January 13 2017
Carrie L. Lukas
The day after Donald Trump is inaugurated President, tens of thousands of women—maybe more—are expected to arrive in Washington for an event called “The Women’s March on Washington.” Their mission statement is one that Americans of all political stripes could rally around:
“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
Even the fine print will resonate with most, including those pleased to see the Obama-era end and a new Republican president come in. The event’s website argues “the rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us.” Few would argue that the rhetoric of the campaign was anything but a series of new lows and needlessly divisiveness.
Yet once you read a little more, it sure doesn’t seem as if the purpose of this march is really to bring people together or improve the tenor of political discourse. The New York Times recently highlighted the infighting that has occurred even among the March’s most engaged activists. On the group’s Facebook page, white women were being told that they need to “talk less and listen more” and “check their privilege,” leading some women to give up on joining the effort altogether.
Given feminism’s difficult past—in which the particular challenges facing women of color were often overlooked in favor of the concerns of professional, white women—it’s not surprising that there are some hard feelings around race. However, the overall tone indicates that issues of race and privilege are the march’s true theme, rather than the broader cause of “women’s rights.”
Consider the March’s list of those who were insulted during this campaign: “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault—and our communities are hurting and scared.” March organizers made no specific mention of Catholics, even though there was plenty of reason for them to feel offended in 2016 with the revelation that DNC party leaders dismissed their religion as a “bastardization” of the faith. And no mention of those groups that might have felt particularly slighted by the charge that they are “deplorables” for supporting Trump.
It’s clear that this march isn’t a place for anyone who supported Donald Trump. Diversity of thought or political ideology isn’t a kind of diversity that this March has any interest in. That’s no surprise: Leftist feminists have always claimed the term “women” for their cause, even though they are really only interested in representing women who share their political agenda. Just as the Women’s Centers on nearly every university campus in America provide an entirely liberal vision of women’s issues and marginalize any student with conservative leanings, these march organizers felt free to call it “The Women’s March on Washington,” not “progressive women” even though that’s what it is in fact, and leave out conservative or anyone with different perspectives. They can rest safe in the knowledge that the sympathetic press would never challenge their presumption to speak for all women.
Of course, women are much more politically diverse than these groups would have you believe. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the women’s vote, but 42 percent of women still voted for Trump. That’s hardly a group that deserves to be dismissed as merely an outlier.
I hope that The Women’s March on Washington is cathartic for its participants. Undoubtedly, their concerns are heartfelt. Yet I also hope that they recognize that while they represent a lot of women unhappy with the incoming president, there are many others who feel that the country has been headed in the wrong direction and welcome change. And we are women too.
Yes, we also weren’t thrilled with every comment the incoming President made about women, but we were more concerned about other matters, such as our crumbling health care system, growing joblessness, and rising prices. Today, we are hopeful that help may be on the way.
Of course, the women marching on Washington—like all of us—will be on the watch for any policy or action taken by the Administration that actually threatens women’s rights. And they should speak out against any policy that they oppose. But they would gain more credibility if they were also open to being pleasantly surprised when Republicans don’t turn out to be as bad as they feared, and if they were a little more honest about their March’s lack of diversity.