Mistaken Identity? Part II

29 Oct

Remember this post? I sure do. Between calling me a TERF, a lot of empty snark and mockery without actually engaging in any semblance of a debate, a complete cutting out of power relations, and either whitesplaining racism to me or insisting that one cannot “theorize” about racism because one is white (…), it was not so easily forgotten. To be clear: I still advocate what I have written back then. Given the reaction, even more so today. Quite frankly, I am astonished at the complete lack of grounding in intersectionality theory by many of those who proclaim to be its champions (and a simultaneous refusal to, just perhaps, have another look…) and who claim to base their (identity) politics on it and pursue them because of it. If you had actually (re-)read Crenshaw et al. (or, just as an experiment, clicked on any of the material provided throughout this “debate”), you would not be able to lean on her and others with this in the way you do. And here’s why:

“The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite – that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup differences. In the context of violence against women, this elision of difference in identity politics is problematic, fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class. Moreover, ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that bears on efforts to politicize violence against women.” (Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–99, 1242)

One of the main reasons Crenshaw (and others before her, cf. Elizabeth Spelman’s edition of “Inessential Woman,” for example) advocated an intersectional analysis of identities and, most importantly, their underlying power structures, was (and continues to be, apparently) the refusal to acknowledge intragroup differences, as she writes here. This concerns “women” as a social group, but also other groups established by their common experiences of systematic oppression. This also includes, for example, colorism, cissexism and heterosexism. Do you really want to tell me that people who identify as PoC and who pass as white have the same experiences of racist discrimination and of in-group colorism as people who identify as PoC and who cannot (while still all being subjected to racism)? Do you really want to tell me that people who identify as queer and live in cis-heterosexual marriages have the same experiences of heterosexist discrimination as people who identify as queer and who cannot (while still all being subjected to heterosexism and notwithstanding other intersecting forms of oppression)? Systematic discrimination is woven into social structures, including the denial of various forms of societal access and resources, endangerment of one’s physical_mental_spiritual life/well-being, and (thus) affecting one’s daily life. What is so clearly articulated toward white cis-het men evidently gets lost when it comes to in-group differentiation and acknowledging situational privilege.

4694201134_7b5ab60593_z

CC: Tom Beardshaw.

I am equally surprised about the recent unwillingness to take power relations into account when talking about identities and intersectionality. Here’s what Crenshaw et al. have to say about that:

Intersectionality is inextricably linked to an analysis of power, yet one challenge to intersectionality is its alleged emphasis on categories of identity versus structures of inequality. While this theme has surfaced in a variety of texts, particularly those that might be framed as projects that seek intersectionality’s rescue, […] we emphasize an understanding of intersectionality that is not exclusively or even primarily preoccupied with categories, identities, and subjectivities. Rather, the intersectional analysis foregrounded here emphasizes political and structural inequalities. […] The analysis of the overlapping structures of subordination revealed how certain groups of women were made particularly vulnerable to abuse and were also vulnerable to inadequate interventions that failed to take into account the structural dimensions of the context (Crenshaw 1991; Richie 2012). Departing from this work, however, critiques of intersectionality’s supposed reification of categories often reflect distorted understandings of identity politics. Attentiveness to identity, if simultaneously confronting power, need not be interpreted so narrowly. As deployed by many intersectional academics and activists, intersectionality helps reveal how power works in diffuse and differentiated ways through the creation and deployment of overlapping identity categories.” (Cho, Sumi, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall. “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis.” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 785–810, 797, emphasis mine.)

I will quote from “Mistaken Identity?” here: 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 the 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. Intersectional identity politics is a means to an end: To uncover, criticize, and ultimately abolish the oppressive power structures that necessitate it.

