The Poverty of Identity Politics

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jospanner's picture
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May 29 2018 04:39

Honestly I am sick to death of defending my existence.

This is not something that any person should ever have to go through.

And the worst part is, that finding so much sympathy for transphobia in the left means that we never know if we are safe. It's exhausting. Don't be surprised when we're spiky.

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May 29 2018 04:49
Cooked wrote:
In this thread people have insinuated that you are an abuser if you criticise IP.

Cooked, I'm truly sorry if you or anyone else thinks this is what I was insinuating. I tried to be clear that I wasn't saying this, and I hope you will reread my post http://libcom.org/forums/theory/poverty-identity-politics-21052018?page=4#comment-606358

I will just quote the bit where I tried to make this explicitly clear

Lucky Black Cat wrote:
I almost don't want to make this post because I don't want to make Noa or anyone else think I'm blaming them for abuse that other people commit. That's not my intention. I also assume you're as disgusted and upset by abusive behavior as me or anyone else here.

But still, the point must be made that there are harmful repercussions of blanket dismissal of identity politics, feminism, etc.

Honestly, I don't want to accuse anyone of having blood on their hands for abuse, other than the abusers.

I'm also not saying we shouldn't criticize various theories or practices that occur in identity politics. I believe this critique is important, but that we need to be careful to do so in a way that makes it clear that we support oppressed people combating oppression.

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May 29 2018 04:49

p.s. I think Jura's post #162 is a good example of a supportive yet critical position http://libcom.org/forums/theory/poverty-identity-politics-21052018?page=5#comment-606413

There may have been other posts like this on the thread, but I only skimmed a lot of it.

ticking_fool
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May 29 2018 04:47

I've said it many times. I get more overt and nasty transphobia engaging with anarchists and the left than I do in the streets of a relatively right wing small town. Like, these ridiculous bigots are a long way behind the other mums at the toddler group or the blokes in the local me and afew other trans folk round here go to, but they think they're standing up for the working class or some bullshit. Mate, come round here and say that shit to my face in public and see how long you last.

ticking_fool
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May 29 2018 05:02
Lucky Black Cat wrote:

Honestly, I don't want to accuse anyone of having blood on their hands for abuse, other than the abusers.

Like, I get and appreciate you trying to be scrupulously fair here, and it totally makes you a better person than me, but it is also fair to point out how this bullshit enables abuse and emboldens bigots. I think it's important to be very clear that this isn't abstract. In microcosm on this thread, the OP's 'theoretical' position brought out overt transphobia very quickly. Anti identity politics stuff is a giant fucking dog whistle and the handful of people pushing it honestly (most of them are disingenuous bigots but a handful aren't) need to understand and deal with this. They won't, obviously, because the ambiguity serves their needs but they can fuck off with pretending their hands are clean.

Sadie
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May 29 2018 05:33

My favourite part of being trans in the anarchist movement is never knowing whether we’re about to be blamed for the Cultural Revolution or Karen from HR telling some muppet that he has to stop going out of his way to be rude to the one trans woman in the office because it’s making everybody incredibly uncomfortable.

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May 29 2018 07:26

I can't help being reminded by Craftwork's posts of the "grassroots" opposition to school desegregation in the US, which also had to be enforced against the "conscience" and "common sense" of some people – by the most powerful "HR department" there is, i.e., by the state, which even resorted to physical force to crush that opposition. Yet it clearly was a result of the struggle by the civil rights movement and a victory for the working class as a whole (and some of the first shoots of the greatest cycle of mass struggles in postwar America).

The policies of diversity and tolerance of today are also a result of decades of activism or, alternatively and on a more sombre note, a memorial to the thousands upon thousands of LGBTI people that were discriminated against, attacked or murdered.

BTW, when I look at this from Eastern Europe, I can see how this campaigning has had global repercussions. Homophobia, transphobia and racism (especially of the anti-Roma variety) are a very real problem in employment here, not just in traditionally working class jobs, but also in office work and in the public sector (including academia). There was never a mass LGBTI or anti-racist movement here. And it's the Western companies (like IBM, Dell or Accenture) with their diversity policies who are miles ahead of the local employers and the state, because they were forced to adopt these policies by activism in their native countries.

