Identity Politics and Social Movements

Chapter 6 starts off by defining identity, identity politics and social movements. It outlines different methods of comprehending what social movements are and how they connect with identity politics. The most important part of the chapter is examining the geographies of social movements through three different case studies: the trade unionism and the labor movement, feminism and women’s movement, and the newer forms of grassroots mobilization and resistance associated with DIY politics.

Identity is the act of being who or what a person or thing is. Basically, it is the characteristics that describe who a person or a thing are. Examples of these characteristics might include social class, ethnicity, gender, etc. If we begin looking at identity as more of an idea than a concept, then the idea becomes more complex. The complexity of the word comes from the fact that the word can be broken down into two groups: multiple identities and shared identities. Multiple identity refers to an individual’s representation of the interrelationships among his or her group identities. Shared identity or collective identity is the shared sense of belonging or attachment to a group. Painter and Jeffrey inform us that these ideas of multiple and shared identities have helped to make identity a new political concept.

The chapter then goes on to discuss social movements. Social movements can be defined as groups of people pursuing shared goals that require political or social change. In order to get a better understanding of what a social movement is, Painter and Jeffrey sort out certain examples that help in describing this term. Some examples of these movements are: the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement and the new grassroots movement. All of these movements establish how people identify with others needs and how these people were able to make others aware of different concerns by using protests, rallies and boycotts. Last week, we discussed the importance of protests and rallies and how they implemented in order to get issues resolved politically. One of the social movements that continues to occur to this day is the women’s rights movement. One of the focuses of this movement was fighting for women to have equal rights and opportunities in the workplace. I see this type of fighting occurring at my place of employment every day and the men don’t even realize that they are doing this because of the type of work that is expected of all the employees…especially the males. I work at the Youth Opportunity Center and part of our job description is to have to physically intervene when crisis situations occur on campus. All staff, both male and female, have the training and the skills to intervene when necessary but most of the female staff call upon assistance from the male staff in this situations. Occasionally, I will come across a female staff that doesn’t want assistance from the male staff and would rather do it on their own. I experienced this situations about a month ago. Since our facility is a treatment facility and also a hands on facility, restraints and seclusions are sometimes necessary for the safety of the staff as well as the other residents residing in that part of the facility. A resident had just recently been secluded and was kicking the door trying to get out. The seclusion room doors are not only bolts to the wall but the door itself is a 5 inch thick metal door that isn’t going to move. While the resident was kicking the door, the door was bowing out (like it should to receive the pressure being exerted upon it) and a female staff had her foot placed against the door because she thought the door was going to open. I approached her to tell her that she didn’t need to be at the door because the door wasn’t going to open and she thought that I was trying to take her place. She became upset and stormed off while also stating that “women are as equally capable of doing things as men.” Her impression was that I was not giving her an equal opportunity to do her job when in reality all I was trying to do was inform her that she didn’t need to stand there because nothing was going to happen with the door.

I was aware of how much identity can play a role in politics, but after reading the chapter, I believe I have a better understanding. The example above describes the idea of identity perfectly. The female in the above example was identifying that not only was I a male that was apparently trying to take over her job at that time but that she was a female that was not being given an equal opportunity to prove that she could apply her skills and training to a particular situation. After that situation, I have been more cautious at work about how I approach crisis situations that involve female staff. By doing that, I have allowed more female staff to showcase their skills and training which they have responded by thanking me for allowing them to have the same opportunities. Like anyone, when they are able to showcase their skills, they are learning how to approach situations as well as they are feeling empowered because they were able to do something on their own rather than being assisted by someone else. That is the most important aspect about this chapter; being aware of your own personal feelings.

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