468: Personal Political

Would you reveal personal information to support a political movement?


Full episode script

Around the 1970s, a phrase started being popularized by the feminist movement, though a number of women sometimes credited with authorship disavow that authorship. “The personal is political” became the single phrase to encompass the variety of discussions being had about how remaining isolated and private was a way for oppression to thrive.

In 1974’s The Combahee River Collective Statement, the authors wrote “the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.”

These are just two of the multitude of places where the specific modern movement broadly referred to as identity politics can trace their use to, though it’s by no means their roots, nor the only two ways of phrasing the broad idea that political movements can benefit from individuals acknowledging and being open about their identities, chosen or not.

As Vox put it in a 2017 write-up:

“Identity politics” is a very vague phrase, but it generally refers to the discussion of and politicking around issues pertaining to one’s, well, identity. The focus typically falls on women, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities, such as Muslim Americans. All the social issues you may have heard of in the past several years — same-sex marriage, police shootings of unarmed black men, trans people in bathrooms, the fluidity of gender, discussions about rape culture, campus battles about safe spaces and trigger warnings — are typically the kinds of issues people mean when they refer to identity politics.

It’s probably going to come to no surprise to you that the idea of identity politics is controversial — VERY controversial. And no matter if you’re coming down on the side of good or bad, the idea that revealing personal information about yourself can help a political movement is one that has been proven by research. As we talked about in the deep dive about the newness of a private life, as well as in the deep dive about representation, people are more likely to be more empathetic towards a social group when they know someone who belongs to that group. And while coming out can be tough, coming out in a political environment even more so.

Yet – it’s exactly that choice that can have a big impact. As projects like 1 in 3 point out, it’s easier to understand the impact of political decisions when we understand the people that have been impacted.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.