DO you identify as a woman? I am a woman but I’m not sure if I identify as a woman. What does ‘identify’ even mean? I just am. Do you identify as having two arms? It’s like that. No assignment, no identifying as a two-armed person. Just being. If someone came along and asked you if you identify as having two arms, you might take a minute to say well, yes, but . . . If public bodies asked if you identify as having two arms, you’d maybe start thinking about it a little more. If you went to a job interview for an opportunity for two-armed identifiers and there were others who had one arm, you might even want to mention it. ‘He’s only got one arm’, you might say. ‘So you are exclusionary?’ they respond. ‘But I hadn’t even thought of it . . .’ you try to explain as you are frogmarched away by your two arms.
Woman is now an exclusionary term. It’s being replaced with ‘identify as a woman’, as if the identifying is the important part. Identifying as a woman, that is ‘thinking you are a woman’, and ‘actual woman’ are being lumped together as a category. Does this matter? Absolutely yes.
If I can ‘think’ that I am something that I’m not, and expect others to think that I’m something that I’m not, why can’t I ‘identify’ as black? I would offend if I tried to pass myself off as a black man. It wouldn’t occur to me that I would be convincing as a black man but what if I really, really felt that I was on the inside? That I had been misracialised and actually had always had the feeling since I was a child that I was black? How in a less enlightened world, I would have been sneered at and excluded, oh, the horror, might have had parents try to talk me round and may even have used harsh words like ‘stop that’ or even ‘you can’t always get what you want’. Mercy, mercy me.
Black people would rightly be pointing out that I wasn’t black. They would reserve the right to say ‘she isn’t black’. They would reserve the right to say that I couldn’t take part in anything reserved for black people. If a job advert was intended to raise the number of black people working in a particular industry then they might balk a little if I explained that I identify as black. Play up your own end, they might suggest.
As women, we have no such response. Blackface is not okay. It is offensive and it is ignorant. But women have to be entertained by men in woman’s clothes and have been for a long time up to and including the woke present day. Oh, look how funny he is with his make-up and caricatured woman’s clothes. What a hoot.
Now it’s not funny any more. Women are now having to hunch up for men coming into their spaces, entitled and expectant that not only are they able to caricature women, they are able to access their specific resources, play in their sports and demand that women shut up about it. Consider me annoyed. Not identifying as annoyed. Just plain old annoyed.