Identity politics can be employed to simultaneously uplift marginalised members of society and deconstruct the mechanisms of their marginalisation.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
Identity politics can be one tool we use to override our discomfort with others and instead draw together into coalition.
We should use it as a tool. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only tool.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
“Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics” is an entertaining video essay full of great quotes for our glossary. We updated “Identity Politics”, “Strategic Essentialism”, “Stigma”, and “Power” with quotes from the video and the sources it cites. We collect the quotes below, adding some connections and context.
Oppression Olympics and Strategic Essentialism
In this exchange between Angela Y. Davis & Elizabeth Martínez, Martinez coins “Oppression Olympics.” Note the context of this coining. Both Martinez and Davis agree we should avoid Oppression Olympics via connections and networks and flexibility.
MARTÍNEZ: There are various forms of working together. A coalition is one, a network is another, an alliance is yet another. And they are not the same; some of them are short-term, and some are long-term. A network is not the same as a coalition. A network is a more permanent, ongoing thing. I think you have to look at what the demands are, and ask: What kind of coming together do we need to win these demands?
And if you know the administration will pick your groups off one by one, then the largest umbrella you can possibly get is probably the best one. Some of the answers to your question are tactical and depend upon the circumstances. But the general idea is no competition of hierarchies should prevail. No “Oppression Olympics”!”
DAVIS: As Betita has pointed out, we need to be more flexible in our thinking about various ways of working together across differences. Some formations may be more permanent and some may be short-term.”Coalition Building Among People of Color“, Angela Y. Davis & Elizabeth Martínez – Center for Cultural Studies Via: Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
This reminds me of strategic essentialism.
However, antisubordination activists have engaged in a form of strategic essentialism as a means of resistance (Spivak, 1989). Mimicking conventional strategies of nonsubordinated power holders, strategic essentialism is a move by members of a subordinated category to simplify group identity and counter normative expectations.DisCrit—Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series) (p. 205). Teachers College Press
Strategic Essentialism “…refers to a political tactic in which minority groups, nationalities, or ethnic groups mobilize on the basis of shared gendered, cultural, or political identity to represent themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily “essentialize” themselves and to bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals…”
We updated our “Stigma” glossary page with this quote.
But the term identity politics is a bit more vague. It was coined by Renee Anspach who was describing how disabled and mentally ill people were using their identities as paths to activism.
Anspach observed that the taking up of these stigmatised identities was key in interrupting the process of stigmatisation.
Writing in the 1970s, Anspach talks about deviance theory, the sociological idea that stigmatised ways of being are seen as a personal flaws or deviations.
The label assigned to these groups is designated unidirectionally, the society imposes the label on the person.
Think of how frequently the stigmatised identity gets a name, and the rest of us just get to be called “normal.” Think of how angry some people get when the marginialised group wants a word besides “normal” to describe other people on that scale.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
Language and Owning the Label
“Taking up of these stigmatised identities was key in interrupting the process of stigmatisation” fits with our advocacy in “Identity First Language: Thinking differently requires speaking differently.” and “Glossary: Develop a Language in Which We Can Both Understand and Challenge the World“. Take up the label and own identity to find community.
By taking up the label and owning the identity, disabled and mentally ill individuals were able to change the conversation and perceive the political processes happening at the root of their marginalisation. This meant that physically disabled people were able to interrupt a nondisabled public’s narrative of pathos and pity, while people with mental illnesses were able to speak without being discounted as hysterical.
Gentrification is a hostile force. It is capitalism acting upon homes. Acting upon the poor.
Linguistic Gentrification is white supremacy acting upon language.
And as Foreign Man said, “Names for minorities will continue to change as long as people have negative attitudes towards them.
We will know that they have achieved mutual respect when the names stay put.
Copia and Bricolage
We updated “Identity Politics” with this quote.
Identity politics has always been a complex process involving finding ourselves identified as belonging to a particular category (women, blacks, gays), and identifying with these particular “we’s, and constructing our identity through active processes of resistance, of making meaning, through political struggle, through identifications with each other, through creating new narratives, and thereby (re)creating ourselves, and our identities.Alison Weir, 2008
Which reminds us that we are copias.
