Overland: ‘A queer take on Safe Schools and identity politics’

‘A queer take on Safe Schools and identity politics’, co-authored with Simon Copland, was published in Overland on 16 June 2016.

In recent weeks, the debate over the Safe Schools Coalition anti-bullying program has intensified, taking what is in many ways a bizarre turn. The brief suspension of program architect Roz Ward from her position at La Trobe University has reopened the debate about whether Safe Schools is ‘cultural Marxism’ by stealth, the program once again coming under fire from conservatives across the country. Even trans advocate and member of the ADF Catherine McGregor has weighed in.

One of the more interesting elements of this, however, has been the debate it has created about the role gender and sexual politics can and should play within Marxism. Here enters Guy Rundle. In the pages of Crikey, Rundle penned a treatise on the program and what he considers the failures of ‘queer theory’. Rundle believes Safe Schools (via queer theory) presents the view that ‘gender and sexuality are infinitely fluid’. He argues, however, that such a view denies the material realities of sexuality and gender, not to mention his view that ‘almost no-one really believes it – and they certainly do not let it shape their lives’.

Queer theory, he says, aims to push adolescents towards particular identities they wouldn’t arrive at by themselves. He states:

“Most adolescents are on their way to plain old vanilla heterosexuality, with a few detours along the way. The queer identity approach would seek to solidify those detours and experimentations and explorations into queer identities.”

This, he argues, is a clear diversion from the materialist principles of Marxist theory – a cultural turn that is not only a distraction, but a dangerous one at that.

But Rundle fundamentally misunderstands the nature of queer theory, in part confusing it with identity politics. That confusion leads him to disallow any relationship between queer theory and Marxism, and the real power such connections could create.

Read the full article in Overland.

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