I have a trans man friend and a gay friend who both work in IT, one as a programmer and the other as a consultant. They've both experienced their share of verbal abuse, the "Don't call us, we'll call you" business (this especially the trans guy) and "practical jokes" by their co-workers. They were both so relieved to finally land a job at one of these huge Western firms. They know that they can confront any abuse, any offhand remark or joke about faggots or trannies, and the HR department, as well as many colleagues, will support them. Especially for the trans friend, his work environment is literally a "safe space" in contrast to the outside world.

One result of this is that they are very loyal to these companies, they really value that. Of course, the employer knows that ultimately, this is for the better, because it makes the management of a diverse, multinational workforce much easier, and it instills this sense of loyalty. Of course, the diversity policies don't do away with exploitation. But I'd rather be exploited and not abused at work than exploited and abused. Similarly, I'd rather be exploited for a decent wage than for the minimum wage. Companies such as these send their own "contingents" to the yearly Pride march. Of course this is the commercialization/corporatization of LGBTI activism. But what other victories for the working class within capitalism are there that don't end up in capital adapting and recuperating them to some extent?

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May 29 2018 07:47
Craftwork wrote:
Communism nowadays is polluted by the ideological slurry of the academy - poststructuralism, postcolonialism, feminism, queer theory, etc.

There, someone finally said it.

Craftwork wrote:
This is often shrouded in an NGO-style moralist language of popular appeal, rather than the language of class interests and struggle.

Indeed – witness Lucky Black Cat claiming that "the core goal of identity politics" is something "any decent person should support" in this very thread.

It's also funny to read all those sneers and complaints that people opposed to identity politics are not even able to define it. Interesting: Marx dedicated thousands of pages to characterizing and describing capitalism at great length and detail, yet he never provided a simple, formulaic definition of what capitalism is; and while this may be a real problem when it comes to some abstract theoretical questions, it doesn't seem to be stopping anyone here from declaring themselves to be against capitalism, or even from subscribing to Marx's critique and analysis thereof. Similarly, some users here (most notably, Jura) did their best to simultaneously circumscribe and criticize identity politics based on its salient features – inherent reformism, bizarre obsession with language, individualization and atomization of politics, its function as a sort of surrogate radicalism, its potential for preventing class unity from developing or even for actively breaking it down – but for some reason this is never enough, or at least it's not as fun as barking out "answer my question" ad nauseam. The sheer self-righteousness on display here is just staggering.

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May 29 2018 08:18
AnythingForProximity wrote:
Craftwork wrote:
Communism nowadays is polluted by the ideological slurry of the academy - poststructuralism, postcolonialism, feminism, queer theory, etc.

There, someone finally said it.

It's also funny to read all those sneers and complaints that people opposed to identity politics are not even able to define it. Interesting: Marx dedicated thousands of pages to characterizing and describing capitalism at great length and detail, yet he never provided a simple, formulaic definition of what capitalism is; and while this may be a real problem when it comes to some abstract theoretical questions, it doesn't seem to be stopping anyone here from declaring themselves to be against capitalism, or even from subscribing to Marx's critique and analysis thereof. Similarly, some users here (most notably, Jura) did their best to simultaneously circumscribe and criticize identity politics based on its salient features – inherent reformism, bizarre obsession with language, individualization and atomization of politics, its function as a sort of surrogate radicalism, its potential for preventing class unity from developing or even for actively breaking it down – but for some reason this is never enough, or at least it's not as fun as barking out "answer my question" ad nauseam. The sheer self-righteousness on display here is just staggering.

But Jura's critique, which people have engaged with in a reasonable fashion, is clearly very different from, and not at all the same thing as, Craftwork's tantrum about trans people, so without people saying what they mean there's no way of knowing in advance whether they mean what Jura thinks or what Craftwork thinks, any more than it's immediately obvious whether someone just saying "communism" means communization theory or the Soviet Union.

ticking_fool
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May 29 2018 08:20

There's some pretty high quality self owning going on here, but 'being a decent person is bad' is

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May 29 2018 08:24

Craftwork I have to add my questions to the pile. Are you suggesting consistently calling someone something other than they prefer can be anything other than bullying?

If organising politically around these issues is wrong (for communists) what would you personally do if someone is mislabeled/bullied at work?

Unless you qualify your statements there plenty of room to assume you're just a bigot who read some books.

