Tag: Identity Politics

As a Child of Deaf Adults: Problems with Identity Politics from a Progressive Perspective

By: Brian Birnbaum

Among contemporary progressives, the space for debate over the value of identity politics is shrinking at pace with its growing popularity within political discourse. Today’s dominant progressive tastemakers seem to feel that identity politics should either be bought wholesale, or you’re not a progressive. But as a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), a firsthand witness to deaf alienation, and even more importantly, as a progressive myself, I find it unacceptable that such particularistic, individuated, and limiting rhetoric as that employed by proponents should preclude the validity of my own political stance.

I’ve always been suspicious when new code-words and ideologies are introduced into the political sphere, as they strike me as euphemistic spins on old and often pernicious tropes. Take, for example, ‘Make America Great Again’, which was a dog whistle for returning to a time more prosperous for whites at the expense of all others. But my awakening to the deeper perils of identity politics came during the Democratic National Convention for the 2016 election, where hardliners ascended with pageantry to the podium and proselytized the masses, ostensibly for the good of the party. At their own earlier convention, the Republicans had trotted out the bereaved mothers of Benghazi, and now the DNC responded with the bereaved mothers of police brutality. The RNC had brought out the Boys in Blue to talk tough on crime, and the DNC called up Khizr and Ghazala Khan to thump the constitution and pick at its semantics. It was a lot of standard pandering to the parties’ respective bases, sometimes to mild success, other times to a fault.

But I observed a major difference – a massively important difference – between the way things were presented at the two national conventions. Nearly every individual the Democrats sent up to the stage used a variant of the same phrase: “As a black woman…”; “As a Muslim man…”; “As a Mexican immigrant…” Hearing this anaphora – and noticing it more and more after the convention, whether from a guest on CNN or a friend’s Facebook feed – I felt caught in a unique position. As a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), not once, among the DNC’s lineup of marginalized persons (or on CNN, or on the feeds of non-deaf Facebook friends), did I hear any mention of the deaf, nor any language related to the deaf population.

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One Year Later: Reflections on #MeToo

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

Social movements, like revolutions, tend to follow a similar cycle in the process of rewiring certain beliefs and norms of behavior. This was perhaps best diagramed by Crane Brinton in his book The Anatomy of Revolution (1938), a study of the English, American, French and Russian revolutions, respectively––and how all of these revolutions (with the American being the perennial outlier) echoed one another in their stages of development. The same pattern can be mapped onto intellectual life during any period of cultural change; for moments of cultural upheaval are themselves soft revolutions, in a way, smaller in the order of magnitude than revolutions that demand a renovation of state power. This cycle goes as follows: right-to-centre, centre-to-left, left-to-far left, back to centre, back to right. Or, put differently: exposure of tyranny, modest demands, modest demands not good enough, rise of the radical left, reign of terror, reaction to the terror. What happens after that can vary.

We’ll come back to that in a bit though. At the moment, the #MeToo movement has reached its first anniversary: the Harvey Weinstein exposé turned one-year-old this past weekend, Bill Cosby has been through a court of law and will see the inside of a jail cell in this life, and the Preminger-esque drama that was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh has come to a close (we’ll return to that soon as well). Even as we are living in this, the second year of his highness, Donald J. Trump the first, the #MeToo phenomenon has been arguably the most journalistically exhausted subject in the Anglosphere, with scarcely a side of its episodic saga gone unexamined. (I say this because at the moment I am living in central Europe, and talk of it here has been, so far as I can tell, peripheral.) Thus, one’s proverbial two cents feel even less asked for than usual, but a few things are still discoverable, and need to be pointed out.

In relation to the cycle sketched above, the #MeToo movement continues to tarry (one hopes for not much longer) in the Terror phase. If you think that sounds hyperbolic, or unduly harsh, try to come up with another word that describes a) the vigilance with which accusers are rooted out and brought forward, b) the limpid motivation to destroy careers and eliminate transgressors from public life, and c) the fear (however unfounded) that men may have about their pasts and their behavior in the future. This is not to say there can’t be legitimate and just censure of sexual assault and misconduct during the Terror phase. The Kavanaugh case is certainly one of them. One more disclaimer (just in case): I support the #MeToo movement and believe it is long overdue. The reason I add this disclaimer is precisely that a feature of the Terror is the way in which even a modicum of criticism is perceived as opposition or treachery––the discourse at this point having all the nuance of a cudgel.

