What is the most radical feminist group
»Nobody can stand feminists«, it says in the series Mrs. Americawho have fought the political battle for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s shows an amendment to the constitution that should guarantee women equal rights in the USA. The sentence sums it up quite well. Because not only from the right-wing reactionary side there is traditionally resistance to feminist demands, many leftists also like to plead again and again to please reflect on the core demand for social equality and justice, instead of alleged "particular interests" of individual movements such as feminism or let Black Lives Matter split. Especially since Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2016 US presidential election, the argument has been widespread that the left-wing liberals have recently only focused on the concerns of minorities. In the fight against discrimination, social inequality and how to combat it have been neglected. Ultimately, this development also promoted the global triumph of right-wing populist and ultra-right currents, if not at all to blame.
"Identity politics" is the much used catchphrase that is supposed to explain the atomization and lack of alliances within left movements. The term seems to be new Catchphrase to replace the reactionary battle term of »political correctness«, which has been so popular for decades. But in both cases it is an attempt - and that is the central thesis of this text - to discredit and de-legitimize emancipatory policies that are difficult to achieve in terms of democratic politics.
The criticism of identity politics is certainly not new. For almost 150 years, feminism has been working on the famous "main contradiction", that is, capitalist exploitation, with the elimination of which all other forms of oppression would naturally dissolve. Because even the first socialists had demanded that the comrades should please stop their feminist whining and close their ranks. Once socialism was there, it was said, the oppression of women would also take care of itself - it was just a "secondary contradiction." A prognosis that, as is well known, has not come true.
Instead, it was precisely those movements that had been dismissed as "identity politics" that countered this oppression. Because without identity politics there would be a high probability, for example, For example, the Jim Crow Acts that were in force in the southern states between the abolition of slavery in the USA in 1865 and the (official) end of racial segregation in the mid-1960s: no right to vote for women and homosexuality would continue to be punishable.
And these elementary struggles against discrimination and for equal rights are, contrary to the criticism, not to be separated from those for social equality and justice. Unlike right-wing identity politics, which is about securing privileges and the exclusion of minorities, left-wing identity politics fights for participation and inclusion. And it is not a self-chosen form of protest, but essentially a reaction to discrimination. It reacts to the fact that certain (not necessarily only negative) characteristics are ascribed to a supposed collective. This means, for example, that women are considered irrational, but at the same time they are assigned more emotionality and empathy. Such collective attributions are historically contingent, they can change and sometimes even contradict each other directly. People are thus combined into a group that is supposed to form their own "unit": Identity comes from the Latin "idem": that means "the same, the same". This unity is a social setting. The people who find themselves in it are not really "the same". So racism only has the construct Race produced - not the other way around, as the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates in the foreword to Toni Morrisons The origin of the others writes. So people are addressed as collectives without having decided on their own affiliation.
This collective attribution has enormous consequences, which the individual has to bear, but which arise only because of the attributed affiliation: the "glass ceiling" is experienced by an individual woman, but not because she has done something wrong in her individual career planning but because, as part of the "women" collective, she is exposed to structural discrimination; Individual concrete people are beaten up by fascists, but they experience this violence because they were previously racially collectivized. So if discrimination and oppression always and exclusively work collectively, it makes sense to also collectively defend oneself against it.
That has the term »identity politics« Combahee River Collective Minted in 1977. In a programmatic statement, this association of black, lesbian women proclaimed: "We believe that the most profound and possibly the most radical political stance arises directly from our own identity." This meant that the specific oppression that they actually experienced as black lesbians can best be combated from their specific situation as black lesbians - namely together lets fight. These women did not recognize each other in a left-wing policy that primarily refers to the male industrial worker as a model figure of the proletariat. Because the reality of his life did not correspond to their situation in life and not to their experiences of exploitation.
The word "collective", at Combahee River Collective probably not a coincidence part of the name, is particularly central. But reacting as a collective to the oppression experienced together first requires acceptance of this externally determined assignment and affiliation. This inevitable acceptance is accompanied by a self- and redefinition of the assigned collective identity. The experienced subordination, including the derogatory attributes, should now become a self-chosen and self-empowering, positively connoted collective entity: women are no longer the "weaker sex", but strong and self-determined, black is no longer worse than white, but "black is beautiful" "Gay Pride" replaces gay as a swear word, etc.