Those anwering my previous accusation. I'm not saying you're completely out of order. Contrary most of you are my favourite posters atm. Still I find that there are a lot of insinuations even when people are criticising form rather than content. If stuff like craftworks are the norm I have more understanding for the quick draw but its hard to follow arguments and reactions when they are based on other people who have said similar things and turned out to be pieces of shit.

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May 29 2018 08:44
AnythingForProximity wrote:
Craftwork wrote:
Communism nowadays is polluted by the ideological slurry of the academy - poststructuralism, postcolonialism, feminism, queer theory, etc.

There, someone finally said it.

Craftwork wrote:
This is often shrouded in an NGO-style moralist language of popular appeal, rather than the language of class interests and struggle.

Indeed – witness Lucky Black Cat claiming that "the core goal of identity politics" is something "any decent person should support" in this very thread.

It's also funny to read all those sneers and complaints that people opposed to identity politics are not even able to define it. Interesting: Marx dedicated thousands of pages to characterizing and describing capitalism at great length and detail, yet he never provided a simple, formulaic definition of what capitalism is; and while this may be a real problem when it comes to some abstract theoretical questions, it doesn't seem to be stopping anyone here from declaring themselves to be against capitalism, or even from subscribing to Marx's critique and analysis thereof. Similarly, some users here (most notably, Jura) did their best to simultaneously circumscribe and criticize identity politics based on its salient features – inherent reformism, bizarre obsession with language, individualization and atomization of politics, its function as a sort of surrogate radicalism, its potential for preventing class unity from developing or even for actively breaking it down – but for some reason this is never enough, or at least it's not as fun as barking out "answer my question" ad nauseam. The sheer self-righteousness on display here is just staggering.

Nailed it.

It's unfortunate that much of the criticism of identity politics till now has been so poor and with enough reactionary comments thrown in to provoke the usual feeding frenzy from those libcom jackals who mainly seem to post only in threads such as this. I've thought of commenting in this thread but every time I see a 3000 word treatise from Mike Harmon in response to a one sentence comment, I lose the will to post.

ticking_fool wrote:
Just say it's the trannies and have done with it, FFS. This dance is boring.

See, it's so easy for you to say that anyone who criticises identity politics is transphobic, racist, misogynist, etc., or compare critics to alt-right wankers (though true some of the critics here have not helped their case). It's not the admin - transphobic slur removed that's the problem. The problem is more often the allies and certain "anarcho trans" who act like nasty pieces of work in the way that many born again religious people can behave with non believers. Trans people have been around for a long time, some of us grew up around them and have respect for them as with any human being until you know otherwise, long before trans became a political fad on the fringes of a tiny insignificant anarchist scene. The ally zealots though can be really grating.

ticking_fool
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May 29 2018 08:57

How's the whole 'Helen Steel was unfairly targeted by zealots' thing working out, Serge? You are beyond fucking parody.

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May 29 2018 09:02

What a f*cking trainwreck of a thread.

Just wanted to jump in quickly to thank people like Konsequent, Fingers, Fleur, and Jura for their thoughtful, considered posts. I also wanted to say that to any non-cisgendered people who may be reading this that I hope it's clear that Craftwork's opinions are (hopefully) not widely shared by most posters on the site.

Sadie
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May 29 2018 09:16

The person who was recently raving about how the transes are an MI5 plot is Serge’s friend and comrade, by his own account, guess how many fucks I give for his aggrieved whinging about how nasty people are to him?

Moralism is bad but also boohoo, you’re all so mean. Give me a fucking break.

Mike Harman
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May 29 2018 09:24
AnythingForProximity wrote:
It's also funny to read all those sneers and complaints that people opposed to identity politics are not even able to define it. Interesting: Marx dedicated thousands of pages to characterizing and describing capitalism at great length and detail, yet he never provided a simple, formulaic definition of what capitalism is; and while this may be a real problem when it comes to some abstract theoretical questions, it doesn't seem to be stopping anyone here from declaring themselves to be against capitalism, or even from subscribing to Marx's critique and analysis thereof.

People have mostly asked for examples, not dictionary definitions. Would you defend someone saying they hated communists but who can't tell you whether they're talking about the Khmer Rouge or Dauve?

"Communism is a totalitarian death cult."