If #MeToo has followed the revolutionary cycle, then the first two phases (exposure of tyranny and modest demands) were short-lived. Signs of unthinking started to appear as early as December 2017, when Matt Damon reasonably suggested there is, “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation,” and that both, while reproachable, should not be conflated. The response to this was what you would expect: You don’t respect women’s pain. What gives you, a man, the right to say that? You simply can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman. Really? Seriously? Seriously?
Yes, seriously.

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Much Is Lost

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

At the beginning of the film Lord of the Rings, as forces of darkness gather strength, Lady Galadriel whispers sadly: “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.”

I think our society no longer remembers some important truths. Here are some examples.

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Netflix’s Five Second Rule:  High Heels & Sexual Display in the Workplace

By: Glen Paul Hammond

We tell children it is impolite to stare at another person—and it is—though it is not always easy to explain why.  In one way, we can say, unusual things draw attention and people are uncomfortable being seen as unusual, so we admonish against it.  Yet, in another way, extraordinary things also draw attention and this kind of attention is not always undesirable.  There are further complications: We are visually drawn to things that horrify and, oftentimes, we look at such things for much longer than we even desire; at the same time, we also tend to look at things that attract us and, if they attract us absolutely, we fall out of time and become unaware of how long we have been looking.  It’s complicated; it’s natural; it’s impolite—but is it harassment?

Netflix’s alleged ban on employees looking at each other for more than five seconds as part of its new anti-harassment policy suggests it is on the verge of being codified as the latter (Timpf).  If this is true, then who is the culpable party and how might this effect the way employees visually present themselves in the workplace? To give these inquiries a more specific focus, I will repeat a question that came across as outrageous when the much discussed public intellectual Jordan Peterson first posed it to a VICE interviewer during a discussion on possible rules for sexual harassment in the workplace:  “What about high heels?”

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Lorde’s Crusade

By: Caleb Mills

Here’s a story whose cast of characters couldn’t be more odd: The Washington Post, “America’s Rabbi”, and Lorde. Even though it may sound like the beginning of a bad joke your uncle would tell (The Washington Post, a Rabbi, and the ‘Lorde’ all walk into a bar…) the spat between the singer and the rabbi is actually a perfect encapsulation of a serious problem in contemporary political discourse.  

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The Woman Question in Plato’s Republic

By: Mary Townsend and Political Animal

In the era of women’s marches and #metoo movements, the role of women in society is being challenged from many quarters. To better understand the controversy, it is worth recalling that the fundamental question is one that human beings have had to wrestle with in every age and in every regime.

With this in mind, the editors of Political Animal Magazine spoke to Mary Townsend, the author of The Woman Question in Plato’s Republic. Her book examines how Plato dealt with the role of women in his Republic. We asked Townsend to tell us a little about the “Woman Question” and Plato’s thoughts on the matter. The following is what she had to say.


Political Animal: The title of your book refers to “The Woman Question” – what is “The Woman Question”, and how does Plato deal with it in the Republic?

Mary Townsend: The “Woman Question” is the open, living, and perennially fraught question of what women’s nature, role, and political position in the human community is or ought to be. Plato’s Socrates’ answer is without parallel: he pulls apart the polis in search of the women who will be educated in philosophy and rule as philosopher-queens.

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Perfect Storm

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

I think our culture is facing a convergence of three popular philosophical theses which threatens to undo us. I’ll set out the three theses and then I’ll set out the storm.

Thesis 1: There is no objective truth.

This means that truth can’t be a relation between what one believes and what is actually the case independently of what one believes, so one cannot be mistaken about what is real. (One can only be “inauthentic,” i.e., not in touch with one’s feelings, which leads to thesis 2.)

Thesis 2: Truth is subjective, i.e., it’s what you feel.

