The Poverty of Identity Politics

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Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
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Jun 19 2018 14:09
Steven. wrote:
Pretty sure we are just going to lock this thread, however I do really want to know what the actual views of Serge and Craftwork are. As Serge is happy to make snarky comments but actually not say what he really thinks, and Craftwork made his initial post, then refused to reply to any questions from multiple users, including myself, about it.

Serge Forward wrote:
And round we go again.

So Serge, two very straightforward yes or no questions here: do you think that people should refer to trans people in the pronouns that they prefer?

And do you think that it should be allowed for trans people to be discriminated against at work?

Steven. Q1: Yes. Q2: No.

It's another sign of the times that people on here would actually think I'd answer the above two questions any differently, for fuck sake.

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Jun 20 2018 16:22

Steven, I think the real question should be:
“Do you agree with Jura’s post #163?”

You appear to think that anyone who disagrees with your point of view is prejudiced or a bigot.
I think Jura’s opinion is as close to mine as makes no difference.

Meanwhile the world turns, class struggle goes on totally indifferent to a few anarchists smelling their own farts thinking they’re in a rose garden.

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Jun 19 2018 14:49

Jura's post was fine, and you'll notice that no one had a go at him for it.

Craftwork on the other hand, literally decried queer ideology being pushed on him, because his workplace bans bullying trans people.

Like, we're not talking about an interpretation here, or a nuanced reading - he literally got mad that his HR department say he can't deliberately misgender people. We're not talking about an edge case here, or someone not getting the precise nuances of trans politics - it's a literal, crystal clear case of bigotry.

Sorry, but at this point it's not even about debating identity politics - this is someone saying they should have the right to bully someone at work because they don't agree with "queer ideology". It's a load of absolute shit - this isn't communism or 'class politics', it's using shitty half digested, rote learned leftcom ideology to justify pre-existing bigotry.

Spikymike
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Jun 19 2018 14:50

Auld-bod, Maybe you mean their post #162 all good!

Sadie
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Jun 19 2018 14:56
Serge Forward wrote:
It's another sign of the times that people on here would actually think I'd answer the above two questions any differently, for fuck sake.

The thing is that there are quite clearly people who would answer differently, for instance Craftwork, who you’ve approvingly quoted and gone out of your way to defend without once criticising.

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Jun 19 2018 14:56
Serge Forward wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Pretty sure we are just going to lock this thread, however I do really want to know what the actual views of Serge and Craftwork are. As Serge is happy to make snarky comments but actually not say what he really thinks, and Craftwork made his initial post, then refused to reply to any questions from multiple users, including myself, about it.

Serge Forward wrote:
And round we go again.

So Serge, two very straightforward yes or no questions here: do you think that people should refer to trans people in the pronouns that they prefer?

And do you think that it should be allowed for trans people to be discriminated against at work?

Steven. Q1: Yes. Q2: No.

It's another sign of the times that people on here would actually think I'd answer the above two questions any differently, for fuck sake.

Serge, thanks very much for answering the question.

Unfortunately yes it is very much a sign of the times. Before October last year, I didn't think that any self-declared anarchist would answer those questions any differently, because I didn't know that Helen Steel and half of her mates were bigots, and that half of the anarchist movement (basically, the older half for the most part – although not exclusively so this is meant to offend anyone) liked Helen so much that they would make excuses for her bigotry.

But now that you have answered it, that is the same perspective that the libcom group and most people on this thread have. However on this thread it seems that you have been disagreeing with us, and defending Craftwork. Even though Craftwork specifically contributed to this thread trying to argue that the views that you and we have (i.e. that trans people should be referred to as they like, and that they should not be discriminated against at work) mean that we are supporting HR departments imposing "queer ideology" on workers.

So I don't really understand where you're coming from. Why would you defend the views of someone you disagree with, from people you agree with?

(Edited to add: Rereading that last sentence I realise it might come off a bit snarky, but it's really not meant to. I really don't understand your perspective, and from having always appreciated your posts over the last decade or so – with the exception of the last few months – I am genuinely trying to get to grips with what your point is)

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Jun 19 2018 15:01
Auld-bod wrote:
Steven, I think the real question should be:
“Do you agree with Jura’s post #163?”

