Respectability politics is the practice of oppressed groups policing members of their own group for challenging the norms of their oppressors. Those who engage in this form of horizontal oppression often see other members of their group as acting "too stereotypically", or they find their tone too outspoken.
Examples of respectability politics include, members of the LGBT community who enforce monosexual and cissexist norms, African American people who denigrate users of their own vernacular, women who slut-shame and engage in rape apologia, feminists who engage in whorephobia, and so on.
This argument consists of elitism, appeal to moderation, and internalized oppression. The core claim is that for the oppressed to be treated equally their activism and behaviour must be considered acceptable, i.e.,normalised, by the privileged majority. Respectability politics still places the acceptance and social standing of minorities in the hands of oppressive systems at every level.
Those who gatekeep using such arguments do so because they believe that pandering to oppressive systems is the only path to acceptance. This is unfortunate because the truth is quite the opposite. Such policing only creates more marginalised groups by means of more oppressive axes and intersections where their new delimited identity begins and others' ends.
Respectability politics is one of the core tenets of truscum ideology. Truscum tend to see other trans people (especially non-binary people) as delusional, attention-seeking teenagers, and/or suffering from a psychiatric condition, who are ruining the legitimacy and credibility of binary trans people. They do this because their own gender has been, in their view, granted legitimacy by the medical community. So they consciously or unconsciously protect their recognition and reputation by gatekeeping at all costs.
A large part of femmephobia in the LGBT community is based on respectability politics, i.e., that femme cis gay men are "too camp". This, in their eyes, means that heterosexual people will not take LGBT men seriously unless they present themselves as butch and engage in "masculine" activities and behavior. This is commonly referred to as "acting straight" by femmephobes.
Policing of so-called respectability causes: the re-writing of history to remove those who do not meet whatever standards are being imposed, e.g., ciswashing, whitewashing, pinkwashing, and so on; the assimilation of those who police into the dominant culture; and the creation of more rigidly defined smaller minorities that are even more oppressed since they are rejected both by the mainstream and their own identities, e.g., non-binary people and trans women within the transgender and feminist communities who are policed by truscum and trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
- Horizontal oppression
- Internalised oppression
- Kyriarchal compromise
- Special snowflake
- Cultural erasure
- Punching down
- Apex fallacy
- No Disrespect: Black women and the burden of respectability, by Tamara Winfrey Harris