And now we come to the most reviled part, namely the question of experience and identity. I had written: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 […] and weave in and out of an identity according to the privileges it affords you at the time. […] Anyone 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) […]. 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.” I still do not understand why – especially when read in context… – linking “(lived) experiences” to identities was read as essentializing gender identities, for example. Perhaps we could take another look at intersectionality theory when it comes to power relations and experiences:

“As intersectional work has shown since its inception, social hierarchy creates the experiences that produce the categories that intersect. Substantively, white males dominate. Domination and subordination is the relational dynamic that animates this structure. […] It is this substantive grasp of forces that critical theories—when they are critical— are critical of, criticizing the “uncritical and disturbing acceptance of dominant ways of thinking about discrimination” (MacKinnon, Catharine A. “Intersectionality as Method: A Note.” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 1019–30, 1024, emphasis mine.)

This is what experience is about, and I’m repeating myself: 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. Experiences are linked to, derived from, and dependent on power relations, on social hierarchy, as MacKinnon writes. Black women*, for example, are a category or an identity because of their experiences of racism and (hetero- and cis-)sexism, etc. It’s not about the identity as such, it’s about abolishing the social hierarchy that necessitates it. Identity politics are a (necessary) strategy, and they have a goal – they’re not composed for essentializations. Things are complicated, personal identities are complicated – I get that. This is about reflecting on your personal social positioning within these frameworks and acknowledging intragroup differences that lead to differences in positions of relative power. Colorism is a thing. Transmisogyny is a thing. Hostility toward lesbians is a thing, and so on. Situational privilege: It’s a thing.

Your identity is your right. It’s not tantamount to a particular (set of) experience(s). And it’s essentialized when it’s detached from (an analysis of) power structures. This is why acknowledging differences within social groups is crucial and is the cornerstone of intersectionality. Continuing to disagree with that is your right, too – but please stop pretending this is happening in the name of intersectionality. This isn’t a theoretical mind game, this is practiced (one might even say: experienced). And, as so often, it’s not A or B: Identity politics are an essential strategy. Identities are not essential.

Liebe Katrin Rönicke (et al.),

6 Sep

…du brauchst publicity für dein Buch (dessen Leseprobe ich mir angetan habe, übrigens – zwischen den leeren Parolen war ich besonders fasziniert von dem feministischen Wert der Anekdote, dass du mit blonden Haaren ja ein beliebtes Fotomotiv japanischer Tourist_innen – bei dir natürlich im generischen Maskulinum – gewesen seist). Für diese und andere Publikationen werden gebetsmühlenartig immer “provokative Thesen” zusammengebastelt. Ich verstehe dein Problem.

Inmitten deiner Nostalgie bezüglich der guten, alten, weißen Alphamädchen-Zeit bei der Mädchenmannschaft und Feminismus in Schland prä-2012 versuchst du, die “Stimme der Vernunft” zu sein, der Differenzierung, der “Aufklärung”, der freiheitlichen Rationalität (…die Geschichte jener Begriffe ist dir leider auch nicht bekannt). Was deine aufgeklärte Stimme schreibt, ist allerdings alles andere als vernünftig, sondern zunehmend antifeministisch, rassistisch und ignorant. Du weißt einfach nicht, wovon du redest, tust dies aber kompensatorisch umso lauter und redundanter, und weil es nicht mehr (nur) um Frauen geht, die deiner Person und deinem Lebensbild ähnlich sehen, fühlst du dich unterdrückt. Gerade jetzt, gerade angesichts der momentanen politischen Situation gerade für Women of Color (WoC), muss man das letztlich nicht weiter kommentieren. Aber hey:

Da ist er, der reverse racism/heterosexism/etc.: Wer sich gegen Diskriminierung wehrt, ist auf einmal der_die Angreifer_in, ist unsolidarisch, ist böse. Das Lied wird seit Jahren rauf und runter gespielt von dir und anderen Schlandfeministinnen. So nenne ich weiße Mittelklasse-Alphamädchen, für die ihr – oft national- und_oder Standort-“bewusster” – Feminismus gleichbedeutend ist mit heteronormativen reproduktiven Rechten, Lohngleichheit, oft noch binären Geschlechtervorstellungen und vor allem mit sich selbst. Neuerdings werden da auch gerne noch “Men’s Rights’ Activists [sic]”-Forderungen untergebracht. Man kommt quasi aus dem Staunen über diese Art der Klientelpolitik – also der mit universalistischen Phrasen und Identitätspolitik-“Kritik” schlecht verkappten Identitätspolitik für weiße Mittelschichts-Hetero-Paare – nicht mehr heraus.

