Michelle Goldberg rejects the rejection of “identity politics.”

We are going to spend the rest of our lives arguing about the precise mix of economic desperation and cultural grievance that drove the calamitous election of Donald Trump. Already, however, there’s an emerging consensus that the Trump apotheosis can be blamed in part on “identity politics” and “political correctness.” In Sunday’s New York Times, the liberal Columbia University historian Mark Lilla proclaimed “the end of identity liberalism.” In the libertarian magazine Reason, an essay was headlined, “Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash.” Bill Maher lectured liberals, “You’re outrageous with your politically correct bullshit and it does drive people away.” A Politico piece argued, “To many Trump supporters, Clinton … was merely another ‘PC’ liberal griping about ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘triggering’ language.”

So we should go back to calling people niggers and kikes? (We never stopped calling women cunts and bitches, so there’s no back to go to.) Goldberg agrees there are problems with the “rhetoric of identity” but is not interested in any trips back.

There is truth in this analysis, but also a very real danger that it will be used to dismiss demands for equality for women and people of color. We are entering a moment of reaction that will reshape not just our politics but also our culture. Liberal assumptions that had become part of the atmosphere—that female leadership is desirable, that dismantling racism is an urgent social imperative, that diversity in gender expression constitutes progress—will likely fall out of fashion.

It already has in some circles. Breitbart is popular, and that predates Trump.

Trump himself gives every indication of thinking that his victory was driven by rage at what we might call woke culture rather than by inequality. Consider the fact that, on Nov. 15, he snuck away from his press pool to have a $36 hamburger at the 21 Club in midtown Manhattan. The well-heeled patrons applauded him when he arrived, and he was recorded promising to lower their taxes. No one considered this to be a gaffe. If any of Trump’s economically anxious supporters felt betrayed to see their savior gladhanding plutocrats, they’ve been pretty quiet about it.

Contrast that reaction with what happened on Friday, when Mike Pence attended Hamilton. At the show’s conclusion, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon delivered a message to the vice president–elect, asking for respect for the groups targeted by Trump. “We, sir—we—are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. Unlike Trump’s trip to the 21 Club, this sparked screeches of indignation about New York elitism. There was a viral #BoycottHamilton hashtag campaign, and a threat from Bikers for Trump to blockade the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Trump himself tweeted a number of attacks on the Hamilton cast’s lèse-majesté. He seems to understand that a good portion of his followers are more inflamed by assertive cosmopolitanism than by capitalists luxuriating in their wealth, power, and access.

Yup. Slash taxes on the already very rich? Yessss, go for it!! Ask Trump to stop spewing sexism and racism? Omigod it’s the end of all our freedoms!! That makes sense coming from rich people, but others, not so much.

I certainly won’t mourn if the more illiberal aspects of social justice politics wither before the Trump juggernaut. Campus leftists who formerly disdained free speech will learn its absolute importance when faced with a regime that attacks protesters, the media, and dissenting artists. Perhaps progressive activists, newly aware of how many Americans reject their intellectual priors, will stop responding to clumsy questions with a sneering, “It’s not my job to educate you.” I’d like to see the language of privilege jettisoned altogether in favor of civil rights or equal justice, since the number of people who want to see their own privilege dismantled is vanishingly small. Maybe Everyday Feminism, the website that encompasses everything insufferable about social justice culture, will finally be revealed as an elaborate right-wing psy-ops campaign.

Ha! It has to be.

If you want to see Everyday Feminism at its worst, check out 5 Reasons Why We Need to Stop Saying That ‘Women Are Half the World’s Population’ from a couple of days ago for some right-wing psy-ops:

If we want to make a case for women’s equality around the world, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t erase or harm people of other genders and identities. We need to be bringing in a more intersectional approach.


Yeah – it’s always women who are erasing other people. Isn’t that strange? That this kind of thing is always aimed at women, and only women?

1. It’s Ridiculously Cisnormative

Let’s be real: This phrase isn’t logically correct. When we’re saying that women are half the world, what we’re actually saying is that roughly half the world is assigned female at birth.

We aren’t talking about gender (and therefore, women) at all. We’re talking about sex, and assuming that everyone assigned female at birth must identify as a woman.

This is totally cisnormative – reinforcing the assumption that being cisgender is the default, and centering the experiences of cisgender people, effectively erasing transgender people – and makes this phrase really problematic.

Think about it: This “statistic,” focusing on birth assignment, technically includes me – someone who doesn’t identify as a woman, but was assigned female at birth.

And more importantly, it doesn’t include trans women. Since this is a percentage that relies on assignment at birth, we’re inherently excluding transgender women – who have a different birth assignment – in favor of propping up cisgender women.

There it is, that chronic rage at women – “in favor of propping up cisgender women.” On a site that calls itself feminist! Right-wing psy-ops for sure.

But you know who is no help with that? Trump, that’s who.

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