Dear Cis White Feminists: Don’t Be Like Trump
Cis white women voted for Trump, and if we’re against that and embarrassed by that, we need to step up and fight back hard. We can’t afford to leave people behind.
Writer’s note on image use: While I do believe that in the political sphere silence suggests complacency, especially when that silence comes from white folks, I also want to note as a sexual assault survivor I don’t believe silence = consent.
As one of you, I’m going to be really honest, white cis feminists: we have got to get our shit together.
I want to start by saying that no one is as glad as I am that I didn’t get attacked by cops at the Women’s March in Oakland. When I came out November 8, 9 and 10 to protest Trump’s election, even though the majority of the community was just as peaceful, we were not so lucky. I rushed to help people in wheelchairs and people with strollers as they tried to escape clouds of tear gas.
So when I was planning to go to the Women’s March, I spent the better part of the week with the Degenderettes, a gender queer feminist art club I’m a part of. We talked about how to get arrested and how to escape kettling and how to take care of each other in case of violence — from police or the “alt-right” (AKA millennial Nazis), both of whom have been emboldened by the new regime. I outfitted a much more thorough medic bag, assembled a team of street medics to help me and placed supplies at multiple safe houses just in case.
While other people got ready for the march by sewing pink fleece, we prepared by setting up somewhere we could lay an injured comrade while we tended to their wounds.
I went to the Women’s March excited, certainly, but also tense and prepared for anything. What I wasn’t fully prepared for was how thoroughly intersectionality failed to be even a blip on the radar for many of the white cis women wearing their pink hats. After all, weren’t we all here to protest Trump, who was actively coming for issues that affect many of us on multiple levels — as women, as queer people, as POC, as trans and nonbinary folks, as people with disabilities, as sex workers, as immigrants, as people with mental health issues, as parents, as … well, people, really?
But most of the signs I saw and most of the chants I heard focused on some incredibly basic white cis feminism. From pussy hats to posters declaring that “pussy grabs back” to chants linking womanhood with having a vagina, a lot of the “solidarity” I saw erased the trans and genderqueer folk I was marching with. The march itself couldn’t decide if it supported sex workers or not (and, frankly, I doubt the march as a whole did — I credit sex worker inclusion entirely on Janet Mock’s labor).
Signs showing “feminist heroes” that included women like Margaret Thatcher next to Audre Lorde made me recoil in horror. Feminists saluting the police while holding signs of “One Love, One Race” failed to realize that police brutality IS a feminist issue . Seeing white cis women hugging and cheering for police officers that literally months ago were shooting black babies in the face with tear gas was just disgusting.
If only we had known that knitwear works as a shield against police brutality.
Commenting on Scarlett Johansson’s Women’s March speech — in which she said she would support Trump if he supported her — WYV writer Antwan Herron said:
“Johansson’s attempt to appease Trump triggered that history, and for many black women activists, conjured up that collective cultural memory of always being exempt from the center of a feminist agenda. When she, a white feminist, insulated by social connections and financial privilege, declares her willingness to back the Trump administration, it suggests that white women will throw black women under the bus the second Donald Trump agrees to meet certain demands that the majority of them stand to benefit from.”
White cis women voted for Trump, and if we’re against that and embarrassed by that, we need to step up and fight back hard. We can’t afford to leave people behind.
Black and indigenous women have been consistently begging for us to focus our hands, not on our knitting but on our communities, supporting the most marginalized among us, not with symbolic shows of solidarity but by doing the dirty work.
See, here’s the thing. Trump is a showman. He’s interested in putting on a performance to impress, but if his history is any indication, he lacks the focus and the knowledge to follow through. He depends on others to do that dirty work for him. We need to not be like Trump, puffed-up and self-important because we went to a permitted, cop-protected march once. We need to be ready to get in there when it gets messy, when the beanbag rounds start up. We need to train as street medics, we need to put money towards Black run community resources without expecting acknowledgment, we need to offer childcare when doing our organizing. We especially need to be aware of accessibility needs, such as chemical sensitivities, wheelchair access, ASL interpreters and others.
If anything, the response to the Women’s March showed us that when white cis women gather in droves to speak up and speak out, WE DON’T GET SHOT. So now that we know that and have proved it on a national stage, we need to use our bodies as a shield to protect those we know are under threat, especially under this new administration — women of color (Black women and indigenous women in particular), trans women, sex workers, immigrants, women with disabilities and so many others with intersecting marginalizations. It’s not enough to sit around patting ourselves on the back because we have a Black friend or a trans coworkers. We need to have their backs, with our words and with our actions.
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