Zunächst wollte ich dir auf jeden der Absätze deiner Texte bei den Ruhrbaronen antworten. Schnell stellte sich heraus, dass das nicht nur eine Mammutaufgabe ist, sondern sinnlos angesichts dessen, was in deinen Texten an Vorwissen fehlt und wie viele uninformierte Grundannahmen aus jenen sprechen.

Deshalb habe ich nun einfach eine kleine Auswahl an Materialien für dich und andere zusammengestellt. Es ist, stichpunktartig, eine kleine Übersicht zu den Themen, die du in deinen “Artikeln” ansprichst, und zu denen dir offensichtlich Informationen fehlen. Über ein bisschen Nachholarbeit würde ich mich freuen – bis dahin kehre ich wieder zum Überlesen deines Namens und deiner Texte zurück.

  • Zur Mädchenmannschaft (MM)
    a)
    Alphamädchen an die Front. Ist das einer der sachlichen Mainstream-Texte, die du meinst?
    b) Oder dieser Text, in dem Nadia dir noch einmal näherbringen wollte, was Rassismus ist, nachdem du dich bei der Lektüre von Noah Sows “Deutschland Schwarz-Weiss” unwohl fühltest (…und damals noch glaubtest, dass es biologische “Rassen” gäbe, dich aber gleichzeitig qualifiziert genug fühltest, das Buch zu bewerten)? Critical Whiteness und das Ende der Sektstimmung.
    c) Hannah Wettigs (die niemand “rausschmiss”, übrigens) global-erfahrene und differenzierte Rassismuskritik – ist das hier (quasi deine Textvorlage) gemeint? Ich bin übrigens die “Angry Black Woman”, die dort beschrieben wird (und das war der Text, in dem ich meiner “Wut freien Lauf gelassen” hätte) – ich bin aber unbesorgt über dieses rassistische Stereotyp, denn ich bin mir sicher, dass alle, die an diesem und ähnlichen Artikeln beteiligt waren, Schwarze Freund_innen haben.
    d) Oder spricht dieser Text auch noch einmal an, warum es durchaus problematisch ist, Feminismus als das Feld weißdeutscher Alphamädchen zu sehen und, wie du es auch 2015 erneut tust, z.B. antirassistische und anti-cissexistische Aspekte als “links” und “radikal” und “Identitätspolitik” und nicht “mainstreamfähig” abzubügeln (auch ohne mal kurz zu hinterfragen, wo denn der verloren geglaubte Wert der Angleichung an einen sexistischen, rassistischen, etc. Mainstream bitte läge…)? Entweder… Oder?
    e) Der Mädchenmannschaft, der du ganze zwei Jahre angehörtest und nun seit langem nicht mehr liest (wie du sagst…), trauerst oder lästerst du öffentlich nun schon mehr als doppelt so lange nach, als du je dabei warst. Seit 2011 schreibst du über die Mädchenmannschaft und wie es “damals” gewesen sei, kommentierst die Jubiliäumsfeier vor drei Jahren, auf der du nicht zugegen warst, und lamentierst Vertrauensentzüge. Vielleicht wäre es an der Zeit, endlich loszulassen?
    f) Vielleicht wäre es ebenso an der Zeit zu erkennen, dass Auseinandersetzungen – seien sie innerhalb der MM oder auf Twitter oder wo auch immer, keine Frage von “Stutenbissigkeit” oder “Zickenkrieg” oder nachtragenden Beleidigtseins oder ähnlichem sind, sondern politische Auseinandersetzungen? Ich widerspreche dir nicht, weil ich dich nicht möge (…wir kennen uns nicht persönlich) – ich widerspreche dir, weil du wahlweise diskriminierenden und_oder kenntnislosen Blödsinn erzählst. Es ist doch schon bezeichnend, wenn du dich umguckst und siehst, wer genau dir für deine Undifferenziertheit applaudiert.

Gern geschehen :)!

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.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: