Standing up for Women

 

A couple months ago, I attended on conference on Libraries and Social Justice. One of the keynote speakers talked on “Love and Forgiveness.” I’m probably the only person in the world who could find a talk on love and forgiveness irritating. It’s not that I’m for hate and revenge, but I’m not quite ready to start singing Kum-ba-yah yet either.

There’s been a lot of talk since the election, and since Charlottesville about reaching out and listening to people, who for one reason or another, felt disenfranchised enough to vote for Trump. I heard a couple former white supremacists being interviewed after Charlottesville and they said that they didn’t leave white supremacist groups because people called them names and reviled them. They left because people cared about them, loved them, and listened to them. I get that. I do. But, as a woman, I’m not quite willing to offer the olive branch to people who oppress women. To people who hated voting for a woman so much, they voted for a man who belittles women, who brags about sexually assaulting women, who oppresses women.

Parker Palmer, a Quaker and the author of Let Your Life Speak, wrote that everyone deserves to be loved and cared for, but that it wasn’t necessarily his job to love everyone. Maybe someone else is called to or gifted at loving and listening to disenfranchised white men who voted for Trump. I’ll gladly applaud the efforts and abilities. I’m still a little too busy standing up for women and fighting misogyny to do that.

I don’t need to tell anyone that there is so much we need to be fighting for right now. We are so tired of fighting, we know the drill. Yet, I keep coming back to the need to be united in fighting for everyone’s rights. I just don’t know how to do that – not without it sounding like we are making light of someone else’s rights. I attended a community discussion on white supremacy in Syracuse a few weeks ago. There is no doubt it’s hard, as a white person in the US to fully comprehend the institutional racism that our country was founded on. It takes soul searching to come to grips with the white privilege I have benefited from over the course of my life time. As a women, I know what sexism looks like and feels like. As a white women, I have to admit I still have had opportunities women of color have not had. I haven’t faced the hate and oppression they have.

I don’t want to be one of those white people who counters “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” You can see the “but” coming, can’t you? But, I feel like I want to say – women’s lives matter, too.

In this country, racism is institutionalized and so is sexism. I don’t say that to negate and take away from our need to fight racism. I say that because for too long abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, living wages for lower income women, work life balance, have all been relegated to “women’s issues.” Just as fighting institutional racism, racism that is built into the fabric of our nation is relegated to “identity politics.” Justice for the more than half the population is not a “women’s issue,” anymore then racial justice is an issue of only people of color.

These are issues of justice. These are equality issues. These are economic issues.  These aren’t “issues” even, but the realities of how our country, our economy, our politics operate. Oppression and injustice exist, as does privilege.

As a woman though, I feel both anger and guilt when women are asked to put their own “issues” aside and fight for someone else. You only have to look as far as the Democratic Party and their supposed decision to not make abortion a “litmus test” for candidates to see that the rights of women are negotiable to just about everyone in this country. Yes, racism, sexism, and classism all exist in this country. They are all institutionalized. They are all a basis of our economy. And they all are used to exploit many people so a few rich, powerful, white men can be more rich and powerful.

As a woman and more importantly a human being, I’m tired of the fight against misogyny taking a back seat. Yet, I believe with all my being that sexism, like racism and classism is another way for the powerful to oppress and divide us. We need to realize that this things are linked and need to be fought together. Working together may involve some of us learning to listen to others, but first I feel like we need to actually take a stand. A stand for justice.  Let’s end sexism, racism, and classism. Let’s stand up for the oppressed, for women, people of color, the poor and working class. Let’s stand up for ourselves and for each other. Then we can practice all the love and forgiveness we can muster, once we’ve actually taken a stand.

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