You appear to think that anyone you disagrees with your point of view is prejudiced or a bigot.
I think Jura’s opinion is as close to mine as makes no difference.

That's a different question. But I'm happy to answer it. Yes, I pretty much agree with their view. Although Jura specifically states that they support trans people against discrimination. Which puts them at odds with some of the anarchist movement. And yes, I think that people who support discrimination against trans people are prejudiced and bigoted. Do you not?

Out of interest, are you now part of the ACG?

doug
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Jun 19 2018 15:21

It's easy enough for someone to say they're in favour of the most basic recognition of trans people's right not to be discriminated - after being pressed repeatedly to confirm that - but what does that mean? They won't then go back to what-aboutery, sarcastic comments, and siding with those who openly argue against 'queer ideology'?

Do they plan on showing solidarity with trans people IRL? Like, for a start, retracting and apologising for statements written endorsing TERFs?

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Jun 19 2018 15:37

And round and around it goes, with added made up allegations...

Yet another sign of the times.

doug
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Jun 19 2018 15:43

You're quite happy with the ACG's statement, then, and see no contradiction between its content and explicitly standing against the discrimination of trans people?

Spikymike
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Jun 19 2018 15:48

OK. Firstly I have my own disagreements with some of of Craftworks comments on this thread but they do raise some genuine issues if not always very well. So to take the most contentious point about 'Human Resources' departments (Personnel Departments as was). My experience in the UK public sector was that alongside some beneficial policy changes that made it much easier for LGBTQ people to be employed and avoid discriminatory practices there was the detrimental result of these being part of a wider and bureaucratically enforced code that took little regard for the realities of our daily life in the workplace. The same policies which most of us broadly welcomed were part of a system of regulations that sat side by side with others that were not respected but which HR departments sought to enforce equally. There was a tendency for people to comply as a necessity even where they didn't agree with some of the policies and for others to rely on that rather than confront issues that arose independently as part of our collective life in the workplace. The trade unions also approached this in much the same way. There is always a problem for anarchists and communists in any area of life trying to advance their social aspirations through national and local state policies and then relying on them or their agents to enforce such policies.

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Jun 19 2018 15:51
Serge Forward wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Pretty sure we are just going to lock this thread, however I do really want to know what the actual views of Serge and Craftwork are. As Serge is happy to make snarky comments but actually not say what he really thinks, and Craftwork made his initial post, then refused to reply to any questions from multiple users, including myself, about it.

Serge Forward wrote:
And round we go again.

So Serge, two very straightforward yes or no questions here: do you think that people should refer to trans people in the pronouns that they prefer?

And do you think that it should be allowed for trans people to be discriminated against at work?

Steven. Q1: Yes. Q2: No.

It's another sign of the times that people on here would actually think I'd answer the above two questions any differently, for fuck sake.

Except that craftwork, who you're defending, said this earlier in the thread:

craftwork wrote:
Now everyone is expected to accept that gender is simply a choice.
The problem I have isn't so much the ideas, but the fact that it is just imposed on everyone.
Of course, one would think that, as libertarians, you would support the freedom of conscience of a staff member to refuse this without fear of repercussions

craftwork wrote:
If a coworker sees a male-bodied person in a skirt who identifies as woman, they have to recognise them as a woman, even if they subscribe to beliefs that man/woman is not a matter of self-definition, if not they face the threat of being subject to disciplinary action on the basis of a complaint - as far as I'm concerned, that clearly is an ideological imposition, expecting people to alter their fundamental conceptions of gender to suit HR or others.

Since there are only a couple of ways to refer to someone's gender (refer to them by pronouns, or more rarely as a man/woman/lady/gentleman etc.) we can only assume that craftwork does not think that trans people should be referred to by their proposed pronouns - putting him at odds with you. Yet when anyone asks for clarification it's some kind of Stalinist witch hunt.

Sadie
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Jun 19 2018 15:54

Sorry, what was made up exactly? Are you saying that:

Or something else?

