Rowan pushes the pendulum

The archbishop is at it again. This time it’s “enough of all this selfish focus on how you are marginalized because you’re a woman or black or gay – we are all in this together so shut up about it and let the nice straight white men keep running things as we always have, ok?”

Of course he doesn’t put it quite that way. Well naturally not – you don’t get to be an archbishop by putting things that way. (Oh yes? What about George Carey then?) He puts it in the usual grand archepiscopal way.

In Cardiff he was joined a group of teenagers debating the idea of “identity politics” which he said amounted to saying: “This is who I am, these   are my rights, I demand that you recognise me”.

He told them: “Identity politics, whether it is the politics of feminism, whether it is the politics of ethnic minorities or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last 10 or 20 years because before that I think there was a sense that diversity was not really welcome.

“And so minorities of various kinds and … women began to say ‘actually we need to say who we are in our terms not yours’ and that led to identity politics of a very strong kind and legislation that followed it.

“We are now, I think, beginning to see the pendulum swinging back and saying identity politics is all very well but we have to have some way of putting it all back together again and discovering what is good for all of us and share something of who we are with each other so as to discover more about who we are.”

Yes interesting except that it’s not his problem, is it. He doesn’t have to worry about being marginalized because people like him aren’t marginalized, are they. That means it’s not enormously attractive for him to tell people who are marginalized that they should think about what is good for all of us. I tell you what, why don’t we go tell him to think about what is good for all of us? We could explain that he might not have a complete understanding of what it means for things to be good for all of us, since many things have probably been better for him than they have been for all of us.


  1. smrnda says

    Leave it to a privileged white male to believe that ‘identity politics’ has outlived its usefulness. At least he’s not as obnoxious as most MRAs, but does he seriously see any indication that we have reached gender or racial equality or any other sort of equality – or even come close?

  2. Jef says

    “This is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me”.

    Isn’t this exactly what British Christians of all denominations have been saying, except with rights that they don’t hold? “I demand to be allowed to wear this cross in contravention of work policy”, “It’s my right to define marriage in terms that excludes others”, “Better those children have no parents than gay parents”, etc.

    What’s the betting that “what is good for all of us” turns out to be exactly what the CofE wants.

  3. ged says

    Love the narrow mindnessness of identift politics “has been a very important part of the last 10 or 20 years”.

    Yes, but tdentity politics has been very important for millenia, the difference being that across those millenia identity politics were such that generally one identity trumped all.

    Remember in the UK for hundreds of years if your identity was non-white, poor, female and/or not Anglican; then you were excluded from many parts of society and had minimal voice.

  4. Dunc says

    Tell you what, we’ll give up on the identity politics when society stops forcibly assigning us identities without asking and then discriminating against us on the basis of them.

    And you’re bloody right that “we need to say who we are in our terms not yours”. Heavy emphasis on “not yours“.

    When a person can decide for themselves whether they want to be thought of as black or white, straight or gay, male or female, cis or trans, etc, and everybody else in society respects their decision, we might have reached the point where we don’t need identity politics any more.

    Tell you what, bish… Why don’t you move somewhere where you’re the persecuted minority simply on the basis of your gender, your skin colour, or your faith, and then tell us how you feel about identity politics.

  5. Don says

    The struggle for equality has been going on for a lot longer than the ten or twenty years Rowan envisages. Although many individuals within the church have, to their credit, supported change, the churches as institutions have generally been a barrier to overcome. However the church has a neat trick of looking back at battles lost and claiming that they were on the winning side all along.

    It is not for the powerful and privileged to say that the fight for equality has gone far enough.

  6. eric says

    How is this surprising? (Some) old white guys say the equivalent to ‘identity politics used to be needed, but now its not’ every year. They’ve said it every year since the civil rights movement. Heck, they’ve probably said it every year since the end of the civil war.

    I would guess that, historically, the proclamation ‘problem solved; we can now go back to business as usual’ is about 1 minute younger than the proclamation ‘business as usual isn’t working.’

  7. Brian says

    Ot question. Are ‘roasts’ on US tv just excuses for misogyny and bigotry? Watching a comedy central ‘roast’ of the ‘hoff’ which i’d see as a verdant field for ironic social commentary and teasing of the roastee. But all there is, is the most base, misogynistic, smarmy crud. I mean they got a token jewish guy to suggest that Hasslehoff was someway comparable to the holocaust…..I do get humor, but this show seemed written by UK snobs wanting to prove that USIANs are not subtle and don’t get irony (if you ignore the rampant misogyny and racism).

  8. Brian says

    And the rest is about ugly women giving birtht to ugly babies or women being old sluts that you wouldn’t want to do anymore. Because without their youthful, augmented breasts and pert faces (did I get that vack to front?) they are less than a man, or a person, or a doily for your kettle or…

  9. avh1 says

    Ol’ Rowan should be careful. I mean the only reason that anyone is interested in what *he* has to say is because of ‘identity politics’. It certainly isn’t because he’s a lucid thinker. Or a novel thinker. Or a non-bigoted thinker. Anyway, thank you for this Ophelia – the constant attempts to put this smug bigot up on a pedestal were getting annoying.

  10. Art says

    Reminds me of a mechanic’s ratchet: it rotates easily one way but resists rotating the other.

    When the church was on top both financially and politically it was all about demanding compliance. Now that it has been knocked back on its heels the rhetoric shifts to: ‘compromise for the good of the group’.

    The same thing happens politically. When in power it is: ‘my way of the highway’. When the underdog: ‘Can’t we all just get along’.

  11. jnorris says

    “Identity politics, whether it is the politics of feminism, whether it is the politics of ethnic minorities or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last 10 or 20 years because before that I think there was a sense that diversity was not really welcome.”

    Indeed Archbishop, why in Belfast the majority of the subjects didn’t see any need for diversity.


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