Mistaken Identity?

27 Jul

Few things are as hotly contested as so-called “identity politics”, i.e., political activism for and (in the best case scenario) by a group of people who have chosen a group identity in response to being marginalized for a particular sexual preference, gender, appearance…, as a means of self-empowerment and as a means of enabling targeted criticism of said marginalization. Identity politics (cf. Kimberlé Crenshaw et al. 2013) are hotly contested because of some people’s tendency to essentialize said identity instead of clarifying that identity politics are a means to an end, namely to uncover, name, illustrate, criticize and eventually abolish a discriminatory power structure underlying any given marginalized identity – not only in certain, but in all social situations. The fact that some leftist activists have a massive problem with identity politics is revealing in so far as that issue is mostly brought up when PoC assert their right to be heard and to criticize racism in leftist structures and radiating from leftist people who had heretofore declared themselves guilt-free. Negating any form of identity (other than “human”, as it is so often the case) not only ignores continuing and society-permeating forms of systematic oppression, but make the mere naming, the calling-out of oppression impossible. There you have it: Identities are a reaction to exclusionary claims of universalism, not an invention for the sake of essentialism. This is old news.

14071972057_830584e082_zAnyone can claim any identity s_he wants. I mean that. You can identify yourself as Black (see Dolezal), even if your phenotype suggests otherwise. That’s your prerogative as an individual. Race is a social and cultural construct. What you do not get to do, however, is to claim the lived experiences of people who are subject to the power structures creating identities (countercultures), and because you claim you are Black (like Dolezal did), it does not necessarily mean you experience racism (which is, in contrast to race, not a social or cultural construct). Because you claim you are queer, you are not necessarily experiencing heterosexism. Let me explicate that:

People are pulling Dolezals all over the place, and that is identity politics gone wrong. That is identity politics not for the sake of exposing discrimination but identity politics for one’s own self-absolution, for obfuscating any kind of responsibility for social inequality. You can claim you are Black even if you have no experience of (anti-Black) racism. That, however, is an expression of privilege: You choose an identity, it is not imposed on you from birth or early childhood on as with PoC, and it only works your way around (I, for example, cannot simply choose to be white. It does not work this way, and no amount of Penatencreme will change that). Instead of doing the work as an ally – which can be exhausting, nerve-wracking, saddening -, you choose the easy way out: You stylize yourself as part of the oppressed group. End of story. You have the best of two worlds, then: Being part of a community that is often supportive and tightly-knit because of its negative experiences with hegemonic social structures, and also having the benefit of being invisible within these hegemonic social structures, even profiting from them. Remember: Before Rachel Dolezal became “Black”, she sued Howard University for discriminating against her because she was white.

No one should have the right to negate your chosen identity. People of the same identity, however, have the right to question whether you can actually relate to their lived experiences (that vary, of course, but the common denominator – e.g., racism, does not) or whether you are playing dress-up literally “coloring” yourself [Added: This is referring to Rachel Dolezal, who put on Blackface and a weave] and weave in and out of an identity according to the privileges it affords you at the time. Cis-women claiming they are “queer” but have only ever dated cis-men or are married to cis-men, for example, confuse me. Yes, it’s your identity. I get that. But leading a life of heterosexual privileges hardly relates to lives of lesbian or gay people; it hardly relates to experiences of heteronormativity, of heterosexist violence. Your identity does not correspond with the lived experiences of people whose sexuality, whose lives are policed, sanctioned, and legally restricted. So publicly and forcefully placing yourself within the bigger framework of LGBTQ folks, within a marginalized group, is insincere, if your sexuality is only ever practiced on cis-hetero terms.

You claim a marginalized identity without the actual experience as such. You thus obfuscate your own privilege within a heteronormative society that awards your sexuality_relationship relative safety (within the bounds of whiteness, cis-normativity, ableism). You resent the fact that you are not part of a counterculture so much that you stylize yourself as being part of an oppressed group, as the target, instead of doing the work. It is insincere, and it is identity politics gone wrong (and empty). I not only recall Dolezal here, but also a white feminist on Twitter last year, who, in response to reproaches of racism, claimed that she wasn’t “white,” but “green” (as in environmentally conscious), and thus incapable of having white privilege. Thus the hashtag #GreenPeopleBeLike was born.

