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February 7 2017

Was the Women's March the New Face of Movement Feminism?

Charlotte Hays

Amanda Hess has a long piece on the Women's March in the New York Times magazine. Hess of course is a big fan of the march, but her story has some background information that will be interesting to those of us who would not be caught dead in a pink pussy hat.

Hess' story is headlined "How a Fractious Women's Movement Came to Lead the Left." The thrust of the article is summed up in the subhead: "Feminism brought the opposition together, but how long will that last and how many converts can it win?" The impetus for the march was of course Hillary Clinton's surprising defeat in the presidential election--so unfair, so unfair, in the eyes of Ms. Hess:

Clinton’s loss on Nov. 8 was a pivotal, identity-shifting moment in the course of the American women’s movement. In an evening, the would-be first female president was shoved to the side by what a sizable chunk of the nation saw as that classic historical figure: the male chauvinist pig. In parts of the popular imagination, it wasn’t just a loss for Clinton or for the Democratic Party. It was a repudiation of feminism itself.

Just for the record, Clinton was not "shoved aside"--she lost an election. It happens.

Nevertheless "a crew of bummed-out, angry women was still aiming its ire at Trump." Among them was Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer who lives in Hawaii. She got the ball rolling for the women's march with a Facebook post. The effort grew:  

But within days, tens of thousands of women had pledged to join in. Over the course of two months, the idea became something far bigger than initially imagined.

Eventually, an entire organizing team would have permits, T-shirts, fleets of buses, portable toilets, celebrity sponsors and support from Gloria Steinem. Men meekly asked their female family members and Twitter followers: “Are we allowed to join?”

In a fascinating passage, Hess details how Linda Sarsour, a Muslin activist who supports Sharia Law (here and here)  (which deprives women of the most basic human rights) was brought into the march:

Soon after the suggestion to march raced across the web, Vanessa Wruble — a white producer and co-founder of the media company OkayAfrica — made a pivotal intervention in its planning. “I thought the stakes were so high,” she told me. “It needed to be an inclusive movement, or it was going to be a total disaster. I felt that it could damage the country.”

At this critical moment, with the march quickly ballooning into something bigger than the initial organizers could handle on their own, Wruble reached out and urged them to drop the name Million Women March. Then she linked them up with her network, and soon three seasoned activists — Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory — got on board. These women hadn’t necessarily supported Clinton, and they didn’t necessarily identify as feminists. But they had experience organizing in communities of color and saw the march as an opportunity to reach a large new audience. When Sarsour got the call, she had just posted a comment on the march’s Facebook page: “Can you include Muslim women and Muslim communities in the list?”

The bolding of unintentionally revealing sentences is mine.

Hess's big concern is that feminism, notoriously fractious, won't be able to hold "the resistance" together. Hess pens a long history of feminism and I find it interesting that the latest wave of feminism seems to coalesce around one man: Donald Trump.

It is only towards the end that Hess begins to wrestle with the real problem: women like me, who don't support the hodgepodge agenda of the march and many of whom even voted for Trump. Although the march was a sea of white faces (sorry, it was--I was on the Metro that day), fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. Ninety-four percent of black women voted for Clinton.  

This was a massive march, and we would do well to take it seriously. And we also need to make sure that the world knows that there is a sizeable portion of us women who are not represented by the march and are even optimistic that a Trump administration, whatever our personal feelings about some of the president's unfortunate pronouncements, will change the course of government of the last eight years.

In the last section of the article, Hess acknowledges us. Oh, but they want to reach out to us:

For now, the factions of the left seem to have found an accord. But to regain any power in Washington, they will need to sway the center too — including some of those women who voted for Trump.

The white women of the left, many of whom are just now finding their footing as activists, have been eager to dissociate from that group. Mention the 53 percent, and they’re quick to tell you that they’re of the 47. But of all the people who marched on Washington last month, they may be among the best positioned to reach across that aisle. “I know of no other time when it would be more important,” Barbara Smith, the black feminist and leftist, told me. “That’s not my work to do, but somebody ought to do it.”

Great. I can hardly wait to be hectored by the white women of the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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