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Jun 19 2018 16:04
Serge Forward wrote:
And round and around it goes, with added made up allegations...

Yet another sign of the times.

Serge, what "allegations" are you claiming I have "made up"?

I have just asked you a simple question to try to understand your perspective, which is why did you defend the comments of someone you say you disagree with, from people you say you do disagree with?

If you think you're in the right and we are just lying and making things up then you should be able to defend your position.

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Jun 19 2018 16:08
Sadie wrote:
Sorry, what was made up exactly? Are you saying that:

Or something else?

That is an excellent summary. Although I think it is probably worth adding that craftwork also said

  • that it was completely wrong for communists to speak in terms of "rights" (when it came to people's rights not to be discriminated against), however it was important to defend people's "right" to misgender and offend trans people
Spikymike
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Jun 19 2018 16:09

So maybe the libcom admins really will lock this thread but only after they have had a good go at it!!

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2018 16:11
Spikymike wrote:
OK. Firstly I have my own disagreements with some of of Craftworks comments on this thread but they do raise some genuine issues if not always very well. So to take the most contentious point about 'Human Resources' departments (Personnel Departments as was). My experience in the UK public sector was that alongside some beneficial policy changes that made it much easier for LGBTQ people to be employed and avoid discriminatory practices there was the detrimental result of these being part of a wider and bureaucratically enforced code that took little regard for the realities of our daily life in the workplace. The same policies which most of us broadly welcomed were part of a system of regulations that sat side by side with others that were not respected but which HR departments sought to enforce equally. There was a tendency for people to comply as a necessity even where they didn't agree with some of the policies and for others to rely on that rather than confront issues that arose independently as part of our collective life in the workplace. The trade unions also approached this in much the same way. There is always a problem for anarchists and communists in any area of life trying to advance their social aspirations through national and local state policies and then relying on them or their agents to enforce such policies.

This is the difference between saying people should get sacked by the boss if they use racial slurs at the workplace, vs. say rounded on by their colleagues, isolated socially, punched in the face on their way home, or other forms of direct action. I think most people would prefer a situation where someone who is racist, transphobic or homophobic at work is corrected by their workmates rather than the boss. This is very different from taking the side of that worker, their 'right to offend' against their fellow worker etc. though because them being an arsehole is some matter of personal conscience. And it's this that turns an argument about methods into an excuse for bigotry.

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Jun 19 2018 16:18

I’m not sure if this thread will ever satisfactorily clarify the position of some of its participants but I really hope it doesn’t get locked. In fact, I can think of few circumstances in which threads should be locked at all.
I've been traveling through hundreds of old threads over the last year and there were plenty that could have been fruitfully bumped but had been locked. Shame.

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Jun 19 2018 16:23
Mike Harman wrote:
This is the difference between saying people should get sacked by the boss if they use racial slurs at the workplace, vs. say rounded on by their colleagues, isolated socially, punched in the face on their way home, or other forms of direct action. I think most people would prefer a situation where someone who is racist, transphobic or homophobic at work is corrected by their workmates rather than the boss. This is very different from taking the side of that worker, their 'right to offend' against their fellow worker etc. though because them being an arsehole is some matter of personal conscience. And it's this that turns an argument about methods into an excuse for bigotry.

Exactly. The same thing applies for male workers who sexually harass and assault female colleagues. Of course we don't want to support management but there is no place for violence or sexual harassment against women in the workplace, and we should have no truck with it in the workers' movement either.

Also of course as touched on by someone else above, I really think Craftwork and his ill have this whole issue the wrong way round.

Antidiscrimination policies in the workplace are a victory for the working class, and particular sections of it (especially women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, disabled people, older people etc). The problem is not that these policies exist and that they are enforced, but that in nearly all circumstances even where these policies do exist they are not enforced at all, because actually employers don't care about their workers (especially women, people of colour, trans people etc). So rather than fight against imposition of one of these policies to defend a transphobe or a sexual harasser, the task of us as militants in the workplace is normally to try to get management to actually abide by their own policies and deal with discriminatory and bullying behaviour by their own managers and employees.

