My fellow women: There is a war raging on as we speak, on multiple fronts. Women — of various races, religions, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds — seem to be bearing the brunt of it.
Our president, his administration, our congress, the vast majority of state legislatures across the country are as red as can be. (And I’m talking about bloody red, the kind that comes from the wounds from a thousand knives.) Perhaps, more scary than anything else, is the realization that if we lose any more ground to the GOP, the most conservative white men in the country can call a Constitutional Convention, and literally rewrite portions of the US Constitution. It’s a safe bet that reproductive freedom and justice will be right up there on the chopping block.
The so-called “compassionate conservatism” of the ’80s and ’90s, and feel-good progressivism of the Affordable Care Act and President Obama (a self-professed “feminist”), have given way to an onslaught of misogyny and open disdain for women and our rights and freedoms the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1950s. All the progress that the Women’s Liberation movement made in the 1960s and 1970s is being rolled back. We are beginning to resemble more and more the bleak, dystopian world depicted by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale.
The bad news keeps on coming, almost on a daily basis:
The male GOP-run Congress wants desperately to take away our right to autonomy over our own bodies and the House has already passed a bill banning abortions of fetuses post-20 weeks. (This law is clearly unconstitutional but I personally don’t trust the Supreme Court to stay the course for abortion rights as Trump picks additional ultra-conservative judges to pack our federal courts.)
A Trump executive order has reversed the Obama Administration’s requirement for employers to include birth control as part of healthcare coverage, though many of us need it for medical reasons (or to avoid getting pregnant).
Congress continues to seek to defund Planned Parenthood.
We still don’t have constitutional equality after all these years. Virginia and Illinois remain among a handful of states that could ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Yet, we remain two states shy of ratification.
The most qualified person ever to run for the presidency—a woman—lost to a childlike con artist who, as we all know, is a serial sex assaulter. An astounding 53% of white women voted against their own self-interests in selecting Donald Trump, for reasons we continue to unpack (and are beyond the scope of this piece).
Democratic policies of remedying gender pay gaps, advancing affordable child care, and enacting paid family and sick leave, seem all too often to lose out to GOP policies of putting corporate interests ahead of public health and safety, and pretty much anybody who is not a white, Christian, able-bodied, uber healthy, straight, cis man (preferably wealthy).
The administration appears to be hell bent on rolling back every single bit of progress made over the past eight years and taking us to a time when there was no birth control, abortions were illegal and harrowingly treacherous, embryo/fetal rights took priority over women and children’s rights, and a woman’s place was solely in the home.
After revelations about the Weinstein brothers, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes, we now know, more than ever, what we always suspected—the vast majority of women in America have at some point in their lifetime endured domestic abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment in the workplace, discrimination—and sometimes all of the above.
Yet, while the white supremacy/misogyny that pervades the far right, or even the more benign sexism that leads to policies that invariably benefit men over women and children, has been more visible and pronounced as of late, a more insidious form of misogyny is gaining traction on the far left. White men who don’t fall into the 1% of the wealthiest Americans want a shot at the American Dream, dammit, and if they don’t get their way, they just might overthrow the government in a political revolution. If the more progressive of the two major parties in our political system doesn’t shoot for the stars each and every time, or has a misfire, well then, these angry white men (still-privileged relative to the vast majority of Americans) will just pick up their marbles and start their own club where poor white men don’t have their jobs taken away from them by women and minorities. Yes, we’ve heard that “identity politics” just aren’t their cup of tea. Why should it be when they still don’t have the worries of Americans who are marginalized in multiple ways. Let’s just redistribute the nation’s wealth from wealthy white men to disadvantaged white men, and let the chips fall where they may. You know, like trickle-down economics worked so well for the middle class and poor when the GOP proposed it, this is trickle-down socialism. Maybe women will benefit, maybe minorities will benefit, but let’s not waste our time leveling the playing field, shall we?
Enough is enough, my fellow women. When you get right down to it, misogyny and sexism oozing from white male so-called progressives is not much better than GOP white male misogyny and sexism.
We don’t have to do all the grunt work of “The Resistance” only to be told we’re only good for serving coffee and donuts to the real superheroes—the white dudes. (Haven’t white men always taken credit for what we do in the trenches?)
We don’t have to have the rest of our human and civil rights stripped away before we do something about it.
We don’t have to say, “but what about workers’ rights or the economy,” or fill in the blank, taking care of everyone but ourselves. Just for once, let’s try fighting this battle for us, and bring each and every one of our sisters along. Because guess what? Workers’ rights in a vacuum won’t solve the gender pay gap. Getting big money out of politics doesn’t mean we will have the right to choose our own destiny in life. Redistributing wealth doesn’t mean that we will end up as well off as white men will. Working to preserve the environment for future generations is a noble goal, but it won’t protect us from men who use and abuse us, take away our birth control, and then when we get pregnant, say we can’t have an abortion, and then refuse to provide support for those children.