Individually chosen identities do not automatically make you victim to societal discrimination. The experiences people have of discrimination due to external ascriptions are reformed and renamed into positive identities for the purposes self-empowerment and social activism. With identity politics, it’s not about essentialism. It’s about social relations. It’s about acknowledging the rich, varied, saddening, empowering, hurtful, infuriating, eye-opening life experiences of people other than male, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, and cis. Intersectional analyses take a multitude of identities into account to expose the unique spaces of societal marginalization occupied by various people. It’s not about an essentialized race, it’s about racism, not about an essentialized sex, it’s about (cis)sexism, not about an essentialized sexuality, it’s about heteronormativity, and so on. The terms Black or woman, e.g., are indicators of a social structure; they are abbreviations of a relation, not absolute terms. No one should impose an identity on anyone else. In our present day and age, identity politics are inevitable, and they are a useful tool. Everyone should have the right to chose his_her own identity. That identity, however, is not enough. It’s not static, it’s experience-based. And it’s always, always, about cracking the structures that necessitate it, in the end.

Addition: This text is about identity politics and people belonging to hegemonic societal structures appropriating and taking up space in the countercultures of marginalized people by strategically claiming it. Apparently, that wasn’t clear.


Black Lives Matter.

25 Nov

I’ve tweeted about it here.

Two Ouzo-Sprite, Please.

13 Oct

Actually, just one. Because, as I’ve learned during my latest grrrl holiday: that stuff might make Nadia happy, but, for me, just the smell is an excellent throwing up agent. To be honest, I’ll just have any kind of drink that will make this white supremacist patriarchy end faster, really. Thanks!

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged – about anything, really. That’s partially work related, partially related to the mere fact that I sometimes get the sense that I’ve basically said what I wanted to say. Many times. Without any impact, naturally. And there’s not much to add. Except for a link to 2011, perhaps.

kNadia and I mused on whether we should just start doing battle rap and self-centered podcasts instead – “Arab and Afrob Talk About Stuff,” for example. Battle raps indeed seem like the appropriate answer to most of my recent political online communication – this would be the adequate substance level. And that, again, is no only due to the fact that people react absurdly to what feminist bloggers write, but to the fact that feminist bloggers write at all.

When I started this blog, my intention was to make it about pop culture and gender – a fun, pink, neon, silly place where I do the stuff I like and people who like it, too, can come in and participate. Only a few months later, Sady Doyle’s piece about having been a much more cheerful person when first entering the bloggosphere really spoke to me; she followed it up with her analysis of the reactions to women_feminist bloggers with the #MenCallMeThings campaign shortly thereafter. For me, #MenCallMeThings was a nice addition to #WhitesCallMeThings – not that the two don’t frequently overlap.

Overestimating social progress (and/or people’s willingness to evolve past… uh, the social ideals of the Fifties, really?) was pretty much my crucial mistake. Underestimating the viciousness of people who think there are people and then there are women* was another one; the determination of people (predominantly white, heterosexual cis men) whose only purpose in life seems to be to make other people as downtrodden and miserable as possible to be able to continue feeling (and being treated) superior. Who knew?!

This isn’t the internet’s fault. Rather, this medium seems to allow for the concentration of said misogynists (and racists, and heterosexists,…) into a single ball (oh, ze pun) of awfulness, served on a silver platter, day in, day out. It is exhausting as a mirror of social reality. And never was my contempt clearer than now, after having taken a longer break from it. The sad thing is: getting digitally spat on everyday becomes a sort of routine. And I only realized just how routine it is after having taken a step back. Now, I do not feel re-vitalized to jump back in, however, but rather motivated to step further back.

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Die Sehen Doch Sowieso Alle Gleich Aus.

18 Jun

Hach, taz… Ihr lernt auch einfach nichts dazu, ne? Deniz Yücel fand es schon sehr gemein, dass er nicht mehr unwidersprochen N* sagen darf (und sich gar Frauen im Publikum dagegen lautstark zur Wehr setzten, statt zu bügeln – Videospiel-Zitate be damned…), aber das habt Ihr unter “Satire” verbucht, und die darf ja bekanntlich alles. So, wie “Onkel Barracks Hütte” 2008. Oder wie Die Partei mit Blackface. Oder der Dresdner Zoo mit Affen.

showbiz_barack_obama_presidents_chairBarack Obama kommt also nach Berlin, 50 Jahre nach John F. Kennedy, und wird eine Rede halten am Branden­bur­ger Tor, nun in image­schwieri­gen Zei­ten von PRISM und Hunger­streiks von Guan­ta­na­mo-Häft­lin­gen. Es ist zu er­war­ten, dass sich – wie üblich – Oba­mas Rede in Pathos er­giessen wird und man ein bisschen Ameri­can Ex­ceptio­na­lism vor die Na­se ge­knal­lt be­kommt. Das wäre nichts Neues und das wäre auch nicht anders als das, was Politiker_innen weltweit tun (except for the exceptional exceptionalism, maybe) – es ist also keinen besonderen Spott oder besondere Häme wert.