In my time as a union rep dealing with literally hundreds of cases (and being aware of many hundreds more) I have never once come across any incident of an employee being persecuted for breaching some anti-discrimination policy. And TBH even when people do breach them by saying something racist or sexist generally nothing happens to them. The idea of HR departments going round and actually forcing equality on people is largely a myth dreamed up by the tabloid press and people like Spiked. HR departments exist to ensure that management get to do what they want without getting sued, or at least losing court battles when they do. They do not care about any working class people, be they trans or female or black or whatever.

Spikymike
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Jun 19 2018 16:26

Mike Harman - Have you ever attended one of those public sector 'Human Resources' training days or seminars? Perhaps anarchists are running them these days!

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2018 16:31
Noah Fence wrote:
I’m not sure if this thread will ever satisfactorily clarify the position of some of its participants but I really hope it doesn’t get locked. In fact, I can think of few circumstances in which threads should be locked at all.
I've been traveling through hundreds of old threads over the last year and there were plenty that could have been fruitfully bumped but had been locked. Shame.

If you find threads like that, it's fine to open a new thread referencing the old thread - can quote the bits and link the old one.

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2018 16:41
Spikymike wrote:
Mike Harman - Have you ever attended one of those public sector 'Human Resources' training days or seminars? Perhaps anarchists are running them these days!

Yes I've attended several, and I didn't like them much. However when my manager was talking about things like 'celebrating diversity' I mostly thought of that as a liberal cover for not addressing actual issues of racism (for example, a school putting black students on an admissions leaflet, but treating the actual black students in the school very badly.) I didn't turn around and go "anti-racism is neo-liberal! this is postmodern ideology being imposed on me!".

Also one time I was talking about how much I hated HR 'diversity' stuff to someone who didn't know me well at all, or my politics, and the person I was talking to said something like "Yeah you've got to be careful what you say these days", and I realised that without giving any context, I'd just sounded like a racist complaining about political correctness and that it would have helped to have been more precise about what I was criticising.

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Jun 19 2018 16:54
Steven. wrote:
Serge Forward wrote:
And round and around it goes, with added made up allegations...

Yet another sign of the times.

Serge, what "allegations" are you claiming I have "made up"?

I have just asked you a simple question to try to understand your perspective, which is why did you defend the comments of someone you say you disagree with, from people you say you do disagree with?

If you think you're in the right and we are just lying and making things up then you should be able to defend your position.

Not you Steven. I don't think you've made anything up and you always argue in good faith. Some of the others on here however... they know who they are.

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Jun 19 2018 17:59

Steven #398
‘I think that people who support discrimination against trans people are prejudiced and bigoted. Do you not?
Out of interest, are you now part of the ACG?’

To answer your last question first, no I’m not a member of ACG, though I am in general agreement with the principal of not treating all issues relating to capitalism as equally important. As Marx wrote, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

What fuels this history is economic, social, and political inequalities, or as I put it once in a post, ‘the haves and the have nots’. To finally eradicate these inequalities capitalism must be superseded and a classless society established. This has never in the past meant not fighting the class war on all fronts, only that the key struggle is economic.

Your second question suggests to me - can I read the minds of people with whom I profoundly disagree? In the case of trans people, I do not know anyone who thinks like that. I suspect most people could be called ‘prejudiced and bigoted’ by those who hold opposite views.

I think it was Jason Cortez who posted that he did not feel that his support of trans people was a question he was prepared to debate (I paraphrase). I agree with this and could add several other similar topics, racism, etc. Some people may say I’m principled others prejudiced. In the sense of having ‘pre-judged’ the matter they would be correct I am prejudiced. Feeling this to be the case, I tend to avoid using the words prejudice and bigoted.

Judging this thread, and using my ‘Concise Oxford Dictionary’, there has been enough intolerance displayed to qualify as ‘bigotry’.

Sadie
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Jun 19 2018 19:10

“But what about diversity of ideas?”

