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Identity Politics Gets Into Our Pants

Gender Politics and Political Justice

In the midst of all this lies a fundamental question: What the hell is identity anyway? Is it something permanent and frozen like a 30,000-year-old fly stuck forever in amber? When it comes to things like this, I turn to the poet Walt Whitman, who, as everyone likes to emphasize, swung in all directions and made a name for himself singing “the body electric.” Uncle Walt poetically/metaphorically (and we must presume, in many cases, literally) saw himself as copulating with life itself. "Who need be afraid of the merge?" he wrote. Then: "I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the/journeywork of the stars." For me, the idea most relevant to sexual misconduct shaming, as all feminists seem to agree, is the one famously raised years ago by the feminist Susan Brownmiller, that the offense is not about sex, but about power and the abuses of power -- human corruption as expressed in assumptions of male superiority. Football players famously pat each other on the ass on the field, but that’s not about power or sex; it’s about brotherhood and the existence of all those pads that leave the gluteus maximus the only place one can feel that pat of solidarity. Rape and violent sexual assault are crimes of violence on the books; so the issue, here, is enforcement and listening to victims. The corruptions of male superiority come in when someone with power expects a person of lesser power to give up their independence and sexual dignity in order to obtain something that the powerful person has to give. Harvey Weinstein and the classic Hollywood casting couch has always been with us; what's new is the credence given to his accusers. As for the man who grabbed my ass, using it as an example, there was nothing from him I wanted, so he had no leverage over me. It was between me and him and all I had to do was say, “No thanks."


What interests me is whether the current shaming cycle focused on male sexual misconduct is an Identity Group Movement about the empowerment of women vis-a-vis men -- or is it part of a larger, more inclusive and diverse political movement focused on a more just distribution of power and wealth? It would be sad if it turns out to be just the former. How will it feed into the midterm elections in November and the presidential election in 2020? Due to the Clinton/Trump debacle in 2016, how much does desire for a woman president drive the movement? And how much do ideas of diversity and economic justice that include ignored working class white males drive the politics? How can these impulses work together?

story | by Dr. Radut