The Divisiveness of Respectability Politics

Respectability politics has been a part of our society in the United States since the founding of this country. It is discussed by sociologists and you may have heard about respectability politics from word-of-mouth, but what exactly is it? The Encyclopædia Britannica defines the term as “the set of beliefs holding that conformity to socially acceptable or mainstream standards of appearance and behavior will protect a member of a marginalized or minority group from prejudices and systemic injustices.” This is problematic because of who dictates respectability politics and the sexist and racist double standards that stem from this. For minorities that feel underrepresented, being recognized as respectable is important. When the white and male majority get to dictate what is acceptable this becomes divisive and abusive. I will be examining the root of this phenomenon of respectability politics and how it becomes a platform to mask discrimination such as discrediting women’s work or deeming someone less of a man due to the color of their skin.

Researcher interested in international law and migration governance; Graduate student at the London School of Economics

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