"Can you given an example?"

"No"

AnythingForProximity: "Why should he give an example? Marx never gave a simple, formulaic definition of what communism is" (sorry, real movement that abolishes the present state of things doesn't count as simple or formulaic).

I think we could also say that the sort of 'anti-capitalism' that comes out via places like adbusters, without any real critique of capital, has problems beyond abstract theoretical questions. If you define capitalism as corporations, the super rich, you can run into problems pretty fast.

AnythingForProximity wrote:
Similarly, some users here (most notably, Jura)

Jura's posts were great, they don't retrospectively make the pages of posts by Noa or link that preceded them good.

Sadie
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May 29 2018 10:11
Cooked wrote:
Still I find that there are a lot of insinuations even when people are criticising form rather than content. If stuff like craftworks are the norm I have more understanding for the quick draw but its hard to follow arguments and reactions when they are based on other people who have said similar things and turned out to be pieces of shit.

Honestly Craftwork is less typical in that he’s being so blatantly transphobic that it’s obviously indefensible and best outright ignored in an online discussion tbh. What happens more often is denial that people like Craftwork exist or that they cause real problems for people, which is what’s meant by enabling a lot of the time. One of the things that pissed me off most about a lot of the internal arguing in the AF in the run up to the split was outright refusal from some quarters to even acknowledge that transphobia can be an issue in anarchist spaces. That kind of thing makes things very difficult because we have to start from proving that we’re not just lying about shit we’ve personally witnessed or experienced for the sake of it and consequently tends to really get people’s backs up.

I mean it says a lot that people who insist they’re totally not like all the really headbanging bigots are approvingly quoting those same bigots while complaining that they keep being mistaken for them.

Edit to add: Also another person here who thinks Jura’s contributions here have been good and really welcome, even where I’ve disagreed with them.

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May 29 2018 12:28
AnythingForProximity wrote:

It's also funny to read all those sneers and complaints that people opposed to identity politics are not even able to define it. Interesting: Marx dedicated thousands of pages to characterizing and describing capitalism at great length and detail, yet he never provided a simple, formulaic definition of what capitalism is...

I appreciate that this is something of a side issue, and the main point is that it's not that no-one has ever defined idpol but rather that there are many wildly differing definitions, but just on this,

Carly M wrote:
M-C-M' is therefore in reality the general formula of capital as it appears prima facie within the sphere of circulation.

You can't really get much more formulaic than that?

Tsanuri
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May 29 2018 12:49

The claim is that "identity politics", a contentious term with differing meanigs, is being put into place in anarchist activity to the detratlment of the movement for libertarian communism. I can think of some examples of where something like this is happening, but the main peeps pushing the OP (Link, Serge, Noa, etc) have been dancing around this for page after page.

Serge, you say you are losing the will to post. How about before you go you break from the pack and give us one concrete example of activity in Britain that has been undertaken by anarchists that you see as identity politics undermining the struggle towards anarchist communism. Or anyone else. Humour me.

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May 29 2018 13:10
Fleur wrote:
But Noa, I'm not asking Mike anything. I'm asking you what your problem with identity politics is and not a critique written by someone else 31 years ago.

The claim I made (on the Rectenwald-thread) is that even the best forms of IP can be criticised. A banal statement I would think. Mike then asked me to be more precise and give examples, which I did, but he countered with various (sophist) objections.

Now, you ask me for my critique. I haven't written an article on it, partly because if I would, then I would want it to be as precise/informed as possible. But I have tried to inform myself on identity politics, partly in the course of conversation with you Fleur on the 'talking-about-sex/love-thread'.

And informing myself includes finding literature. It's a common thing to quote references in an article Fleur. I say that, because you seem to reject any 'abstract theoretical' words, and think that 'experience' is all-important. Quite simply you're telling me that everything "I" (even if I'm citing other people) say is wrong, because I don't have the "experience" that you (or oppressed minorities) have. Or you will accuse me of living in the past, because I cite authors from more than 20 years ago. So it's a bit pointless for me to be "precise" in such restricted conditions set by you.

