Free, Unsolicited Advice to White Male Democratic* Politicians

Dear Sirs,

If you are perceptive, you might have noticed that a lot of women are angry.

We've had a couple of marches, in fact, at least one of which was the largest single-day protest in US history. These acts of political labor were comprised of millions of people, broadly speaking, who are resisting the current Republican Administration, which you might have noticed is quite hostile to many people, particularly women.

At the same time, women are also leading a reckoning with respect to sexual assault and harassment, which are pervasive life and workplace experiences that disproportionately impact women across the political spectrum.

Politicians, advocates, and pundits talk a lot of populism these days, but rarely do so in the context of ordinary, everyday women. To be blunt, populism is most commonly used in association with white male anger. As purported default human beings, it is often assumed that the white male life experience is the universal, with everyone else's being particular.

Yet, if we accept that women are people, we are better able to understand that today's revived feminist movement is very much also a populist movement. You might not immediately recognize it as such because an angry white man is not leading it and angry white men are not at the center of it.

Instead, it's one that, I believe, has been borne of many women's deep pain from the confluence of our lived experiences with both rape culture and witnessing an unqualified, white male predator sexually harass and bully his way to the highest office of the land while being enabled by "powerful, lecherous men" who helped narrate the whole scenario into being via their establishment platforms.

And yet.

I get the sense that some white male Democratic politicians, at least at the national level, do not fully grasp our discontent or view this movement as a Serious Thing they should take into account when speaking publicly or making policy.

So, let me spell it out:
  • It is no longer enough just to say, "Sure, I'm for equality for women!" As legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon has famously noted, "Equality guarantees are everywhere, but nowhere is there equality." For instance, pay discrimination is illegal, but wage disparities exist. Gender discrimination is illegal, but in a multitude of industries men still hold the top, highest -paying jobs. Rape is a crime, yet rape happens all the time. It is, in fact, but one outcome in an entire culture that disproportionately rigs systems against women. In light of these realities, don't utter a soundbite. Demonstrate that you understand the barriers to substantive equality and will work with us to eradicate them.
  • Since pundits love asking this one, in the event you are asked to speculate on whether you or any other white man would have beaten Trump in the 2016 election (cc: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Joe Kennedy):
In case you need a refresher, the United States has never had a female president. That is not because of a lack of qualified women, but because, in part, our political system long excluded women from both suffrage and political office. It doesn't inspire confidence that you understand, let alone care about, systemic misogyny and this history if you answer this fave bro-question without referencing either phenomenon.
  • In the event you become aware of another man's sexual misconduct, instead of immediately maligning the nearest woman who is in any way adjacent to the abuser, it would be a better use of your standing and privilege to express sympathy for the survivors(s), express your disappointment in the man's behavior, and tell us what specific actions you are doing to help end rape culture. Because it is so rare, it means a lot to many survivors simply to hear that other people care about their experiences.
  • Stop throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus. Seriously. Just stop. We're so, so tired. Forget about the bro-points that shit-talking Hillary might win you, and think for once about the millions of people who actually do like her.
  • Listen to women. If you think you already do a good job at this, just try doing it more just in case you're not actually doing it enough. One of the more frustrating aspects of watching the horrors of the current Republican Administration unfold is that so much of it was anticipated, by women (and yes, including Hillary Clinton, who was largely mocked and maligned for speaking these truths). Melissa, in fact, has referred to Donald Trump's electoral college win as a "catastrophic failure to listen to women." She was correct.
I hope this helps clarifies some of the angry tweets, emails, and phone calls some of y'all might have been getting for the past year or so.

*By Democratic, I mean Democrats and Independent/Democratic Socialist/Democratic-When-Convenient Persons.

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