Manbangate: it was always going to meet vicious condemnation from the right, but the left too? The left has formed three groups: those who support it, those who support it but are distressed at the politics of it and those who oppose it.
There’s been a failure of political management. That was always a given. Labour’s own MPs swallowed the right’s framing and the leader failed to comment on the first day (except through a proxy) and when he did he accepted the right’s framing too. And this is the government in waiting. Heaven help us.
The claim that class politics > identity politics grates. Bryce Edwards writes:
Labour’s focus on issues of identity politics has, arguably, been to the detriment of more substantive issues concerning economics, inequality and power
And paraphrasing Josie Pagani:
Essentially Pagani is saying that class and economics is more important than gender and feminism in this debate.
Gender can’t be separated from economics, inequality and power. The same is true of ethnicity, disability, age and sexual orientation. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979, the Employment Equity Act 1990, and certain provisions in the State Sector Act 1988 and the Human Rights Act 1993 exist for a reason: inequality isn’t gender-blind – nor is it colour-blind, disability-blind, age-blind or blind to sexual orientation. Power in society is concentrated in one gender, one colour, one ability, one generation and one sexual orientation. Obviously, this an argument to class and an argument to identity. The two shouldn’t be divorced.
It’s unfair to juxtapose class politics against identity politics. Class might be the central divide in a capitalist system, but gender oppression isn’t always located within and subordinate to class oppression. Regardless of class some opportunities and rights are closed to women. Anti-abortion laws, for example, revoke a woman’s right to choose regardless of income and occupation. Women, regardless of income and occupation, must still battle against gender expectations reaching back centuries.
Politics isn’t a binary choice between issue A and issue B. The left is capable of debating more than one issue at a time. In any event, the only reason gender has cut to the front is because a Labour member (or MP) leaked the proposal, Whale and DPF framed and sustained the issue well (man ban!) and the media received a prepackaged story. In the hierarchy of issues, the gender debate wasn’t meant to register. Don’t whinge about the left having to focus on other shit.
A resistance to affirmative action is a resistance against sharing privilege. A quota is a blunt instrument and the political management around the leak has been dull. Context is everything, though: women won the vote in the 19th century and haven’t achieved parity in Parliament in the 21st century. Discrimination didn’t die in the 20th century.
Maybe the man ban should have been shanked. It appears that the disproportionate number of men in the Labour caucus is a result of men (in the old guard) remaining in their safe seats and, as Danyl rightly points out, it’s likely never to be used. But is that how cowardly liberals and the left have become? Maybe, but let’s not bullshit that gender equality isn’t important.