Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Commentary on the Human Rights Campaign

I recently was pointed at a blog post suggesting people reject the Human Rights Campaign, a large social justice organisation that focuses on gender issues.

I generally respect HRW. The organisation has done a lot for tolerance and legal equality over the years, and has been moderately tightly focused on gender-issues and pragmatic on others.

The blogpost lays two claims of interest as to why we should not support HRW:

  • They haven't always supported "transsexuals" in discrimination claims
  • They've been willing to support legislation that advances the gender-equality and sexuality cause that is less friendly towards broader social programmes
I'm of mixed feelings about this (and perhaps in a way you won't expect unless you've *really* been paying attention to my positions).
  • I am deeply bothered at the idea of employment discrimination against "transsexuals". While I don't recognise transsexuality, I don't believe it's appropriate to refuse to hire someone because they identify as such; how they see themselves is their business and so long as they're ok with their employer and coworkers having their own perspectives on gender, they're entitled to theirs; nobody needs to care, nobody should be harassed, people work together, they accept differences of opinion and whatnot, nobody demands anyone else talk or dress or date in a certain way, end of story. More broadly, employment should be about the ability to do the job, and issues of identity are only very rarely justifiable in employment decisions.
  • I generally approve of narrow-focus groups more than I do broad-focus ones. Intersectionality is an interesting theoretical idea, but put into practice it ends up creating conversational provilege for third-wave discourse, limiting the understandability (for the unfamiliar) or the appeal (for many of the familiar) of movements to those they would serve. Why should a second-waver like myself, or a log cabin Republican, or someone who rejects Marx/Hegel, or anyone else who doesn't fit how these movements try to create overarching theories across different topics, sign on for that? I would rather take my activism a la carte. I think it's generally healthier that way, and it avoids cultural rot by having each movement staying in touch with and justifying its actions in terms accessible to the mainstream.
This leaves me with mixed feelings on the topic. I'm not keen to throw anyone under the bus when it comes to employment discrimination issues. If this is a matter of tactics and making steady progress, I may accept it (depending on ability to press further) provided there's a commitment to keep advancing on this topic. Still, I actually approve of HRW not being too intersectional; on gender topics I'd prefer as broad a coalition as possible, including those I have substantial disagreements with on many other things (like Log Cabiners, or Trans-activists, or anarchofeminists, or whatever), so long as I can advance the (comparitively narrow) second-wave goals without including too many third-wave ones. Let's avoid specific cross-issue commitments that make that impossible.
Tags: feminism, politics

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