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2018 19:31
Steven. wrote:

Antidiscrimination policies in the workplace are a victory for the working class, and particular sections of it (especially women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, disabled people, older people etc). The problem is not that these policies exist and that they are enforced, but that in nearly all circumstances even where these policies do exist they are not enforced at all, because actually employers don't care about their workers (especially women, people of colour, trans people etc).

For this reason I'm not sure they're a victory as such, same as not everything about the welfare state is an unqualified victory. Sivanandan's discussion of the 1968 Race Relations Act being directly linked to the 1968 immigration act is a good example of this. As you pointed out nt out actual cases of enforcement are extremely rare, while they can give cover for other bad behaviour.

Jordan Peterson got famous not because he lost his job and went to prison, but because he whipped up a panic about the possibility of this happening to him based largely on fabrications.

Or James Damore suing Google for workplace discrimination against white male conservatives when they actually did try to enforce a workplace anti-discrimination policy after he was sending manifesto around quoting bad evopsych and Charles Murray.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/08/james-damore-sues-goo...

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Jun 19 2018 19:41

This discussion continues to assume a shared frame of reference and vocabulary. A lot of the strongest reactions appear to be due to mismatches of the above. There are clearly still a lot of external discussions influencing how things are interpreted and these discussions are not accessible as position texts or the like. If you weren't there on all those social media arguments you can't decode these things anymore. Various fash, alt-right etc people are also there in ghost form shaping how things are interpreted.

The immense cross referencing also means a lot more that usual of the 'you are arguing like $ENEMY' do you believe $OTHER_OUTRAGEOUS_THING $ENEMY believes. These jumps look very odd when you don't share that frame of reference. Could this be the age issue Steven perceives? Unless it's only the old bigot friend bookfair issue.

I felt the need to go back to the posts being referred to and re quote some of it. As I've mentioned before my opinion is that purposefully mislabeling someone is bullying. (This thread is messy so I feel the need to clarify that)

craftwork wrote:
The politics of identity are fundamentally statist, reformist, NGO-centred and really quite authoritarian.

Why? Because for the majority of these people, concrete political action takes the form of working with the State, to ensure that their agenda and ideology are enforced over society using state power.

So this is the definition of identity politics craftwork is using and he explains why he's critical of it. This does not seem to be the definition everyone is using. My own understanding was similar with the addition that it actively reinforces capitalist identities. The New Labour form of "multiculturalism" would perhaps be a good example of identity politics. Ie the way the state used non elected "representatives" to manage minorities and speak on their behalf.

craftwork wrote:
The LGBT activists co-operate with the HR department at my workplace to impose queer ideology on all of us. Likewise, in the name of this very same "tolerance", "diversity" and "respect", according to the external speaker policy of the college, we aren't allowed to invite anyone who criticises religion! At an educational establishment of all places!

The infamous 'impose queer ideology'. I find his arguments dodgy but when taken in context with the before and after a *very* generous reading would be that the queer ideology bit is an example of how also queer issues can be co opted by ngo'ing hr-collaborating, statists.

Perhaps I've missed it but I couldn't actually find any anti trans arguments by craftwork. There are arguments against some forms of activism. I doubt we'll get him back on thread to honestly explain if he's against trans people but I'd like to hear.

Then there's the clear political divide on what communists should do. The arguments against IP are generally against communist organisations doing IP (what ever that means). That doesn't mean all IP activism is bad just that it shouldn't be done by communist groups under that banner. Should there be a difference between an NGO or religious group and a communist one beyond how they organise?

For a long time on libcom there was a prevailing anti activism. The idea that doing good stuff and helping a lot of people shouldn't be the goal of communist organisations. Which isn't the same as saying it should never happen.

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Jun 19 2018 21:01

Oops, double post, I think

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Jun 19 2018 21:02
Cooked wrote:
I felt the need to go back to the posts being referred to and re quote some of it. As I've mentioned before my opinion is that purposefully mislabeling someone is bullying. (This thread is messy so I feel the need to clarify that)

craftwork wrote:
The politics of identity are fundamentally statist, reformist, NGO-centred and really quite authoritarian.

