Marching Off The Identity Politics Cliff
While clever, Suh’s pussy hats set the tone for a march that would focus acutely on genitalia at the expense of the transgender community. Signs like “Pussy power,” “Viva la Vulva” and “Pussy grabs back” all sent a clear and oppressive message to trans women, especially: having a vagina is essential to womanhood.
“The main reason I decided not to go was because of the pussy hats,” 28-year-old Jade Lejeck said in an interview Sunday night. “I get that they’re a response to the ‘grab them by the pussy’ thing, but I think some people fixated on it the wrong way.”
Lejeck, a trans woman from Modesto, California, said the hats signaled to her that there would be other trans-exclusionary messages at the women’s marches.
And not just Lejeck:
For 20-year-old Sam Forrey, a nonbinary student in Ohio, and their girlfriend Lilian McDaniel, who is trans, there had been other warning signs that the Women’s March might be a dangerous space for them.
Forrey said that a blurb from the Cut’s “Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the Women’s March” suggesting trans protesters bring identification that matches their gender identity or use the “buddy system” had been the first red flag.
Since legally McDaniel’s sex is still male, she worried that if she were to be arrested she would be placed in a men’s jail, a concern she said always lingers at the back of her mind. McDaniel said she’d planned on attending the march despite these fears — until she saw that people were using it as an excuse to invoke what she called “genital-based” womanhood.
A friend told McDaniel about a protester they’d seen marching with a two-foot-tall hand-knit uterus. She was glad she stayed home.
No, actually, super silly. Which is fine with me. But if the left has any sense at all, they will read anti-Trump writer David Brooks’s column today and take it seriously. Excerpts:
Soon after the Trump victory, Prof. Mark Lilla of Columbia wrote a piece on how identity politics was dooming progressive chances. Times readers loved that piece and it vaulted to the top of the most-read charts.
But now progressives seem intent on doubling down on exactly what has doomed them so often. Lilla pointed out that identity politics isolates progressives from the wider country: “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.”
Sure enough, if you live in blue America, the marches carpeted your Facebook feed. But The Times’s Julie Bosman was in Niles, Mich., where many women had never heard of the marches, and if they had, I suspect, they would not have felt at home at one.
That’s true. I was up in St. Francisville this morning, and ran into a friend of mine, and older white woman. I told her I was going to DC this week for a meeting, and that set her off talking about the Women’s March. She was stirred up about it.
“I don’t understand what their problem is,” she said. “They were just so disgusting, especially that Ashley Judd. Her mama is a fine Southern lady, and must have been so ashamed of her. Did you see that they wouldn’t even let pro-life people march with them?!”
Oh, I got an earful. She said, “If you see the president, you tell him that I am glad I voted for him, and after seeing that mess in DC this weekend, I look forward to voting for him again.”
Thing is, you will never see a woman like that at a demonstration. But she votes.
The biggest problem with identity politics is that its categories don’t explain what is going on now. Trump carried a majority of white women. He won the votes of a shocking number of Hispanics.
The central challenge today is not how to celebrate difference. The central threat is not the patriarchy. The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea.
Modern liberalism can’t do that. It is far too lost in the fever swamp of identity politics. And corporate America, by jumping feet first into identity politics under the guise of “diversity,” has made it harder for middle class people to think in any other way. It’s not just corporate America either. When I was in Dallas over the weekend, I was talking with some friends, one of whom sends his kids to Highland Park High School, a public school in the city’s most exclusive area, and one of the top 20 public high schools in the nation. He is frustrated because their literature syllabus is scant on the classics, and heavy on trivial contemporary novels chosen to celebrate diversity.
These kids are the sort who going to be the ruling class one day, whether they end up as Republicans or Democrats. Their imaginations will have been formed by the ideology of diversity. When Brooks talks about the “central challenge” to our politics today, he’s right, but elites are not giving younger generations the tools with which to regard the world in any way other than through the lens of identity politics.
My kids were out not long ago at some event, and I ended up talking with a white teenager in Baton Rouge, a young man who looked like a junior or senior, who said some of the guys in his private-school class are now calling themselves “white nationalists.” This worried him a lot. I asked him about their economic background (comfortably middle class), and then asked him why in the world boys like that would be interested in white nationalism. They’re not economically stressed. What’s in it for them?
“Where does this stuff start with anybody?” the kid said. “They’re looking for an identity. They’re tired of being told that white males are what’s wrong with the world. That white nationalism garbage makes them feel special.”
The Democratic Party and well-meaning elites are calling this demon up.