Exclusionary Identity Politics Poses a Danger to feminism.

Feminism and other identity politics movements have traditionally been associated with liberal or left-wing politics. However, recently some have observed that a new type of identity politics has emerged. This kind of identity politics has been fuelling xenophobic movements around the Western world. This has made many re-evaluate the usefulness of identity politics.

In any re-evaluation of identity politics, the most important (and most feared) question would naturally be, are all identity politics movements capable of becoming illiberal and exclusionary? And I am afraid that the answer is yes. There is no logical reason why exclusionary attitudes cannot apply to the identity politics of any group, given the right circumstances. And yes, feminism is potentially vulnerable too.

If we want to prevent feminism slide towards the dark side, we need to first understand the difference between liberal and illiberal politics. So what’s so different?

One type of politics seeks to use shared identity and shared lived experience to inform how society can be more liberal and less discriminatory. The other type seeks to use shared identity and shared lived experience to build walls and keep outsiders firmly out. It is just natural that the former would make society more liberal, and the latter would make society less liberal.

It would be a dangerous mistake to assume the identity politics movements of the left are always liberal. Trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF) is a good example. Identity politics around historically disadvantaged minorities are not immune to being illiberal, especially towards even more disadvantaged minorities, or minorities within minorities. The very existence of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) is conclusive proof that feminism is very much vulnerable to the force of the dark side.

So how can we help keep feminism liberal, and prevent its slide into the dark side?

We need to be true to the ideals of liberalism itself, liberty and equality. We need to strive for the liberty and equality of all. We need to use our shared experience to inform society on how it can become more liberal and equal, rather than to build walls and cliques. We need to be open-minded and welcoming to those with different backgrounds and lived experiences, and therefore potentially very different views on various matters than what we are used to. We need to be non-judgemental and inclusive, and develop strategies for the inclusion of people who may otherwise have conflicting views. We need to welcome the rational debate of any issue, and be prepared to participate in those debates with well developed arguments, rather than just shutting our opponents down. In short, we need to live up to the grand ideals of the liberal cannon. Anything else would be inadequate.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter, independent journalist and author, who is passionate about liberty and equality.