However, the central dilemma of any left-wing identity politics remains to have to refer positively to categories that are actually the cause of the discrimination. Identity politics is thus characterized by a fundamental ambivalence between rejection and affirmation of identity. Affirmation is accompanied by a great danger from identity politics: that of essentialization. Because even sexist and racist ascriptions, for example, are often ambivalent and not without exception pejorative, women are seen as empathic and caring, black men as strong and potent. Therefore, the temptation is great to include such contingent external attributions in one's own identity design and to essentialize them, i.e. to declare them to be essential characteristics. The self-confidently worn Afro is then just as indissolubly part of the Blackness like the celebrated uterus to being a woman. Conversely, this means: Those who do not have the necessary hair structure or, like trans women, do not have the required organ, are excluded. The assumed collective identity is then no longer an auxiliary construct that ultimately emerged from self-defense. Rather, it postulates and again manifests essential differences where there are actually none.
The example of the women's movements, which were and are central movements in identity politics, shows the difficulty of the search for an identity essence particularly vividly. "Am I not a woman?" Asked the former slave Sojourner Truth in 1851. With her famous speech "And ain't I a woman ?!" she accused a women's rights convention in Ohio that she had just come to life US women's movement with its emancipation demand did not include blacks and enslaved women - even though the US women's movement was inspired not least by the struggle of the abolitionists for the abolition of slavery.
Sojourner Truth's criticism thus marked the beginning of an argument that runs like a red thread through the history of feminism: For whom is feminism actually fighting? Who exactly were "the women" whose rights he stood up for? Or to put it the other way round: Who was excluded in each case? From the beginning, the women's movement was faced with the fundamental challenge of defining a political subject woman and proclaiming commonalities through which this collective could define itself. This identification failed (and continues to fail), as with Sojourner Truth, not only because of skin color, but for a variety of reasons throughout the history of feminism. Workers felt excluded from the bourgeoisie and feminists of the global south from western feminism, lesbian women reject the feminism of heterosexual feminists as exclusive, etc.
A central basic conflict of the First Women's Movement, which emerged in the second half of the 19th century, was initially the antagonism between workers and bourgeois feminists. Since then there has been an effort to combine the social question with the »women's question«, that is, class politics with identity politics. Despite all the antagonisms and conflicts of interest, there are innumerable examples that show that identity politics in theory as well as in political practice were by no means opposed to class politics.
The feminist movements have always been directed against female poverty and formulated an elaborate economic criticism with which, among other things, they demanded the recognition of reproductive work and a radical redistribution of paid and unpaid work. The feminist Marxist Silvia Federici criticized 2017 in an interview with the newspaper ak - analysis & criticismHow old-fashioned the idea of this opposition (identity politics vs. class struggle) is: “The idea that there is culture on the one hand and the real thing on the other is part of a very paleo-Marxist, Stone Age conception of exploitation and accumulation. Basically, this conception still sees accumulation primarily in the factory and everything else is 'cultural'. "
The desire for alliances in the face of a divided and fragmented left is understandable - and widespread. Many left critics of identity politics are worried about the indiscriminate multiplication of categories of discrimination. But calls for unity and the strategic setting aside of differences are misguided, because these differences exist and they are enormous. The solution for a left identity politics must therefore consist in neither negating these differences nor necessarily evaluating them as divisive and disruptive. Like any identity politics, it too has to recognize that one's own homogeneity is only an auxiliary fiction and it has to affirm difference as a constituent and even constructive characteristic.
This admission holds a great opportunity: The bottom line is that the identity-political criticism of minorities is precisely the strength and not the weakness of left movements. Left identity politics want to overcome marginalization in order to work together for greater justice for more and more people. And in view of the current bashing, it is extremely important to bear this historic merit in mind. The goal of left identity politics is not division, but rather what is supposedly prevented: solidarity.
How many identities are we, do we deny, do we strive for? In March 2021, authors from NG / FH and sagwas.net will shed light on the social and political dimensions of this question - for reading and reflection.
Read the interview with the author Brigitte Theißl on sagwas.net about how the media reproduces sexist and classicist stereotypes:
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