Justice for All or None: A Note on This New Era and Possible Coalition

:– I was at The Women’s March on Washington. I did not wear a #pussyhat. I have since purchased a pussyhat, in pink, from a woman who’s donating proceeds from the hats to PBS and NPR. I will wear it with my #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIA and #EqualRightsAmendment pins. –:

I want all these newly energized liberal-or-progressive-mostly-white women to hear the skepticism we are getting from women of color and lgbtqia folk, especially trans women:

  1. They want us to show up FOR them.
  2. The do not want us to save them, or fix their movements.
  3. They want us to help in the background.
  4. They want us to come to their marches and demonstrations* and risk for them, too.

I have been a feminist scholar all my life, and have been knocking around social justice movements primarily for the last five years or so. I have interviewed many women in the Second Wave and recorded those interviews for posterity (visit Va NOW’s YouTube to watch, they’re rough edits).

What is missing, still, from “white feminism” is deep engagement with the particular issues and experiences of other kinds of women.

We have a huge historical opportunity right now to build coalitions like never before, simply because so many more people are energized and realizing they have skin in the game.

“Intersectionality” is a word requesting this support, this space-making, this basic sharing. “Coalition” is about the strategy for doing that, finding our areas of common concern and really being concerned in common.

I am asking us to do a little learning. To deepen not only your action as a citizen, but to deepen your commitment to Justice for All. This country did not begin oppressing people last year. It started from the beginning. There are good historical reasons for many kinds of people not to trust us white women. Historically, we have ditched on them — every time.

Reading. Do some. There’s more here than a person can do, I know. But, do some. Show up with some education. Don’t ask people in these movements to get you hip, get hip, be cool.

Remember, make space: You get to center your issue and your symbol at your march, at your action. When you show up for others, and when you work intersectionally, the focus can’t stay on you all the time.

* There are huge practical and legal differences between planned and permitted marches compared to direct actions and spontaneous demonstrations. The latter two often involve some kind of not-very-serious law breaking — like blocking a street or highway or entrance to a building, etc. Those actions can result in arrest. Not all activists can be available for that, but we can all be available in support roles that do not risk arrest.

+ Full Disclosure: I’m the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow at Split This Rock and the managing editor of The Quarry.



Someone’s Not Happy

… with the topics of VA NOW’s Young Feminists Conference. Here’s today’s exchange prompted by publication of our Speaker Lineup.

Constant Contact response:

You people are so far out I can’t even comprehend it. I am all for feminism and have been since it hit circa 1969, but your organization has devolved into something unrecognizable. Do you have to be a far left loony one-worlder to be a feminist now? As a conservative libertarian, I believe in the right of everyone to have equal rights under the law and the right to pursue happiness as long as it doesn’t harm others or have a major negative impact on society. I vote Republican and support gay people’s right to marry and legal abortion. This crap about Republicans hating women and being homophobic and racist is over the top. Some people have heart-felt differences of opinion on abortion and gay marriage. How about not demonizing them and having some tolerance for their opinions. Also, the ridiculous crap about “white privilege” just needs to go away. Why can’t you support women and stop regurgitating Democrat lies they’ve dreamed up to harm their political opponents. If you and NARAL would spend less money on political campaigning and more money on directly helping women, you may actually gain monetary support from people like me.

My reply:

NOW has existed for nearly 45 years, and it will, as it always has, grow and evolve to meet the demands of each new social and political era. That’s what this conference does. You, sir, even as a member, have no right to tell us how to spend our time or our treasure. Attendance at the conference is not compulsory.
We do, still, spend a great deal of time actually helping actual women, but NOW was never been and is not now a service organization. It has always been an organizing and advocacy organization. Check the mission statement.
If you want to give your money to service organizations and shelters, we heartily invite you to do so!! Every bit of support women get in all areas of need is wonderful, and we’re grateful to you for it. I suggest you visit our website and check the groups and agencies listed under Support. Most of the them would be happy to have your help.
Opinions are one thing, but passing laws that restrict the actual freedoms of women, people of color, and LBGTQIA people seems to be the particular specialty of elected Republican legislators who make laws that endanger our lives and livelihoods. When they back off, we will.
The genius of the liberal and libertarian positions is that they seek the greatest freedom for the greatest number. This was once the goal of the GOP, but that has changed for the foreseeable future.
I do, seriously, understand how hard it is to be part of a group that gets dumped on by others on a huge, public scale, and it’s hard to deal with. But, you can change your party affiliation, and I cannot change my sex. You have an option I do not, in these cases.
In future, sir, I suggest you adopt a more courteous and congenial tone when you have differences of opinion. It will get you much further down the road. If you respond with any future harangues to our newsletters, we will remove you from our contacts list.

Because, really, if you’re going to vote against my interests, Joe, why the fuck should I take your advice on how to run my organization? Hmmm? And, dude, 1969? Are you even kidding with that shit?