On the Rumoured Death of Identity Politics
Recently an old friend told me she was sick of identity politics. I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond, especially considering the vast majority of my work concerns identity and the power others attempt to wield over me concerning my identity. I wasn’t sure what to say because my identity is so fluid, ever changing and shapeshifting to suit my mood. Being on the borders of male-female, white and red, identity is something I wake up to every morning when I have my coffee and read the news. It’s something I struggle with every day, trying to navigate my way through polarized territories which other people rarely consider.
“Identity politics is dead.”
Recently during a conversation with some fellow mixed bloods we discussed peoples aversion to identity politics. Someone suggested it’s something people say when they are tired of being allies to those of us who carry around some intense identity issues. It’s something people say when they’re tired of hearing us out, tired of being a part of the struggles of marginalized populations, tired of us “taking space”.
And then there are other questions I have about identity, like, is my bipolar disorder an identity? Some people with bipolar disagree, they do not want to be defined by their disorder. However in my case I identify as bipolar because it has made as much of an impact on my life and how I view the world as being queer and a halfbreed and inhabiting a female body. It’s something I want to be proud of for forming and influencing who I am today.
So when someone says “I’m sick of identity politics, identity politics is dead,” what are they really saying? Are they saying that artists should cease making works about race/class/gender/disability/sexuality? If that’s what it means, I am seriously fucked, because I could talk about those things forever and still barely scratch the surface on what it means to live life as an Other.
And who decided identity politics was dead anyway? Probably someone who’s in a relative position of power in society, who doesn’t have to fight all the fucked up isms every day of their life.
As long as humans and post humans are struggling with hatred, fear, and oppression based on their identities, identity politics is relevant and crucial to artistic practice. As long as people ask me “What are you?” in regards to my race, gender, sexuality, whatever, identity politics is relevant. As long as certain people with certain backgrounds have certain privileges that others are denied, identity politics is relevant.