However, (and to reconnect with the thread's turn post-Craftwork) I can at least repeat some very basic info about identity politics. The origin, or the modern introduction, of the terms "identity" and "gender" goes back to John Money. It's not SImone de Beauvoir, and it's not post-structuralism as is commonly claimed. And what is more, the coiner (and his close colleague) of these terms attached no scientific worth to them. (I leave aside the more philosophical critique of 'identity" in past centuries). I thus reject even the use of the very terms 'gender' and 'identity'.

People here say that if you boil it down, the critics of IP ultimately just have a problem with trans people, but theoretically the terms "identity/gender" did come from John Money's research on trans people, so one cannot avoid the topic.

edit: I'll just add a reference to one of John Money's later books Gendermaps: Social Constructionism, Feminism and Sexosophical History. It's only partly on GoogleBooks, so no full pdf AFAIK.

ticking_fool
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May 29 2018 13:43

People to read on trans experienc, politics and history - trans people like Bornstein, Serano, Namaste, Page, Spade and so on.

People not to read on trans stuff - a doctor who spent his career pathologising and gate keeping us who was later revealed to be abusing his child patients.

You keep revealing the utter depths of your ignorance with the confidence of a toddler presenting their own shit. Maybe shut up.

radicalgraffiti
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May 29 2018 13:48
Serge Forward wrote:

It's unfortunate that much of the criticism of identity politics till now has been so poor and with enough reactionary comments thrown in to provoke the usual feeding frenzy from those libcom jackals who mainly seem to post only in threads such as this. I've thought of commenting in this thread but every time I see a 3000 word treatise from Mike Harmon in response to a one sentence comment, I lose the will to post.

its funny to see someone who can drag a meeting out for hours calling something liberal based on to be generous nothing but their interpretation of the title, complaining about the length of people replies

Serge Forward wrote:
ticking_fool wrote:
Just say it's the trannies and have done with it, FFS. This dance is boring.

See, it's so easy for you to say that anyone who criticises identity politics is transphobic, racist, misogynist, etc., or compare critics to alt-right wankers (though true some of the critics here have not helped their case). It's not the trannies that's the problem. The problem is more often the allies and certain "anarcho trans" who act like nasty pieces of work in the way that many born again religious people can behave with non believers. Trans people have been around for a long time, some of us grew up around them and have respect for them as with any human being until you know otherwise, long before trans became a political fad on the fringes of a tiny insignificant anarchist scene. The ally zealots though can be really grating.

well its easy to see that you dont think transphobes are a problem, just the people opposing them. theres a lot of people who thing pointing out transphobia is worse than handing out fascist transphobic leaflets or snitching

radicalgraffiti
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May 29 2018 13:52
Noa Rodman wrote:
Fleur wrote:
But Noa, I'm not asking Mike anything. I'm asking you what your problem with identity politics is and not a critique written by someone else 31 years ago.

The claim I made (on the Rectenwald-thread) is that even the best forms of IP can be criticised. A banal statement I would think. Mike then asked me to be more precise and give examples, which I did, but he countered with various (sophist) objections.

Now, you ask me for my critique. I haven't written an article on it, partly because if I would, then I would want it to be as precise/informed as possible. But I have tried to inform myself on identity politics, partly in the course of conversation with you Fleur on the 'talking-about-sex/love-thread'.

so what your saying is you dont have a critic of identity politics, or what its doing to anarchism or the left in general, and you dont know what identity politics even is, but for reasons, its vary important to keep insisting that its possible to make one? and then you going to strut around and act like you won something?

Fleur
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May 29 2018 14:06

Ah Noa, you're back on the guy who mutilated a baby boy (who later committed suicide) to prove his bullshit gender theories, which you seem to have a weird attachment to, even though he tortured a kid and was blatantly lying about the success of his experiments. Nice one.

I was actually asking you for your critique on the subject. I guess you don't have one or you don't have the nerve to spell it out in a public forum.

Which brings me to my next question, you say you're not interested in the effects of identity politics in anarchism, you don't have an opinion of your own on the subject, so what the fuck are you doing in this thread?

Fleur
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May 29 2018 14:09

Also, for the love of dog (and I love my dog a lot) nobody asked you to write a thesis paper, or an article, just answer a question. You can waffle on about needing citations but you don't need to cite other people's papers to have a thought of your own.