Why? Because for the majority of these people, concrete political action takes the form of working with the State, to ensure that their agenda and ideology are enforced over society using state power.

So this is the definition of identity politics craftwork is using and he explains why he's critical of it. This does not seem to be the definition everyone is using. My own understanding was similar with the addition that it actively reinforces capitalist identities. The New Labour form of "multiculturalism" would perhaps be a good example of identity politics. Ie the way the state used non elected "representatives" to manage minorities and speak on their behalf.

craftwork wrote:
The LGBT activists co-operate with the HR department at my workplace to impose queer ideology on all of us. Likewise, in the name of this very same "tolerance", "diversity" and "respect", according to the external speaker policy of the college, we aren't allowed to invite anyone who criticises religion! At an educational establishment of all places!

The infamous 'impose queer ideology'. I find his arguments dodgy but when taken in context with the before and after a *very* generous reading would be that the queer ideology bit is an example of how also queer issues can be co opted by ngo'ing hr-collaborating, statists.

Perhaps I've missed it but I couldn't actually find any anti trans arguments by craftwork. There are arguments against some forms of activism. I doubt we'll get him back on thread to honestly explain if he's against trans people but I'd like to hear.

I'm not really convinced "what's going on inside craftwork's head" is the most interesting direction that this thread could go in, but for the record, I think post 225 is pretty indefensible:

Craftwork wrote:
Fall Back wrote:
where it is likely to come up is if someone is denying someone elses gender identity. In that case, then I've got no sympathy - at that point it's not just an opinion. Any more than, eg James Damore circulating a paper on why women are inferior was just an opinion, or someone telling a gay colleage they are revolting is. Going to HR isn't going to be my go to strategy, but if you think libertarian praxis is defending the fucker pushing this crap, then yr absolutely fucked.

Yeah, we get it. You "anarchists" prefer HR departments over workers with the "wrong" views(!)

You want to live in a fluffy society, in which no one is offended and no one has the right to offend, despite it meaning that you yourself loses the ability to offend or challenge people's long-held beliefs.

...

Mike Harman wrote:
There's no prima facie way to tell whether someone is definitely male or female without looking at genitalia, so unless you're complaining that your workplace won't let you look in people's pants (how authoritarian), what exactly is it that you're complaining about?

It's obvious who's a man and who's a woman - there are clear differences in physiology (it's called sexual dimorphism). Only a very small portion of the population are intersex.

Fleur wrote:
I would also like to know how queer ideology is enforced in Craft work's workplace. I'm all agog.

If a coworker sees a male-bodied person in a skirt who identifies as woman, they have to recognise them as a woman, even if they subscribe to beliefs that man/woman is not a matter of self-definition, if not they face the threat of being subject to disciplinary action on the basis of a complaint - as far as I'm concerned, that clearly is an ideological imposition, expecting people to alter their fundamental conceptions of gender to suit HR or others.

What's at stake here is individual conscience vs. authoritarian imposition of power by HR and others.

Of course, many here raise the comparison with racism or misogyny, but this is a unique case because it is based on constructed identities, not unchangeable, biological aspects of a person.

Also, fwiw:

cooked wrote:
Then there's the clear political divide on what communists should do. The arguments against IP are generally against communist organisations doing IP (what ever that means). That doesn't mean all IP activism is bad just that it shouldn't be done by communist groups under that banner. Should there be a difference between an NGO or religious group and a communist one beyond how they organise?

I'm not so sure that there is a clear political divide on what communists should do, just because there's so little clarity about what identity politics means. Say we all decide today that communist orgs shouldn't do IP - what does that actually mean that they should stop doing?

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Jun 19 2018 20:51
R Totale wrote:
I'm not so sure that there is a clear political divide on what communists should do, just because there's so little clarity about what identity politics means.

Perhaps not clear but I read it between the lines. The lack of clarity about the term certainly doesn't help.

R Totale wrote:
Say we all decide today that communist orgs shouldn't do IP - what does that actually mean that they should stop doing?

That would be an interesting discussion. I guess the term IP would have to be abandoned first though we seem to be going nowhere with it.