Who gets to be apolitical, and who neutrality serves

A great article about serious politics and Captain America from Dr Naja Later at Women Write About Comics:

The trouble is that this narrative is hinged on the idea that until now, Cap was not political. Apart from being historically untrue, it speaks to a greater failure in recognising that everyone is political. The privilege to believe you can be apolitical is particular to a demographic like [current Captain America writer] Nick Spencer’s. These people are exnominated, a term coined by Roland Barthes to describe how privileged identities are unnamed because they are the norm. The exnominated can believe that their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, bodies, and ideologies are “neutral.” For those of us outside the exnominated—anyone who is “other” in some way—our every action and inaction is, whether we like it or not, read as political. This is how the term “identity politics” arises, because only the non-privileged have a visible “identity,” and its existence is treated as political. Because we have been forced to recognise how our everyday is political, we recognise that the same is true of the exnominated.

This is one reason I kind of hold on to the label “identity politics”, even as it’s been weaponized by dudes who really wish the womenfolk would stop having opinions loudly and in public. It’s a beautiful circular trap: my politics are grounded in my identity because my identity has been created for political ends, i.e. to preserve and protect capitalism.

Being defined as neutral or not having an “identity” is the basis of privilege. Your rights aren’t special when you’re the norm, your needs aren’t extraordinary or frivolous, your welfare is inherently important. Your existence and opinions are simply not seen as political the way a woman’s or a black man’s or a queer person’s are. But when we buy into the idea that to be political is icky, and that the best way to be is neutral … well, we end up defending Nazis. Literally.

[Spencer’s] entire tenure as the writer of Cap books has been working to recreate the popular fanboy illusion that superheroes can and should be apolitical. He’s set a scene where activism and criticism are not only wrong: they’re out of character, unheroic, and embarrassing. This long game leads to a point where the man who writes one of culture’s most famous Nazi-punchers advocates for a genocidal neo-Nazi. Now that Richard Spencer has retweeted him, we can see exactly whom the myth of neutrality serves.

I’m almost finished reading Katrine Marçal’s Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? which absolutely nails this topic. Hopefully have a review up shortly!

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