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Identity politics are political beliefs and systems focused around the perspectives and demands of a particular social group. The term identity politics gained popularity in the late 20th century, when minority groups including women and the LGBTQ+ community began fighting for rights they believed were denied by the broader society.
Modern society has many prevalent beliefs that fall under the banner of identity politics. One is the belief that women should vote for female politicians, and members of the LGBTQ+ community should vote for politicians who also come from the same community, because putting people with whom they identify in charge will empower their groups. There is some truth to the idea that politicians from minority groups tend to campaign for the rights of their groups. However, it’s also noteworthy that many good politicians outside these groups care about the issues that minorities face. Another example of identity politics is the belief that white men believe they deserve power over others. However, some white men identify as feminists and are sympathetic to the plight of racial minorities.
Simply being part of a group doesn’t mean you’ll be involved in the group’s identity politics. For example, while some women campaign for maternity leave, others worry that compulsory maternity leave may negatively impact small and medium businesses. Individuals who don’t agree with identity politics associated with their group are sometimes criticized for not supporting their own group. However, in reality support for political beliefs has little to do with support for a social group as a whole or its members.
Identity politics can be used by majorities as a disparaging term. If people don’t want to listen to the political concerns of minorities, they may accuse minorities of “playing identity politics.” This dismisses their concerns by suggesting the individuals only care about issues because they are too focused on their own wants, rather than the greater good.
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