Identity Politics Has Failed Us
The year is 2016 and the Democratic Party has finally nominated a woman for the Presidency of the United States.
For some women, this is a moment of history — it is “progress” on diversifying the power structures that be in our current society. However, for myself and for many other women, we don’t view this as “progress”.
The Democratic Party’s undertaking of identity politics to diversify the role of the capitalist oppressor, the industrial military complexes, and so on, is not progress. Our goals should not be to change who can and cannot be the capitalist oppressor — opposed to recognizing that capitalist oppression ought to be abolished. Assimilation into capitalism with a racial, gender, sexual, etc., diverse structure is not the answer. We need to abolish capitalism, not diversify who can be the capitalist oppressor.
The nomination of Hillary Clinton symbolizes the peak of identity politics where some women in America celebrate it as “progress” while women abroad fear it as a continuation of imperialism, colonialism, and global capitalist oppression. I hate to break the news but a woman assuming the same oppressive role that traditionally men assumed, is not progress. How is Hillary Clinton assuming the role of being the President, in respects to foreign affairs, with the same imperialist, violent, and oppressive policies of Henry Kissinger any better than having Henry Kissinger himself? It’s not.
Take the U.S military as an example. One of the Democratic Party’s policies is to support transgender people in the military — from my perspective as a transgender person, to be blunt, I don’t care. What I see as liberation and equity for my community is not our ability to be within the industrial military complexes and be able to drone and kill Black and Brown civilians in the Middle East. What I see as liberation for my community is ending the trans housing crisis, establishing a national healthcare service, stopping predatory creditors & lenders that exploit against trans people, etc. However, for the Democratic Party, being able to assume the role of the oppressor is considered “progress” and “equality”.
The fetishization of women CEOs, queer people in the military, and marginalized people assuming the powerful roles inside oppressive institutions is not progress, and it is not liberation either. There is too much importance placed on “diversity” opposed to policies that help marginalized people. We cannot support politicians just because they look like us, sound like us, fit into the same box as us and simply support them because of that. As if they will automatically support our liberation and have our best interests at heart.
In fact, with Clinton’s policies of imperialism and of global capitalist oppression, she is anti-woman. You cannot be pro-woman, for the liberation of women, while you support bombing women or support propping up client states that harm women. Hillary being a woman, struggling against misogyny does not mean that she inherently has anti-sexist policies or that she does not perpetuate misogyny. Likewise, being a marginalized person herself, as a woman, does not mean that she is an ally to all other marginalized people.
“Well, as a Socialist and a feminist myself and as a woman and a Woman of Color, I have no question in my mind that in order to make social change, it is absolutely critical that women, People of Color, all the members of the oppressed communities under capitalism, be on the forefront of [the] struggle. But I think the identity of the person we are talking about, the leading people, is — are much less important. Their identities are much less important. What’s far more critical is where they stand.
So, if you look at the significance of her [Hillary Clinton] being the first female nominee, I understand the appeal of that, I’m sympathetic to that. But here’s what I would say. I actually — you know, all throughout this campaign season, I was reminded of a show — an episode that you played, Amy, in 2008, when you had Melissa Harris-Perry and Gloria Steinem debating, and Gloria was saying, “Well, if you’re a woman, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton,” and Melissa was saying, “Well, if you’re a Person of Color, you need to vote for Obama.” And I was sitting there watching as a Woman of Color, saying neither of these candidates represent my interests as a Woman of Color. And the reason I say that is it has less to do with their identity and far more to do with the interests they represent.” — Kshama Sawant
While recognizing the humanity of women, as we are victims of misogyny, we also need to recognize that we also can be perpetrators of misogyny. This is where identity politics fails us. History tells us that women have countless reasons to not trust men because when they are misogynistic us, no one believes us. But we would be doing ourselves and our community an injustice to not concede that there are people among us, within our communities, that can, and will exploit this history for personal gain.
The liberation of marginalized people, in this case women, is not achieved by having a woman as the President of the United States but by having socialist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, and intersectional policies. Which Hillary Clinton — and the Democratic Party, do not have.