street cred doesn’t mean I belong to the cultural default identity. As someone else who suffered abuse and persecution according to marginalized essentialist identities correctly and incorrectly ascribed to me while growing up in the rural US, your invocation of this to give yourself credibility does not add any particular authority to your opinions. Especially, again, when you fail to examine what role your socio-economic privilege played in allowing you remove yourself from those circumstances in a relatively painless manner.

CM@101:
It’s clear that he, Aubergine, and others Really. Don’t. Care. Do. U?

This is not the first time I’ve seen CM assume the gender of someone they disagree with so they can lazily lump them into tidy, well-defined idpol pigeonholes. I’d love if it was the last. This is, along with much of the rest of their comments in this thread, excellent evidence towards Kiwanda@130 being accurate in rephrasing them as wanting to be able to equate everyone they disagree with as being essentially the same (cf their evocation of Melania here).

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Moz in Oz 01.05.20 at 10:21 pm

‘It accurately describes the position of some of the “free Assange” people I’ve seen in Sydney. ‘

No it doesn’t.

OK, so what have I seen, who are they, and what did they tell me?

I get that we live in a post-truth world, but when someone I’ve never met is claiming to have a more accurate view of my life than I have, that’s just out of line.

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