Wozu hat sich nun aber die taz entschieden? Dafür, eine satirische Kolumne zu schreiben, in der Barack Obamas Rede aus Zitaten von Roberto Blancos Liedern besteht.  Mehr noch, diese wird gleich eingeleitet mit einem Bild Roberto Blancos, das folgende Caption trägt: “Der amerikanische Präsident Barack Obama bei der Probe für seine große Berliner Rede.”

Man könnte das unter “nicht lustig” abhaken. Wäre ja nicht das erste Mal bei taz‘schen Satireversuchen. Leider wird hier aber fröhlich Rassismus reproduziert – selbst dann, wenn es als so überspitzt intendiert war, dass man den rassistischen Gehalt dieser Satire als solchen von Beginn an offenlegen wollte.

Barack Obama ist Schwarz, Roberto Blanco auch – das muss als Parallele reichen, um die beiden physisch wie rhetorisch austauschbar zu machen.

Die taz denkt, das sei Satire; vielleicht sogar eine, die Rassismus irgendwie entlarven soll (wie und warum so, bleibt unklar). Dass diese Satire nur deshalb funktionieren kann, weil man sie auf rassistischen Tropen aufbaut, ist der taz dabei egal. Schwarze Menschen wurden seit jeher als ununterscheidbar und deshalb beliebig auswechselbar angesehen; als ent-individualisierte, ent-persönlichte dunkle Masse, der sowohl physische als auch charakterliche Differenzen fehlte – das “anders”/”nicht-weiß” war genug des Markers und der Beschreibung Schwarzer Personen. Die taz bedient sich dieses Klischees, und sie subsumiert Barack Obama nicht nur unter einen von “diesen”, die irgendwie alle “gleich” aussehen, sondern macht aus der momentan politisch mächtigsten Person der Welt nicht mehr als einen phrasendreschenden Entertainer zur Belustigung eines weiß_deutschen Publikums.

Roberto Blanco hat sich seine Karriere ausgesucht, er singt seine Lieder (hoffentlich) freiwillig. Barack Obama ist jedoch kein Schlagersänger, er ist Politiker. Dass es Parallelen/Überschneidungen von Showbusiness und Politik gibt, ist so alt wie langweilig als vermeintliche “Erkenntnis” hier. Dass Barack Obama als “Popstar” gefeiert wurde, ebenso. Nichtsdestotrotz hat man Kennedy damals nicht mit Heino verglichen, und Angela Merkel vergleicht man nicht mit Barbara Streisand.

Das Narrativ, Barack Obama als inhaltslosen Popstar darzustellen, das sich die taz übrigens von US-Republikaner_innen der McCain-Kampagne abgeguckt hat, baut  auf Rassismus auf – und hier schließt sich der Kreis zum Obama-Blackface Der Partei: Obama wird nicht nur entpersonalisiert und entindividualisiert durch Austauschbare-Schwarze-(TM)-Fotos, er wird zugleich zum bloßen Entertainment für weiße Zuschauer_innen degradiert; als jemand, der alberne Lieder (am besten mit ein bisschen Stepptanz) vorführt. Ihm wird Handlungsfähigkeit (agency) aberkannt, er wird zum bloßen Spektakel eines white gaze, zur Parodie eines weiß-definierten Schwarzseins.

Die taz greift hier tief in die Kiste rassistischer Stereotype, Narrative und Tropen – schon wieder. Wer immer noch ein Abo hat bei den “Genoss_innen” [sic], der_die möge es doch spätestens jetzt endlich kündigen. Die taz selbst freut sich ganz bestimmt über feedback unter @tazgezwitscher oder direkt hier.


26 Feb

There are certain commenters on feminist and other social justice blogs that I keep wondering about, or rather: whose behavior keeps baffling me. These people (most of them self-identified men) are no “trolls” in the usual sense, i.e., they do not linger around comment threads with the need for petty recogni­tion; the people I am talking about would probab­ly argue that they are ho­nest­ly interested in feminist and other social topics, that they do value the writing people provide on it, and that they are here to argue in good faith. Still, despite all these seemingly benign intentions, even lower-level moderated feminist spaces can’t be bothered publishing or even replying to their comments. But despite the fact that about 90 percent of these commenters’ ideas never see the bright and shiny light of comment thread day, they feel the need to give bloggers the benefit of their opinion on every other post.