Only women’s rights are only for women. Women should be fighting for our human and civil rights, and mothers should be fighting for the rights of our children as well as for ourselves. If not, then really, what is the point of fighting these battles at all?
Yet, the patriarchy has always been uncannily adept at holding on to all of the power and wealth in our country. White men don’t like to be challenged in any way, shape, or form, and don’t even think about taking away one of those 45 guns they have stockpiled in their home. They are entitled, and so anything that is a victory for us, must be taking something away from then. They don’t see that we do so very much for our men, our children, our country, our world, and get so very little in return. They maybe just don’t care, or maybe we’re an afterthought. They continue to run our government even as we gain more seats at the table.
Even the most progressive state legislatures are still run like good ol’ boy clubs (and Maryland’s has yet to take parental rights away from rapists or preclude sexual harassment of female state delegates and senators, as I recently learned from a candid young, female delegate).
We have a known sexual assaulter as our president (”I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”), a Supreme Court justice who is a sexual harasser, and male members of Congress who do things like vote against abortion rights, all the while using their money and influence to try and force their girlfriends into getting an abortion. The GOhyPocrisy is stunning and overt.
How can we right this ship? How can we ever win this war?
It is tempting for women to throw up their arms in despair once we realize the pervasiveness of the patriarchy’s frontal assault on our rights. I’m here to tell you, don’t despair. That’s just what the patriarchy is hoping you’ll do. Here’s what you should do instead.
10-Point Plan On How We Can Win The War Against Women
1. Do not discount your right to vote.
It is powerful and indeed the single most empowering thing you can do personally, short of running for public office yourself. Women fought like hell to get the right to vote in 1919 and were assisted by their husband allies who probably figured they’d get a “two-fer” vote. Be that as it may, we don’t have to use our vote that way, no matter what any man in our life (father, brother, son, husband, boyfriend, member of clergy) has told us.
Not just in a presidential election, but in every single election there is in your voting district. Right now, I’m talking to you, Virginia! (2018 will bring the midterm elections and many seats up for grabs across the country.) Vote for the school board members. Vote for your mayor. Vote for county executives, and state delegates, and state senators, and Governor. Vote for your members of Congress—both senators and one representative. Confirm you’re registered and, if not, take the necessary steps sooner rather than later. Find out when Election Day is (November 7th for Virginia) and put it on your calendar. If there’s early voting or absentee voting, take advantage of it. (In Virginia, there is early in-person absentee voting until Saturday, November 4th and you must vote early in the city/county where you are registered. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, October 31, 2017, by 5:00 pm. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by appearing in person is Saturday, November 4, 2017, by 5:00 pm) Schedule it on your calendar as you would any other appointment—this may be one of the most important appointments for your future. How do you know all of this voting information, Virginia? Click here.
3. Never, ever, ever vote for a third party candidate.
It is truly the only way your vote can be wasted. More on this later—it is that important.
4. Vote your conscience, and your values, with an eye towards policies that you feel will benefit you and your dependents.
What about the man in your life? Your interests are not one and the same. Once loving, generous men may become violent abusers, leave us for other women, abandon their family, become disabled, addicted to alcohol or drugs, or die. Any of these things can happen tomorrow. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Maybe you want to leave your husband but feel trapped for economic reasons. So, choose to vote for the candidate whose economic policies would help you if you were in fact a single mom or a widow, for example.
5. Read up on current events and politics; be leery of what you read.
I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s really important to separate out the real fake news from the fake fake news (which is real news—got that?) Gaslighting happens; the writer can be biased. So how do you know what or whom to trust? Here’s the easiest and, in my opinion, best way: On the Internet, make sure to look at the sources underlying the piece. If there are no hyperlinks for facts asserted, you should dismiss it out of hand. If there are hyperlinks, click on them. Do they take you to actual sources that back up the assertion, or not. If the “fact” is published in a newspaper or magazine, check out its reputation for accuracy. The National Enquirer looks like a real newspaper but most people (I hope) know it’s actually a collection of fake news articles. Seriously, my kids are now learning in high school how to discern legitimate news from fake news and you can bet that the most reliable source for this is never going to be our current President.
6. Use the truth as a weapon.
You know how the President likes to throw out random assertions that aren’t true, but they end up being believed because he says them with such authority, and they’re repeated over and over. Well, we all need to start doing that with the truth. Once you know the facts, do not let misinformation go unchallenged, preferably ever. And you know those family gatherings where either there is an unspoken rule that no one mentions politics or everyone else has a view that is opposite your own? Consider this an opportunity to educate your family or friends and try to see if there’s some common ground there. It’s exhausting, but crucial—the people who know us the best, trust us the most. Teach your children well. Instill in them “women’s rights are human rights” values. Everyone should respect everyone else and treat each other with respect because we are all human beings. Truly model the golden rule for your children because that is how they will learn best. Teach your daughters to have self-respect and that they have worth beyond their physical appearance.
