A Call to Action for White Women

            Let me set the stage: I’m sitting in rehearsal.

We’ve been given some down time so I find myself flipping through the pages of my mind. I am mining— raking— sifting through all the thoughts buzzing about. I’m trying to settle on a lighthearted topic that is serious enough to start a conversation about. I go to Google News and type in one word: women. The first article I click on is titled “The Embarrassing Confusion of the ‘Women’s Strike.’” As a woman who attended the January Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and found it to be disorganized yet ultimately inspiring, I am curious to see if this article will actually present an informed, critical opinion on the movement.

            What I find instead is an antagonistic and obviously under-researched piece of writing that builds its foundation on unimaginative sarcasm and aggressive, divisive rhetoric. The author, Heather Wilhelm, uses circular logic and selective, biased quoting to make all her arguments. She knows that her conservative audience will not care.

In the opening paragraphs of her article, she cites the official purpose of the upcoming Women’s Strike as described by the movement’s organizers in an op-ed for the Guardian: “’ The idea,’ wrote the strike’s organizers in a February 6 group Guardian op-ed, ‘is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle — a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.’” Instead of thoughtfully addressing why anyone would feel the need to call out this misogyny or even recognize that it exists, she hits us with that winning sarcasm: “Ooh, that sounds effective! Just kidding. It sounds kind of annoying.”

            Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to annoy you with my inability to accept injustice and maltreatment. It must be so nice to live in a fantasy world where these issues don’t affect you. Maybe try looking around and noticing that the only people putting out these vitriolic and entirely opinion-based articles criticizing equity movements are those so draped in privilege that they quite literally cannot take the perspective of someone who faces real struggles of systemic racism, misogyny and classism. She is not even trying to appeal to reason or to engage. She is just adding to the negativity and the noise without offering any recognition of, or solutions to, very real criticisms of the current system in which we find ourselves.

            She then goes on to make the blatantly untrue statement that strike leaders are calling for “an ‘anti-capitalist’ feminism” because they critique neoliberalism. Maybe I don’t understand the ethics of journalism, but I didn’t think you should put quotes around words you are attributing to someone else that they never said. I didn’t think you should paraphrase an individual’s words, especially with something so polarizing, and just slap some quotation marks around it as if you knew the entire intent of the speaker.

            Never mind this, though. Where the entire article totally breaks down is when she demands to know what neoliberalism has to do with the strike because, as she understands it, from an astute analysis of a Washington Post article, this is “’a general strike against Trump.’” I’m sorry, but when did the Washington Post become the authority on this movement? When did the Washington Post become the dictionary for what defined this protest? Wilhelm literally took the time at the beginning of her article to outline the goals in the actual words of the organizers themselves, yet now, she can’t seem to wrap her head around what this strike could possibly represent? Interesting.

            This article doesn’t make any real points about the state of social justice demonstrations or how ineffective they seem to be because this isn’t what Heather Wilhelm cares about. She can’t even recognize that people are fighting because they are disenfranchised, so how can we expect her to offer meaningful solutions? She writes in a tone that is purposefully off-putting because the truth is, she doesn’t want to engage. She wants to keep on complaining about people standing up for themselves because it makes her uncomfortable. God forbid someone actually challenges her and makes her come to the realization that yes, she does have privilege, and yes, it does afford her a type of treatment in this world that most people do not experience.

            White women, we need to get it together and use our privilege for the forces of good. Failing to recognize the struggle of our fellow women—women of color, poor women, uneducated women, women who are in any way disenfranchised by our system, women who exist – only highlights our ignorance and self-centeredness. Instead of complaining about all these women up in arms, maybe try actually engaging and find out what is so upsetting.

I am not making an argument that there aren’t any poor or uneducated white women and I am not trying to make divisions. I am not aiming to alienate white women who are already making attempts to engage and recognize issues of intersectionality of gender, race and class. Something tells me, though, that this is not the type of woman that will feel offended by this article.

 

            Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Please reach out.  

 

Link to Wilhelm’s article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-women-strike-feminists-anti-trump-perspec-0224-20170223-story.html

Image source: https://tbmwomenintheworld2016.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/rtx2pdge.jpg?w=1280