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May 29 2018 15:38
ticking_fool wrote:
People not to read on trans stuff - a doctor who spent his career pathologising and gate keeping us who was later revealed to be abusing his child patients.
Fleur wrote:
Ah Noa, you're back on the guy who mutilated a baby boy (who later committed suicide) to prove his bullshit gender theories, which you seem to have a weird attachment to, even though he tortured a kid and was blatantly lying about the success of his experiments. Nice one.

If you want to dispute "my" point, then trace the origin of the terms gender/identity to someone else than John Money and explain what is their scientific worth, if any. I'm aware of Money's abuse, that's in fact used as an argument by some "TERFs" against the whole notion of gender identity. However, I don't rely on such easy reasoning.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
so what your saying is you dont have a critic of identity politics, or what its doing to anarchism or the left in general, and you dont know what identity politics even is, but for reasons, its vary important to keep insisting that its possible to make one? and then you going to strut around and act like you won something?

If the coiner (or his close colleague) of the fundamental term of "identity" himself admits that it has no scientific worth and doesn't insist on its use, I'm not sure it's necessary I add more.

Fleur wrote:
I was actually asking you for your critique on the subject. I guess you don't have one or you don't have the nerve to spell it out in a public forum.

Which brings me to my next question, you say you're not interested in the effects of identity politics in anarchism, you don't have an opinion of your own on the subject, so what the fuck are you doing in this thread?

Jumping through your hoops, staying one step ahead of your "gotcha".

radicalgraffiti
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May 29 2018 16:25
Noa Rodman wrote:
ticking_fool wrote:
People not to read on trans stuff - a doctor who spent his career pathologising and gate keeping us who was later revealed to be abusing his child patients.
Fleur wrote:
Ah Noa, you're back on the guy who mutilated a baby boy (who later committed suicide) to prove his bullshit gender theories, which you seem to have a weird attachment to, even though he tortured a kid and was blatantly lying about the success of his experiments. Nice one.

If you want to dispute "my" point, then trace the origin of the terms gender/identity to someone else than John Money and explain what is their scientific worth, if any. I'm aware of Money's abuse, that's in fact used as an argument by some "TERFs" against the whole notion of gender identity. However, I don't rely on such easy reasoning.

or any reasoning at all

Noa Rodman wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
so what your saying is you dont have a critic of identity politics, or what its doing to anarchism or the left in general, and you dont know what identity politics even is, but for reasons, its vary important to keep insisting that its possible to make one? and then you going to strut around and act like you won something?

If the coiner (or his close colleague) of the fundamental term of "identity" himself admits that it has no scientific worth and doesn't insist on its use, I'm not sure it's necessary I add more.

nice means stupid, gay means happy, girl means child of either sex, yes this is how we understand words

edit look Pokemon means stupid or clumsy thats clearly all we need to know right https://kotaku.com/the-strange-history-of-the-word-pokemon-1706350547

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May 29 2018 16:22
Serge Forward wrote:
It's not the trannies that's the problem.

Question: Are you trans?

Serge Forward wrote:
The problem is more often the allies and certain "anarcho trans" who act like nasty pieces of work in the way that many born again religious people can behave with non believers. Trans people have been around for a long time, some of us grew up around them and have respect for them as with any human being until you know otherwise, long before trans became a political fad on the fringes of a tiny insignificant anarchist scene. The ally zealots though can be really grating.

"Get back in your box" is fewer words. Save your energy.
We've always been here as activists, and we're not merely a small peripheral of the anarchist scene. We threw the first brick at Stonewall. We have been in support of LGB and women's liberation all through this time. But no, apparently we're insignificant because Some Dude On The Internet says so.

By the way, what type of biscuit do you want for "having respect" for the timid trans people who've not challenged you, that you've known? Is chocolate chip OK, or would you prefer something more savoury?

Sadie
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May 29 2018 16:38

As I see it, an empirical claim has been made, from the OP:

Quote:
Today’s so-called anarchists and libertarians have fallen in to this morass of identity politics

It’s on the people who agree with this claim to demonstrate that it’s true, which is going to be difficult if they all keep refusing to explain what the morass of identity politics is or what anarchists falling into it actually looks like. Everything else is just fluff, really.

Sadie
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May 29 2018 16:42

Like there are valid criticisms to be made of identity politics, I think I’ve made some earlier in this thread in fact. The issue isn’t actually identity politics so much as the use of “identity politics” as a catch all thought terminating cliche.