Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Vicious Circle of Identity Politics

Yesterday was the culmination of a rather interesting little tale going on the Internet about William Hague, a (male) special advisor and rampant speculation about whether the SpAd got the job because of a secret game of "hide the sausage" behind the back of William Hague's wife.

The end result last night was that the special advisor resigned, and William Hague put out an incredible statement which not only categorically denied any infidelity but also went into some immense detail about his marriage and attempts to have children.

The point I wish to make is a simple one, that being, why does the gender of the alleged (and categorically denied) lover matter anyway? Why is it that William Hague had to come out (no pun intended), and make a statement which contained the sub-text of "I'm not gay"?

Surely, if anything, the statement ought to have only been "I'm not having an affair with my SpAd and they didn't get the job because of a relationship"?

Sure, I understand "why" he felt the need to say what he did. It was necessary to kill the "story", but seriously, the gender of the SpAd wasn't the story, or more correctly, ought not to have been the story.

So why did it become the story? Why is it that a matter of context became the story rather than the matter of substance? Personally, I think the blame lays squarely with the fact that UK politics remain stuck in the past.

What do I mean by that?

Well, the Right, and by that I actually mean the reactionary socially conservative Right rather than the economic and socially liberal Right like Guido Fawkes et al do undoubtedly still have a view of same-sex love that means they recoil in disgust.

Most of Hague's "I'm not gay" statement wasn't for people like me (or Guido), it was for people like them. It was to placate those people out there that vote Tory who still say "he sticks what where!?!? That's disgusting!". Until they all bugger off to the great blue rinse specialist hair salon in the sky it will sadly remain the case.

Meanwhile, the Left, and by that I mean the reactionary "hate all things Right" Left, automatically assume that everyone on the Right is of the previously mentioned group and therefore any mention of same-sex action must contain some latent "homophobia". They complain about this so vocally, that ironically, they make it becomes a relevant part of the story.

It's the vicious circle of identity politics.
Story X is reported with contextual information about sexuality, skin colour, disability. Story X is condemned for discrimination on the ground of reference to specific contextual information. Some people start to get vocal about contextual elements disgusting them. In response they're again condemned for discrimination. Story X continue to grow legs and the contextual elements eventual become a part of the story when really they weren't and the original story is squeezed to the by-line.
Think about it like this. If Hague's SpAd had been female, the story would have been about an alleged "love rat" affair being a factor in employment. Alternatively if Hague's SpAd had a unisex name like Vivian and there was no photo of the two together, it would have still have been about an alleged "love rat" affair being a factor in employment.

Yet the minute it is clear the "other party" in the allegation is the same gender it becomes something else. The vicious circle kicks in and what is relevant becomes irrelevant and what is irrelevant becomes relevant.

It tells us more about us than it does about the story itself.

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