Thesis 3: Disagreeing with someone is the same as hating that someone. Witness the negative reactions on some university campuses to speakers expressing views contrary to the views of students, faculty, and administrators.

Here’s the perfect storm: I am whatever I feel—and you’re a bigot for challenging that.

Let’s put some flesh on this storm.

Recently, white American man Adam Wheeler, who now calls himself Ja Du, has decided he is transgender and Filipino. And people are defending Ja Du’s status as a Filipino woman.

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Debate: Who’s Keeping Birtherism Alive?

Alex Knepper and Cinzia Croce from New American Perspective debate who is responsible for the continued existence of Birtherism in American Politics.

Why Won’t Birtherism Die?

By: Alex Knepper

America’s Worst Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a petty despot with a cruel streak to rival that of Roy Moore, has jumped into the Arizona Senate race. It is — or should be — common knowledge that Arpaio wasted five years blowing through taxpayer money on a wild goose chase for President Barack Obama’s ‘real’ birth certificate (the one produced by the White House is fake, of course; any evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii is to be rejected a priori). Arpaio just yesterday declared once again that the former president’s birth certificate is ‘phony.’ Why today, with Obama out of office forever, is Arpaio still fixated on the ‘Birther’ question? What difference, at this point, does it make?

The prevailing narrative on the right about President Obama is that he was a leftist infiltrator who doesn’t love his country and is bitter and resentful toward white people. Let us recall what Marco Rubio was repeating as Chris Christie murdered his campaign during that New Hampshire debate two years ago: the problem with Obama wasn’t, as John McCain alleged in 2008, that he was inexperienced and unready for the job on Day One, he said. No: the problem was that Obama knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it because, in a word, he doesn’t love America. For Sen. Rubio, as for Fox News, Breitbart, talk radio charlatans like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, President Trump, etc., Obama wanted to ‘fundamentally transform’ this nation the image of leftist ideology because he’s not a ‘real’ American, whether literally or ideologically.

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Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill is incoherent—and that’s a concern

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Canada’s Bill C16, a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill, attempts to add gender identity and expression to human rights and hate-crime laws. Below I argue (with Jordan B. Peterson’s help) that the bill is incoherent. I also show why, logically, that’s a concern—for everyone.

Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at U of Toronto and an outspoken critic of Bill C16, appeared in a Senate hearing on Bill C16. He expressed concern that the bill compels speech, and thus is a threat to free speech. He also testified to Bill C16’s incoherence—my interest here.

Peterson’s testimony correctly points out that the appropriate context of interpretation for C16 is constituted by the policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as was indicated by a link at the website of the Department of Justice. (The link was later taken down, which is a discussion for another time, a discussion having to do with this question: Are Bill C16 proponents hiding something?)

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On Forcing Your Religion via Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill

By: Hendrik van der Breggen
One of the winning submissions from the Battle of Ideas op-ed contest on the theme of Free Speech.

Remember rock band R.E.M.’s song “Losing my religion”? In view of Canada’s recent passing of Bill C16—a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill—I think a new song should be sung. I title it “Forcing your religion.”

Consider this.

If we take University of Toronto psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s criticisms of C16 seriously (which I do, because I think they’re strong logically and evidentially), then C16 will likely require Canadians to use a person’s preferred pronouns.

We may have to say “she” instead of “he”; or “he” instead of “she”; or maybe “e” or “ey” or “hu” or “peh” or “per” or “sie” or “ve” or “xe” or “ze” or “zhe”—whatever is preferred as a label for however one self-identifies one’s sex/ gender.

Interestingly, in discussions leading up to the passing of C16, Canadian Senator Grant Mitchell said the following in defence of C16:

“There is also the argument that transgender identity is too subjective a concept to be enshrined in law because it is defined as an individual’s deeply felt internal experience of gender. Yet we, of course, accept outright that no one can discriminate on the basis of religion, and that too is clearly a very deeply subjective and personal feeling.”

Here is Senator Mitchell’s argument (in favour of C16) restated: Freedom to identify as transgender is like freedom of religion, so just as I am free to determine and live according to my religious identity, so too transgender persons are free to identify and portray themselves as such to the world.

Let’s think.

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