7. Speak up early and often.
Ask difficult questions whenever you can; demand answers. Silence is not our friend. It’s how men continue to get away with harming us in a myriad of ways. If something happens to you that doesn’t feel right, report it. If someone doesn’t believe you, report it to someone else. We need to shame men into respecting women. There is strength in numbers. That’s why the more powerful the man, the more accusers there needs to be to bring him crashing down. It’s why once a few women come forward with the same story, the floodgates open up, because it is simply less scary when others have spoken up that the same thing happened to them. Trust yourself and trust other women. Women don’t risk the backlash and other negativity they experience when reporting mistreatment unless it’s true. Believe the victim in the court of public opinion. The legal system is another story.
8. Have the backs of your fellow warriors.
In a conventional war, troops fight as a united front. This is a war and women are the warriors (think Wonder Woman). This means that you should refrain whenever possible from tearing down your comrades. Men do not want us to succeed, and they are threatened by us, so by standing together and supporting each other in our efforts, we all win in the end. In other words, don’t be a mean girl. Just. Don’t. Listen to those who have walked in different, more difficult shoes than you. Attempt to empathize. Don’t belittle their experience or seek to explain it to them—they’ve been through enough crap as it is.
Join women’s groups like National Organization for Women (NOW), NARAL Pro-Choice, and Feminist Majority, that are fighting to advance the cause for all women. Pay attention to their action items and, whenever possible, do them. This might mean making phone calls, writing a legislator or letter to the editor, going to a rally or a vigil, participating in a lobby day, showing up at a hearing, posting on social media, going to a meeting to strategize, or attending a town hall. If you want to join an activist group, look carefully at the group’s website and Facebook page. If you don’t agree with what you’re hearing in that group, or see a lot of infighting, it may not be a good fit. Usually this is not where we will win the battles we need to win, so don’t get too depleted or deflated interacting with trolls—particularly angry white male/mansplaining trolls. Just block them and move on. If you’re not on social media for political or activism purposes, you need to get on both Facebook and Twitter, even if you set up a separate persona from your personal accounts. Again, there is safety in numbers, Trump and his angry white dude buddies were the Kings of Twitter at one point, but times have changed. Join the digital age no matter how old you are. Ask a young person to help you or teach you. This is where a lot of the action is taking place and you need to be aware to be fully impactful and fight in The Resistance.
10. Vote Blue. Every time. Even better if the candidate is a woman.
I’ve saved the most important one for last. This to me is the single most important thing you can do to empower women in this country: If there is a Democrat running for office, vote for him or her. If there is a Democrat who is female running against a Democrat who is a male in a state primary, vote for the woman. No one is ever going to have the backs of women more than women. It’s the truth. If you’ve never experienced uniquely female experiences, you should not be leading on female issues. It’s great to have male allies, but we must be careful. Is the male planning to prioritize women’s rights over more general, vague “progressive” goals? If not, why would you want to vote for him over a woman. Look, this is just a rule of the thumb, but I implore everyone reading this piece to think long and hard about this one. There are a lot of women now who are emboldened to run for public office (you may even be one of them). There are organizations that can help women success in running for office, such as Emily’s List, and Emerge America. But we all need to get behind those women, support their campaigns, attend their rallies and events, tell our friends and family to vote for them, etc. Otherwise, we are not working, again, as an army would in a war. We won’t be in power until we win elections. If you’re not helping elect Democrats, and especially Democratic pro-choice women, you’re part of the problem.
So, I said I would return to this notion about third party candidates or independents. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being independent minded and carefully scrutinizing candidates, but that’s different than actually voting for a third party candidate or staying home and not voting at all. We know that the GOP couldn’t care less about women and, in fact, are actively working to keep us barefoot and pregnant, but what about those feel good socialist types who want to work for a better tomorrow for (allegedly) everyone? Please, please, please don’t do that and waste your vote to make some ephemeral statement of ideology. Look really hard at the Democrat, especially if she is female. If her opponents have torn her down, consider why that might be. War is hell and those on the front lines take the most bullets. If they’re still standing after that, well consider that maybe they’re actually war heroes. And yes, you simply must consider the alternative. If the GOP candidate wins, women lose, each and every time. Please vote for the Democrat. Ideological purity aside (nobody’s perfect), Democrats typically fight for progressive values to the extent possible—if they have the votes—and will compromise and reach a better result than getting nothing. The bottom line is you can’t expect Democrats to make progress unless we get out there and elect more of them.
So get out there and vote, Virginia, for women’s rights ally Democrat Ralph Northam for Governor; Mark Herring for Attorney General; and for the Democrat (who might even be female) running for state delegate in your district. Click here to see who that is. Everyone else, pay attention to all of this. Midterms are right around the corner.
For more on why Virginia matters, and why we must flip Virginia blue, watch this video, and visit whyvirginiamatters.com.