June 19, 2023 - 11:53am

Earlier this month, the White House unfurled a Progress Pride flag flanked by two national flags. This prompted some to read the act as symbolising defeat of the Stars and Stripes by a new ruling ideology. Republican Senator Roger Marshall introduced a new bill to ban government buildings from flying any flag except the national one.

But it’s not just conservatives who are unconvinced by the triumph of Pride. A number of groups that have, until relatively recently, been viewed unambiguously as allies by the broader progressive project have begun to voice their dissent at the new rainbow supremacy.

Foremost, we find growing signs that Muslims — a group symbolised (sometimes surreally) in “inclusive” visuals and routinely co-opted as Leftist allies — may have a few questions about Pride. Footage circulated recently of Canadian Muslim children being encouraged by their parents to stamp on Pride flags, prompting an outbreak of startlingly Colonel Blimp-ish progressive calls to “send them home”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reported the “sense of betrayal” experienced by those liberals who had previously celebrated the first Muslim-majority council, in Hamtramck, Michigan, after that council instituted a city-wide ban on Pride insignia. 

Nor is this the only way the broader multicultural project finds itself in tension with the rainbow worldview. Under Progress Pride ideology, a woman is anyone who says they’re a woman, a belief that’s now enforceable by law in Washington State. But the Korean owner of women-only Olympus Spa disagrees, on very multicultural grounds. Olympus is a traditionally sex-segregated jimjilbang spa, where it is normal to be nude in communal areas. The owner filed a suit for the right to exclude trans-identified males, on free speech and freedom of religion grounds, arguing that Olympus would lose revenue if unable to exclude this group. But the court ruled in favour of Wilvich, who has intact male genitalia, triggering a heated protest and counter-protest.

And even in ultra-progressive California, minorities have broken out to protest the new order. Armenian parents in LA protested a Pride-themed assembly reading about same-sex parents. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a running culture-war battle over the decision to “honour” the Christian-parody drag performers Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at an LA Dodgers game prompted mass protests and a boycott by the 50% Latino (and hence often Catholic) Dodgers fanbase. 

The phrase “progressive stack”, in circulation since the days of Occupy Wall Street, refers to a notional hierarchy of “marginalisation” based on fixed identity characteristics. It’s a framework that has, in the years since Occupy, increasingly spread from radical politics toward the mainstream. What happens, then, when stakeholders in the “progressive stack” quarrel among themselves about their position in the pile?

Optimists imagine that the revelation that a purportedly monolithic group of “marginalised” voices in fact conceals many ideological inconsistencies will cause the whole edifice to come tumbling down. I am less sure; I think it more likely that such contests will simply make it clearer who takes precedence in the hierarchy.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.