Divide

30 Jan

There are forces all around you who wish to exploit division, rob you of your freedom, and tell you what to think. But young folks can rekindle the weary spirit of a slumbering nation.                                                Wynton Marsalis

Do a quick search of “Criticism of the Women’s March” real fast.  Just do that favor from me.  I will wait here until you’re back.  Okay, good to have you back now.  Did you notice anything about the criticisms of the women’s marches that happened all over the world one week ago?  If you answered that most of them are penned by women themselves you are definitely starting out with your finger on something that has probably been the largest barricade for women in the fight for equal rights: other women.

We’ve got women of color talking (rightly so) about the many ways that this protest has been treated in the media differently than recent peaceful Black Rights Matter marches. We’ve trans women talking (rightly so) about how feminism is not owned by body parts and the underlying “womanhood is for those of us with biological vaginas only” message that the knitted pink hats seemed to say to them. And it seems we’ve come full circle in the critical mass. Because now we have white cis-women being critical of other white cis-women for participating in a march which was apparently not “intersectional” enough for these white cis-women.  

It is to these women that I heartily give a great big shut the ever loving up.  Because you are the one of these things is not like the other.  You’ve managed to take a term used to describe the acknowledgement of the latent racism in feminism and turn it into some kind of righteousness that is only held by a small (white) few of you.  No longer can our feminism be about the business of granting women equal status and rights under the law, (with a hearty acknowledgement that that equality comes at more effort for some feminists than others) it must now raise to some standard that you, a white cis-woman, have determined it must be.  No longer is any effort toward feminism a good starting place or jumping off point.  No, now you must feel extra special and decry millions of women for not being as smart as you with your college word.

If we truly mean to be a group of women who show up in both word and deed, then why must I meet some sort of definition of a word before my deeds can mean anything to you?

I was told recently that my feminism was not intersectional enough for the two of us to be engaged in any “sort of productive conversation.”  A quick moment for my own self righteousness yielded that this person’s friends list was even less diverse than my meager attempt at diversity in mine.  And when I came to my senses, I realized, “Why does this even matter?”  It matters because we are human and we always want to be the more special one in the group.  It is not enough that we showed up with millions of other people united behind a singular cause.  No, that singular cause apparently wasn’t good enough and we must quickly establish ourselves as the ruling class of feminism.  We’ve had a ruling class of feminism from the beginning.  It has been white, predominantly middle class, and has certainly stepped on the equality rights of others in order to achieve its prize.  And why shouldn’t there be more of that in this day and age?  We always need and have always needed the best feminists to tell the rest of us what our feminism should really mean.

Feminism is this crazy idea that women should be viewed and treated as equals here on the playing field.  And that means treating other women as equals as well.  Not just women of color, or of different genders and sex parts, but also women that somehow fall short of the feminist ideal that you’ve painted for yourself in your head.  It is this type of divisiveness that does no good.  It is this divisiveness that was preyed upon in the 70s and used by opponents to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.  And we must do something differently if we are to do something more than just show up for the “white people march.”

We must encourage other women to not just say something about what they believe in, but to show up in spirit and body for these causes that we all believe in.  That is not done by demeaning someone and saying that their feminism isn’t good enough for your feminism.  It’s done by saying, “Hey, thanks for showing up.  Here are other ways to show up.”  Let’s quit devouring one another and actually figure out how best to move on down the road together.  Because surely our numbers are there, even if our ideologies don’t match.

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Photo taken at Civic Center Park, Denver, CO

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