Can I just ask… why? What do people think they (or the ones they are confronting with this kind of behavior) have to gain from tactics like these?

Why would you continue to comment (most redundantly) on a blog that has not acknowledged your last ten posts? Why would you think that a feminist blog is very eager to learn your spectacular insights as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied cis-man on every topic imaginable (and why would you think that you actually have the knowledge to talk about all of that)? Why do you think it is appropriate to force your half-assed analyses on every feminist blogger you can get a hold of?

This curious behavior is nestled somewhere between critical commenting, mansplaining and trolling, so I personally find it harder to handle (…engage yet again to repeat the same basics one more time? Ignore? Delete? Spam?). It is, however, quite similar to good ol’ trolling in certain regards: people who have little knowledge on feminist/etc. issues (although they most certainly think they do…) feel the ever-growing need to educate you about either very basic feminist 101 ideas that they’ve just recently learned somewhere and now need someone else to validate them, or about long-refuted hypotheses on, well, The World ™ and how it works. The other possibility (that I find particularly charming) is the devil’s advocate role where some random dudes just start throwing stuff at you (because it’s just the internet, right, don’t take things so personally, you hysterical oversensitive misandrist radical ball buster), even though paying lip service to actually agreeing with you “more generally” – Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written about that many times, and why it is not only exhausting but privileged and disrespectful behavior in the first place.

Some of the latest examples for this kind of conduct were some of the reactions to Charlott’s post about the Oscars, over at Mädchenmannschaft. In reply to her pointing out the misogyny, anti-Semitism and racism of a show that centered around jokes about topless actresses, domestic violence, JewsControlTehHollywoodz and WeCan’tUnderstandLatin@sAmIRite?!, some people found it necessary to tell Charlott that this is just “the entertainment industry,” and what do people really expect from that? Yeah, thanks for that groundbreaking insight… In reply to Charlott stating the obvious, namely that the Academy Awards are given out by a jury of predominantly elderly white men to predominantly elderly white men, people thought it wise to interject that both in the categories of leading and supporting actor/actress, the same amount of Oscars have been awarded. No shit, Sherlock… When Charlott problematized the racist and miso­gy­nistic treatment of Quvenz­hané Wallis, people found it appropriate to “remind” her of Django Unchained and its oh-so-clear “anti-racist” message, and that this ceremony clearly was all about racial har­mony. Have you been staying under a rock recently…? I’d rather publish another response (ironically) praising the beauty of this “coal black child” than those trying to school feminist and anti-racist bloggers about, well, feminism and anti-racism with the most ridiculous assumptions and a bare lack of know­ledge, all while thinking they have a key insight to contribute to this discussion – over and over again.

shhh2And yet, magically, this happens with a large per­cen­tage of the posts on femi­nist blogs, and it is al­most ex­clu­sive­ly done by the same hand­full of people (mostly men*) in seeming­ly end­less loops of re­dun­dan­cy. So, let me give you a quick ser­vice an­nounce­ment that other bloggers are too polite to give you (…and we all know that subtlety isn’t for me): please shut up al­ready. No one cares about your ill-informed “in­for­mation” you think is pi­votal to the success of some­one else’s blog’s con­tent or their wri­ting sty­le. This is not de­bate cul­ture – this is simply draining re­sources from people who have to deal with you and full-fledged trolls on a daily basis any­way. If you have questions about feminism and/or racism, take a look at a 101 and then come back. There is no responsibility to answer every single douche canoe comment to make people happy, and there certainly is no benefit to having to repeat day in, day out, why feminist bloggers on feminist blogs care about feminism so much or why criticizing pop culture makes sense in a critical post about pop culture.

When you realize at some point that none of your comments (or very few) ever make it through, it might be time to step back from the hard and cruel comment game and start reading and listening a bit more. That’s how most of the feminist bloggers (surprise: including this loud-mouthed one) started out, by the way: shutting up and educating themselves in other feminist spaces, for example – not drowning everyone everywhere in a flood of useless comments. If you don’t have anything else but rudely phrased banalities based on superficial knowledge to add to the conversation (which, by the way, can be quickly determined by people’s reactions to your posts or the fact that your posts are never actually answered or never even appear on the page), you might want to reconsider your actions. You know, the basic common decency approach has proven quite popular here and elsewhere… Because right now, the thing you’re doing is essentially online harassment. You’re the guy who is “just not getting it,” no matter how pronounced one signals you to back off. It’s not sexual harassment, but it is gendered harassment – and No means No (including the “No” that is conveyed when ignoring you).

Now: step away from the keyboard, and try to keep it down.

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