Second Wave Of Feminism - Identity Politics



For comprehending both subjectivity and solidarity, some second-wave feminist social and political thought drew on group membership based on shared identity. 


  • Identity politics arose in response to a sense of solidarity or sisterhood based on shared experience, as well as a subsequent effort to secure social, legal, intellectual, and economic rights for oppressed peoples. 
  • Rather than presuming that all women have the same oppressive experience, feminist proponents of identity politics advocate for the representation of different identities (or oppressive experiences) in society. 
  • Identity politics is a broad term for a movement or trend in social and political philosophy. 
  • The ‘identity' is a common experience of oppression based on cultural background, linguistic community, assigned identity (that is, other people identifying certain individuals as members of a group), or other oppressive experiences. 
  • Because various groups are subjected to different types of oppression, they are likely to establish distinct identities. 
  • More precisely, identity politics refers to the fact that there are many distinct types of oppression, each of which results in a particular set of demands. 



As a result, the political system is responsible for recognizing these various groups and their requirements. 




To take the title of Iris Young's 1990 book, a "politics of difference" is a politics capable of practicing acknowledgment, recognizing the variety of identity and experience while also listening to the demands of particular groups. 

  • Traditional social and political philosophy is challenged by identity politics because, in order to recognize distinctions between groups, public policy must treat individuals differently. 
  • The political community must guarantee that democratic institutions place a high priority on the needs of oppressed peoples in order to overcome long-standing disadvantages and oppressions that have ignored their demands. 


To put it another way, identity politics promotes a greater understanding of how oppressed group identification has molded people and continues to impede their capacity to participate in and be treated fairly in social life. 

  • The consequences of identity politics may be observed very clearly when compared to conventional social and political theories such as social contract theory. 
  • The social contract hypothesis implies that rational people are more or less similarly placed, equally gifted, and equally treated. 


Identity politics introduces new and difficult methods of integrating diversity into political theory, as well as recasting equality as a goal rather than an assumption. 


  • Furthermore, it believes that due to societal distinctions, individuals must be treated differently. 
  • In popular culture, identity politics is often seen as a depiction of variety within politics. 
  • When women are elected or appointed to public office, one manifestation of feminism is shown. 
  • The assumption is that since the elected person is a woman, she would represent women's interests. 
  • The issue is that individuals seldom, if ever, consider themselves to be members of identity-based organizations. 


Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (and the first female leader of the Conservative Party), could be used as an example of bringing women into political positions by a feminist proponent of identity politics. 

  • She obviously overcame several long-standing boundaries, and she is often cited as a role model for women in general. 
  • 'I owe nothing to Women's Liberation,' Thatcher famously remarked. Her legacy for women is a hotly debated topic. 
  • Her sheer existence as Britain's most powerful politician defied stereotypes about women's talents and may have opened opportunities for other female politicians. 
  • However, her activity in office is often regarded as detrimental to women's status in society, and she accomplished nothing to promote any women's cause. 
  • In fact, this exposes a potentially dangerous aspect of identity politics: assuming that just because one has an identity, one would act on behalf of those who share that identity. 


Indira Gandhi, India's first female Prime Minister, served from 1966 to 1977 and again in 1980 till her murder in 1984. 

  • Her time as Prime Minister was contentious for a variety of reasons, but she did act with compassion for India's poor and disadvantaged, including involving women and children in her efforts. 
  • Of course, she rejected the term "feminist" on many occasions, but in doing so, she was separating herself from American feminism, which she characterized as a desire for women to imitate men. 


Extreme versions of identity politics believe that putting a woman, an African-American, or any other marginalized person in positions of power will make a difference. 

They are, without a doubt, right in that the public presence of successful members of oppressed groups empowers oppressed individuals and helps to alter prevailing views. 


When it is thought that one's political convictions are determined by one's identity, there is a problem in the argument. 

  • While it is possible that a person's identity influences or even defines the political problems that they pursue in public service, this is not a required relationship. 
  • While identity politics has enormous potential for strengthening and representing marginalized people, this does not mean that it will inevitably change the public and political environment in order to relieve or repair injustice. 
  • Identity politics has also been chastised for exacerbating the spread of identities. 
  • If identity groupings constitute the bedrock of political representation, then relatively sharp distinctions between identities must be established. That is almost difficult to do in practice. 


Individuals may identify with several races since races are not precisely defined. How do they portray themselves in such a situation? 

  • Similarly, if women are considered a group, the varied conditions of color, class, sexual orientation, handicap, and gender are ignored or hidden. 
  • That obscures what issues ought to be brought to public or political discussion and often entrenches systems of class or race domination while attempting to obtain representation on the basis of sex.


~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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