The sources considered here imply not a binary model (masculine=feminine) or even a view of gender as a continuum, but something more like a copia, the rhetorical term Erasmus used to describe the practice of selecting ‘‘certain expressions and mak[ing] as many variations of them as possible’’ (17). Copia provides a strategy of invention, a rhetorical term for the process of generating ideas. To be specific, copia involves proliferation, multiplying possibilities so as to locate the range of persuasive options available to a rhetor. I find the concept of invention fitting to describe the kind of rhetoric in which many autistic individuals engage when they discuss sex and gender, a rhetoric we might consider, following Mary Hawkesworth, a feminist rhetoric, insofar as it seeks to ‘‘call worlds into being, inscribe new orders of possibility, validate frames of reference and forms of explanation, and reconstitute histories serviceable for present and future projects’’ (1988).
Individuals who find themselves engaged in this rhetorical search for terms with which to understand themselves can draw on a wide array of terms or representations, such as genderqueer, transgendered, femme, butch, boi, neutrois, androgyne, bi- or tri-gender, third gender, and even geek.Gender Copia: Feminist Rhetorical Perspectives on an Autistic Concept of Sex/Gender: Women’s Studies in Communication: Vol 35, No 1
So just, analyse identity politics through the lens of power, and you’ll be less likely to believe that all pejoratives are equally bad, or that an individual whose story deviates from the norm means the norm doesn’t exist.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
Rhizomatic Punk: An Ontology of Difference
Rhizomes have been a topic of conversation in neurodiversity and solarpunk communities. We even have a glossary page for “Autistic Rhizome“. Here’s how we define that.
Autistic Rhizome@Autistic Realms
A growing and evolving network of Autistic communities with no hierarchy or dependence on anothers existence.
Each person forms an integral part and is connected by a flow of energy that not only runs through and between individuals and communities but enables new connections to form. It is a place of safety, support and deep understanding.
The Autistic rhizome creates new energy through the sharing and evolution of ideas which permeates and ripples through into wider society.
On discord, there is a growing network of communities. I have lovingly dubbed this collective The Autistic Rhizome. They are an interconnected network of knowledge exchange, and mutual aid and support that have displaced the hierarchical nature of advocate/follower relationships.
We are equal in these spaces.
This growing network consists of communities that do not depend on each other to exist, but are still enriched by their interconnection. There is no starting or end point. There is no advancing through communities based on levels of knowledge. They just simply exist, and people come and go as they please.Neuro-anarchy and the rise of the Autistic Rhizome – DGH Neurodivergent Consultancy
“Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics” combines rhyzomatic thinking with punk ethos.
Deleuze and Guattari described this kind of thinking as ‘Rhyzomatic.’
A rhyzome isn’t like a tree, it doesn’t have subordinate parts emerging from a core trunk. A rhizome is a root system of pure connections.
How the things connect is how they are defined. By the same logic, how they are disconnected is how they are defined.
Deleuze differed from the poststructuralists like Derrida and Foucault in that he was a Monist. All of it is connected, all of it is one, and the connections and lack of connections between the things, are what define them as things. This is an Ontology of Difference.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
It’s supposed to be disruptive! It’s punk! If there wasn’t something to disrupt it wouldn’t be beautiful. It’s doing something important. We ought to help.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
The other great thing about punk as a foundational underpinning is that it leaves a lot of scope for how you might participate.
A punk bass line. With all the space for ingenuity and contributions.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
Getting back to Martinez and Davis, via rhizomes and punk, “no competition of hierarchies should prevail.”
Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable
Art is supposed to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube
Let’s get to it.
I have led a life of disaster and failure and judgement and self judgement and now all of a sudden I have an opportunity to frame myself and my friends and my family, and my reality, so radically differently.
There is so much to be learned and unlearned and assimilated and created by virtue of how challenging other people’s chord structures are.
You are the process of change.