The politically correct have a great knack for naming social interactions. Like my fellow reprobate Joseph Lawler, I’ve searched my conscience and found myself guilty of “mansplaining” things. Subtle, plausibly denied identity-based insults do seem tidily packaged by the term “microaggression.” Perhaps a genius satirist could come up with better terms for these, but credit where it’s due. Naming things well leads to better understanding.
Political correctness encourages the invention of new (and spurious) identities/marginalizations. If we award platforms to the different and the marginal, you’re going to get new identities and new oppressions. At last count, there were 71 gender identities available on Facebook. I doubt anyone has actually thought through all the politics of making “safe spaces” for 71 flavors of gender, and so the goal of social justice disappears over an ever-receding horizon. Worse, spurious claims to marginalization have led to the bizarre phenomenon of hoax hate crimes on college campuses.
Conservatives can get in on the identity-politics game, too. The reprobate may be damned, but we’re not stupid. If statistical underrepresentation is likely evidence of subtle institutional bias, or of cultures that exclude some as a “bad fit,” or of networks that discourage the “other” from even seeking entry, then academia must have a “statistically impossible” bias problem against Republicans and Evangelicals. Conservatives pretending to want in on an identity-spoils system is partly a way of calling the P.C. bluff. It asks the left to admit that there are some identities that don’t deserve a safe space. Otherkins, yes.