Professionalism as a hedge against sexism

Weirdly the left is way behind on institutional combatting of sexism. The average large liberal org, trade union, government or private employer will have rules, professional standards, and programmes to reduce discrimination and promote minority leadership Obviously those fail to address deeper structural problems but they have demonstrably had positive effect.

We could do with being humble enough to adopt other people’s best practise. Intersectionality theory is enjoying a renaissance at the moment, and is often promoted as the ideological solution to the left’s deep problems with gender and race; I agree that it is important to recognise that eg black women have a collective social position that is different to that of white women, and that indeed all power disparities intersect in complicated ways. I worry that a naive understanding of this leads to assumptions about people based on outward markers of privilege or oppression and sets up the dreaded Oppression Olympics.

Ultimately, it is practise, not ideology that will determine equality. We need to understand these as collective problems, but still be sensitive to the unique nature of individuals. And adopt a bit of bloody professionalism in our practise… we can’t make all the sexists in the world not sexist, but we CAN force them to not banter or letch in what is a volunteer work environment.

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