The rise of single issue identity group behavoir in reaction to trauma and the positive aspects thereof
This post was originally intended to be a reply to a comment on a media girl diary. Her diary had been on the recommended diaries list over this past weekend.  The comment developed into an off-topic discussion of single interest group identity politics. It grew so long that I feel it would have been bad form for me to insert it into her diary.

Although I’ve written this as a direct reponse to DL’s comment it’s really a general discussion of the importance of single issue group identity politics.


In your description of growing up in the milltowns, having to struggle without protection or help to survive, what I am “hearing” from you sounds like identity group political struggle with one exception.  The group you were a member of was composed entirely of you. You were an identity group of one. In some ways my Dad also had a similar experience and in remembering him I feel I can identify with what you are saying regarding the use of the word “coddle”. If my dad were living today I bet he would laugh at the idea of having been “coddled” as a male child. Like him, you weren’t. You came up on your own, expecting nothing from no one, after a time you were very self-reliant.

I would like to point out that Mediagirl did state: Note: I do not mean to make blanket assertions about all boys, but only use a subject I’ve heard raised elsewhere (by conservatives like Hoffman, for example) as another example… I’m sure media girl isn’t implying that all boys are coddled.

I am perplexed though, reading your short post, the gist of it seems to be that identity politics is bad. If I am correct that is fairly easy to understand, but what’s perplexing me is at the end of your post you state that single issue group identity politics “hardly builds a course to social solidarity and social progress.” I disagree. I dont see any conflict at all between identity politics on the one hand and social solidarity/social progress on the other.

Let me give you an example out of my own experience, as you’ve done for me. About four years ago I was diagnosed with a malignancy. During the month between initial diagnosis and the treatment, and in the months spent recovering afterwards, I was placed into the company of others who were undergoing very similar experiences. I learned we all had very similar fears, similar medical treatments to deal with and a similar set of circumstances in general. My recognition of my new identity group and my empathy for the other group members was based on our awareness of our commonality and shared oppression (tumor = oppression). This is the first point that I wish to make. The formation of identity groups can be a natural occurance. The ability resides within us all.  We will form such groups when possible because group effort is often more efficient at producing the desired results. One also gains emotional support from the members of the group, especially when something bad is going down, such as malignancy. What I have just described is something I literally watched unfold in my life and I was aware of it as occurred (with amazement). What was marvelous was that I had to do nothing to invoke it. My instinct for survival did so. Many hospitals run multiple special interest identity groups (based on cancer types) but from my experience, being a member of such groups, I know that it is more often than not a grassroots movement to begin with. It will, and does, occur with or without professional involvement. My opinion is that identity group politics/behavor is a tool some of us carry around, a survival mechanism, rooted in evolutionarly development. I feel that if we experience stress to a significant degree, self-identify the issue within ourselves and then recognize others who are in the same situation, special interest politics is largely unavoidable.

I’m hoping that by using my experiences and briefly describing a successful, functioning interest group who’s reason for existence is perhaps more easily empathized with by you, and that is not as women’s-equality focused, it makes it easier for you to see the benefits of identity politics as they appear from our point of view. The reason why I am doing so is because of one thing I do not see in your post. I don’t see any acknowledgement of the benefits that identity politics offers. Of course your post is short.  But let me assure you, when things were tough with me? My single issue identity group’s activism was the best thing going in my life. My single interest group got me through the dark tunnel of emotional and physical trauma.

My single-issue interest group was born out of need and my need was met to my satisfaction. Now, lets add in gender. Are my cancer identity politics fine, but not the politics of women’s equality and related issues? Cancer-related identity group activism is fairly easy for anyone to support. No one benefits from a tumor. All tumors are bad.

Women’s equality is more troublesome issue for some because the oppressor is not a tumor but a group of human beings. I cannot dance around some things here. You are not a woman, obviously. Therefore, you do not directly experience the trauma that brings women together and forms group identity. But that does not mean you cannot be a member of a group who’s identity is concerned with women’s equality, if that is your wish. It certainly doesnt necessarily lead to your being rejected by a group because of gender differences either.  It does mean that you are unable to experience the need for identity based action in the exactly the same manner that a woman would. You would have to gain insight using a more intellectual/empathetic path via learning and listening, as opposed to “walking the walk”. There’s no lesser status in that, it can work. It’s just that attraction to a particular group is more natural when the traumatic issue arises from within one, in an organic fashion.

When I read the part of the post you cut and pasted from mediagirl’s diary what I see is not so much her making a flimsy excuse (might that not be just issue miscommunication across a frame of reference divide?) I just see a warning about coupling high self-esteem in developing, coddled male children, with 100s hours of computer-simulated killing/murder. I see concern expressed about the potential resulting consequences of combining the two. I also see fear of those consequences.

Fear. Lets talk about fear. Fear is one of the traumas that results in women banding together to form women’s-equality identity groups.

By way of example, I assume every medium-sized town in this country has some type of domestic violence shelter. These shelters are populated with women who have been abused in some violent manner. Facts are as follows:

A study (release dated this past week) by the Justice Department found that:

 Victims: Almost half of the 3.5 million victims of family violence between 1998 and 2002 were spouses; 73 percent were female; 74 percent were white; most were ages 25 to 54.

Offenders: 75 percent were male; 79 percent were white; most were at least 30.

Some might have issues with the textual use of the term “monsters” (in your example text) but the violence is real.  It’s common. As media girl suggested in a follow-up comment, don’t be distracted by the rhetoric if the meaning is spot on. We, as women, are much more sensitized to gender-based violence simply because women are more often on the receiving end. You may also be more sensitized to our displays of resentment which are due to the unfairness of the trauma.

From another perspective media girl’s comments may also belong to another identity group: mothers, or parents.  Concerns about subjecting boys to violent imagery flow through the minds of mothers, both potential and actualized, daily.   Simple maternal concern, a “what if” scenario, perhaps some mental rehearsal? Can you see it?

If read from such a perspective, you can see how it can be about caring too.

My point is simply this:  Identity Groups form naturally from shared concerns, interests, fears or traumas.  These groups do in fact lead to social solidarity and societal progress.  Without the single issue identity group composed of those concerned about violence against women, progress would not have been made at lowering the incidence of domestic violence. (The link provided notes domestic abuse rates are at historic lows.) Where would society be, and what progress would have been made politically without cancer groups advocating for increased research funding, environmental groups advocating for the banning of DDT, women’s groups advocating for equal pay for equal work, gay and lesbian groups advocating for legal and social equality?  Single Issue Identity Groups make things happen for all of us. 
 The right has spent millions of dollars vilifying “special rights” groups and “special interest” groups.  Why?  Because they know these groups do create group solidarity that translates into social change.

0 0 votes
Article Rating