On the Marches

[Content Note: Privilege; misogyny.]

I'm feeling energized by the upcoming Women's March on Washington and the Sister Marches to take place on January 21, 2017, the day after Trump's inauguration.

I still feel fearful, angry, and upset about Trump's electoral college win. I want an independent investigation into Trump's alleged collusion with Russian agents in the 2016 Election (and I want more people to want this). I know that the left continues to experience divisions and that more of us must come together, somehow, to defeat Trump.

But, I'm also hopeful.

Millions of people will effectively be giving voice to the Unity Principles of the Women's March, which are inclusive, incredibly progressive, and in almost direct opposition to what Trump stands for: ending violence, affirming reproductive rights, and protecting LGBTQIA rights, worker's rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice.

I am less inspired by some of the white male chatter about the marches, which I'd also like to address because we'll keep hearing variations of these arguments and ridicule for the next four years.  

1) First, we have Christian conservative Rod Dreher, who wrote a piece at The American Conservative mocking the Women's March, titled: "The Left's Identity Politics Poison" (which I won't drive traffic to by linking. But yes, I read TAC regularly. Bubble, what bubble?)

In his own words, Dreher finds intra-left debates about the Women's March and intersectionality "funny." Lots of conservatives do, actually. He writes of the left, "They’re eating each other alive," and his glee about it is practically dripping from the page. Of one activist whom he doesn't know personally he says, "She does not appear to be a happy person." He approvingly cites men on the left who want us to ditch identity politics. He ends by coming back to add an important addendum to his piece: he's now convinced that the left's identity politics "justify the Alt-Right's identity politics," and I think you get the idea.

It's hard to know where to start critiquing a piece like that, really. Cheap shots at a leftist woman? Trenchant! Fighting racism justifies racism? Sure.

So, to take a step back, I know that I am a better progressive feminist because of the debate among, conversation with, and reading of other progressive feminists. We may find these conversations difficult and frustrating at times, but I'm not ashamed of calls among the left to do better. Intersectional, progressive feminism must be our way forward, not a fake "identity-less" leftist movement that invisibilizes identity-based oppression and in many ways parallels the right.

We on the left are, it seems, much more diverse than the white male dominated US right. We will not and do not always agree. I don't expect us to. We may each have our dealbreakers for what we can or cannot accept in an ally, but I do not expect my allies to be perfect and 100% acceptable to me 100% of the time (imagine that!). And, none of this is to say the marches themselves are or will be perfect.

We on the left, unlike the right, do not have the singular goal of upholding (hold onto your pearls, Dreher) hetero cisgender white male Christian supremacy, itself an identity politic. We cannot and do not use this singular goal to rally people who feel  historically, culturally, and genetically entitled to supremacy (Yep, I read "Alt-Right" sites too. Bubble, what bubble?).

Our divides on the left will be deeper and more painful than the Trump era's emerging divide on the right: the "Alt-Right"/neo-nazi right's labeling of certain men on the right (like Dreher) "cucks" for not being as openly or sufficiently neo-nazi-ish.

The intent with this divide seems to be to tap into fragile masculinity, shaming men into being deplorable men. So, Dreher and his fans can mock the left but, if a person is now finding things to like about Trump while also spending a bunch of time ridiculing those fighting this deplorable man, it's difficult to imagine posterity looking favorably upon that.

And also, when I march, I'm marching against not only Trump, but the Drehers of the world: everyone who has enabled Trump by voting for him, normalizing him, or even refusing to vote for the only person with the realistic chance to beat him.

2) Secondly, if you're active on Feminist Twitter, you might have seen references to this Tweet:

From there, Chait's commentary descended into a spiral of defensiveness, with him ultimately encouraging "men misinformed by the poorly-chosen name" to attend.

Many women on Twitter rightly took issue with this advice. I certainly did. My point isn't that the left should not debate the name, but that, for one, the name was debated by people on the left who have been planning the March since the election.

Two, I think many women experience Clinton's electoral college loss as a deeply painful experience, as women, and an affirmation of widespread misogyny. Why not, then, call it the Women's March - and have the March itself be inclusive of all who support its platform? Is it beyond us to expect men on the left to have empathy and understanding for this identity-based experience that many women have?

Women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBT people are set to be uniquely oppressed under the Trump regime. Yet, we've seen so many male-authored pieces showing us how little the expectations are for white men with respect to social justice activism: we must have all the empathy for them, but never the reverse. We must tolerate the intolerant even if they hate us and mock our safe spaces!
(Dreher himself mocks liberal safe spaces on the weekly, even as he promotes his book which advocates for Christians to carve out safe enclaves in society so they don't have to bake cakes for gay couples if they don't want to)

And, even though Chait, who is described as a progressive, put no ostensible effort into helping plan, organize, fund, or participate in the March, he's here in the final hour to What about the menz all over the name even though literally all it takes to find out whether men are welcome is to check out the March's official website, which says all are invited. 

There is a whole anti-feminist movement on the Internet that calls itself a men's movement but does almost nothing tangible for men. All it does is bash feminists for supposedly not doing enough for men because they see activism as free labor women are just supposed to do for other people, but apparently not for ourselves. Chait's statements fit into that context, even if not intentional. This isn't to say he's a horrible person. I really can't and won't speak to that.

It's more that, since November 8, 2016, I've been trying to wrap my head around the observable fact that so many people on the right are willing to blow up the world because of white male fragility. It is a thin-skinned, angry fragility that demands the erasure of identity politics, that equates identity politics of the left with the white male supremacy of the right, and that engages in the rank victim-blaming that says calling out bigotry is worse than bigotry itself.

They will. blow. up. the. fucking. world. before having empathy for others or believing they're complicit in some serious oppression. And we're the snowflakes?

But, I am also having some difficulty with the white male moderates, liberals, progressives, and even decent conservatives I see who are bystanders to it all. Or, if they do speak, they speak as "objective observer" critics of how marginalized people are resisting in non-approved ways. Donald Trump is inaugurated this week and you're a progressive white man who thinks now is an opportune time to come at the grassroots Women's March organizers on Twitter about the name of the thing they organized as part of the resistance?

What? No.

Is it that, at some level Trump's rhetoric resonates with many white men across the political spectrum? Why yes, maybe identity politics and political correctness have gone too far! They should be nicer to us about all this! What is men's place in the world, and in politics, if we aren't leading all things all the time?

One point which seems important for white people to remember, especially men and especially now, is that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had some words to say about the white moderate:
"...[W]ho is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;' who paternalistically feels [they] can set the timetable for another [person's] freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'"
Here, the argument is that it is those who are uniquely oppressed under a regime who ought to set the terms of the resistance, because it is their/our dignity at stake.

To end, I do not personally know the organizers of the Women's March, but I understand they've been working hard since the election to make it happen (Vogue has profiled some of the organizers). I'm grateful for their efforts and proud of what they've done.

I will take a look at the Guiding Principles periodically throughout the week leading up to the March:
"Women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability. We practice empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other. We will suspend our first judgement and do our best to lead without ego. We follow the principles of Kingian nonviolence...."
I will continue to hope, too, that Dr. King was right when he said, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." We have a lot of work to do.

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