When I opened up my social media feeds this past weekend, I was blown away.
Blown away by just how many people were out on the streets on Saturday protesting hate, inequality, and injustice. Blown away by the photos of the crowds, the witty signs they made, the powerful words they spoke and posted. Blown away by the sheer size of it, not just in DC or across the US, but around the world. I saw some amazing awareness, compassion, understanding, and support taking place, and it warmed my heart.
I have also made it clear I believe criticism is crucial to progress and should be welcomed, not stifled.
Well, I don’t just mean criticism of Trump or the GOP. We must also criticize that which we love. We must also criticize that which we celebrate.
It wasn’t all feel-good fuzzy-wuzzy vibes on my Twitter feed. Some people questioned how many of the white women who showed up to march failed to show up at the polls on Election Day — or if they did, how many voted for Trump. (Let us not forget 52% of white women came out for Trump, while 94% of black women voted for Clinton.)
Some people asked why there was so much talk of uteruses and vaginas, which do not define womanhood, and yet are so often used as shorthand for just that purpose. (Let us not forget there are women without uteruses, women without vaginas, and non-women with one or both.)
As many cheered at the lack of arrests or “violence,” others pointed out that it was racism and white privilege which allowed this, not simply better behavior on the part of the protesters. (Let us not forget that when #BlackLivesMatter protesters take to the streets, they are labeled violent, criminals, and rioters.)
Many, many women remain skeptical that mainstream feminism will include them in any meaningful way, or continue with substantial momentum past this weekend. (Let us not forget that mainstream feminism has, more often than not, excluded and/or harmed many women by ignoring, downplaying, or contributing directly to racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of bigotry and hate.)
I don’t want to talk away from you any joy, hope, or empowerment you may have derived from this weekend’s events. Really, I don’t. It’s unfortunate I have to state that so emphatically, but given what I’ve seen take place across the internet in recent days, it’s also necessary.
Criticism is not total condemnation. It is not an attempt to divide those who have come together, or discourage you from getting involved. I have seen too many people respond to valid critiques with, “yes, but it’s better than nothing,” or “yes, but we can only move forward if we work together!”
Is “better than nothing” your only goal? Does “working together” mean showing up, doing whatever you think is best, and not listening to anyone else?
Speaking as someone who could be a poster child for mainstream feminism — white, western, middle-class, university-educated, able-bodied, cisgender, straight — I have a lot of work to do. And if you are prepared to join me — if you genuinely want to hear more about these criticisms, if you sincerely want to learn where they come from and why, if you really and truly want to move forward — here are just a few places you can start.
• Emily Ladau wrote about the lack of inclusion of disability rights in the Women’s March platform.
• Katelyn Burns shared how pussy hats made her feel excluded and then welcomed at the march.
• Oneika the Traveller discussed her conflicted feelings about the march.
• The Women’s March itself has launched a new campaign, 10 Actions / 100 Days, which focuses on real and concrete actions we can take to continue the fight.
This list is obviously only a small selection of the relevant content out there, and is merely meant to serve as a starting point. I am open to suggestions for links to add — feel free to share them in the comments or contact me another way.
It’s true, we are all in this together. So let’s ALL start acting like it.
Photo credit: Austin Schmidt via unsplash.com