Sunday, January 4, 2015

I is for Identity Politics

Hello all.  For my first post of 2015, I am going back to blogging through ye old alphabet.  Today I is for identity politics.  Identity politics are how identifying with a specific category of people might shape your political views.  Identity politics are often associated with minorities and left wing politics (ex: feminism, race and civil rights, the disability movement, gay rights, class struggles, etc.).  Identity politics works by minority influence.  This is when a minority gets the majority to see things to see things their way.  

The term identity politics was created in the 1970’s for consciousness raising.  It is a way to show people how their personal hardships are created due to their being part of a discriminated group.  It has been very controversial.  Many people, like historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. say the only way to help minorities is to move them toward full acceptance and integrate them into the mainstream.  They say identity politics causes social fractures and make minorities stand out more.  Others say mainstream culture is too intolerant for total integration, and multicultural pluralism is a more realistic target.  There is also debate, especially within LGBT activism is to what degree their identity is an essential aspect of those people, or a culturally created category they chose on some level.  I am not going to dignify those who call homosexuality a choice with with a response, but I do agree that the cause of an identity is relevant in identity politics.

The intersex movement is a great example of identity politics.  Removed from all sociopolitical context we are talking about several different medical conditions.  Ironically it was our treatment by the medical community that was what gave us common grounds to form an identity.  This realization of our shared experience was the consciousness raising event that allowed us to find our voice and started the movement.  We have been using these experiences to gain mainstream support for over two decades now.  It is likely that if intersex people were hidden, but not operated on, there would be no intersex movement.  We would be entirely unknown to the mainstream and would all think we were the only one like us, and that would be tragic.