The Paradox of Gender Equality and Identity Politics

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The desire for equal recognition can easily slide over into a demand for recognition of the group’s superiority.

During a town hall event last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mildly rebuked a woman for using the word “mankind’ instead of “peoplekind.” The cringe worthy remark elicited cheers from the audience as well as some backlash from his trolls in social media for appearing so desperate in scoring social justice points. Whether or not it was a “dumb joke” as he claimed it was, it reflects the hysteria fueling today’s gender equality discourse. The conversation has departed from equal pay and equal opportunities and ending violence against women—all legitimate grievances—to destroying any trace of masculinity and the patriarchy. Identity politics pits in-groups against out-groups and stops any meaningful debate from ever occurring. It seeks to vanquish anyone outside of one’s own little tribe, be it based on gender, race, and socio-economic background for one purpose—power. As author and political economist Francis Fukuyama writes in his aptly titled book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, “Contemporary identity politics is driven by the quest for equal recognition by groups that have been marginalized by their societies. But that desire for equal recognition can easily slide over into a demand for recognition of the group’s superiority.”

Women in the workforce    

Photo:Photo: Thomas Kleiven, BI Norwegian Business School

The ethos of the recent BI Gender Equality Conference was about the economic gain of incorporating more women in the workforce. While all of the guest speakers in the conference, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, praised the contributions of women in the home, some self-described feminists have been less effusive. They have gone as far as saying that being a stay-at-home mom should be made illegal to accusing women who, of their own volition, have turned turned down a 9 to 5 job to raise their children as suffering “internalized sexism.” Instead of debating the merits of any policy, the discourse turns into a game of “Who’s more feminist?” Not only do they miss out on the opportunity to defend their position, but they also risk alienating even their very own allies.

No room for dissenting views?

Former Harvard law professor and current U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, hardly a social conservative by any stretch of the imagination, argues in her 2003 book entitled Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke the importance of stay-at-home moms in strengthening the socio-economic fabric. Senator Warren points out the unintended consequences of adding a second adult earner into the mix. Currently, a two-income family makes over 70 percent more than single-income family decades ago, but has surprisingly less disposable income due to a spike in household fixed expenses. I can’t imagine Warren reasserting that claim in 2019 without being accused of carrying water for the patriarchy. Whether one agrees with her diagnosis on two-income households or not, just the thought that her opinion on something so innocuous could trigger someone contradicts the feminist idea that a woman should be able to think for herself.

People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with

The religion of identity politics

If you’re a woman with the wrong opinion or politics or even have the slightest disagreement on a particular “women’s issue” then you’re quickly dismissed as being part of the problem and an enabler of the patriarchy. Ironically, empowerment is only celebrated if you toe the line and conform to the approved narrative. The late Christopher Hitchens said it best: “People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of ‘race’ or ‘gender’ alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.”

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