There’s a difference between white feminists and the white women that voted for Trump, and that pulled the lever for Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. All women benefit from the hard-won gains of feminists--from the right to vote to laws that make sexual harassment illegal--but not all women are feminists.
The Women, young and old, that turned out for Roy Moore say they did so because they didn’t believe his accusers and that he shared their Christian values. They carried signs, held press conferences and gave interviews that cast doubt on the near dozen women that came forward accusing Moore of predatory behavior. This marks the third time in a little more than a year that white women have shown support for candidates that have shaky records on women’s issues or have exhibited outright objectionable treatment of women.
Nearly 6 in 10 white women in Alabama voted for Roy Moore, and an overwhelming majority of white women in the state voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. This stands in sharp contrast to the more than 9 in 10 Black women who cast ballots for Doug Jones. Black women were also a deciding factor in the recent Virginia governor’s race, where they helped to carry Ralph Northam to a decisive victory. Fifty-one percent of white women in the state voted for Ed Gillespie, the Republican Candidate.
Attributing white women’s support of candidates like Donald Trump or Roy Moore to internalized misogyny would be too easy. It is the explanation that causes the least amount of disruption to feminism and White Feminists, specifically. In this explanation, race disappears and Trump-Moore women suffer from a kind of undiagnosed false consciousness and don’t yet understand they are being oppressed by men like Moore.
White Feminists, many of whom I have worked alongside for nearly two decades on a range of issues have been incredulous about Trump-Moore women, distancing themselves from them as if they were a different species. However, they are not. If I were to draw a venn diagram, the two groups would be overlapping, not mutually exclusive. The thing that binds them is not gender, but race.
In a racialized society, where there are direct material and social benefits attached to whiteness or one’s proximity to it, particularly white maleness, Trump-Moore white women are behaving as rational actors in a democracy. They *are* winning.
Following the 2016 Presidential election, there was little time for soul searching. White Feminists were eager to move on and focus on the resistance. The Women’s March served as atonement for some White Feminists for the voting (mis)behavior of the Trump-Moore white women, and a show of proof that they were indeed another species, separate from themselves.
However, until White Feminists are able to meaningfully engage other white women and acknowledge the power of race, and role whiteness played in the 2016 election and in the Alabama race for white women, there will always be a pink p*ussy hat in the room and a perpetual side-eye from Black women, feminist or not, that know that this is not our work to do.