Monthly Archives: January 2017
What do we want? Something or other.
When do we want it? Sometime.
The morning of the Women’s March I walked out to my car and discovered my rear driver’s side tire was low. Not flat, but low enough that I had to drive miles out of my way to a convenience store to get air. I had planned to get to the March a bit early, but now I only hoped the tire would hold for the thirty mile drive.
Miraculously, I arrived on time. The tire had lost air, but it held well enough to get me to Lewis, New York, for the march and rally at the gravesite of suffragist Inez Milholland (see last week’s post). I was stunned at the turnout. Over three hundred people were there, mostly women but plenty of men and children too, many wearing pussyhats and carrying great signs. Three hundred sounds like a small number in a protest of millions, and I guess it is, but Lewis is a hamlet in a very rural county — a county that voted for Trump by three percentage points. The signs reflected concerns across the country about reproductive rights, diversity, racial justice, and sexual harrassment.
I thought the March was great right up to the point where the speaking started, and then I wondered why I bothered to come. The leader of the Lewis March spoke about the history of the suffrage movement, offering some quotes from Milholland. So far, so good. Then she spoke about how we had gathered for “truth.” That was all: not even a passing reference to actual struggles of women today, where we need to go, and how we get there. I guess being on the side of truth is a political statement in this post-truth era, but truth about what? There was no focus to this march. All the energy was dissipated on non-offensive, non-directed pablum, and the whole thing became a celebration of tribal identity, not a demand for women’s rights.
In some ways, the well-attended Lewis non-event was a microcosm of issues that spilled out with the national March during the lead-up period. Many women were unclear about the purpose of the March. Organizers expressed a commitment to inclusivity, but that did not appear to include a feminist perspective. For example, organizers headlined a self-admitted rapist and a champion of “sex work,” angering sex industry survivors. The organizers declared this was not a protest any kind and not specifically about women. Despite the timing of the event the day after the inauguration, they insisted this march was not intended to be anti-Trump. So what was this about?
News media defined the March entirely as anti-Trump, sometimes even omitting to say that it was a women’s march. To be fair, most people I talked to were motivated primarily by their horror of Trump, and the demonstrators’ signs bore this out. The pink pussyhats were everywhere (even in Lewis). I have to admit that I originally thought the pussyhats were a bit silly. I didn’t say anything because I was happy to see women excited about a project and pouring their creativity into something, but privately I thought it was dumb. I changed my mind when I saw the pussyhats in action, sending a message that so many women and men who showed up to the March thought sexual harassment and assault worthy of protest at this thing that was not supposed to be a protest. And the signs! So many uteruses, vulvas, and vaginas. They showed that women rightly see their oppression as intricately tied to their biology, and the innocence with which this was displayed showed that apparently many have not gotten the memo that references to female anatomy are oppressive to trans people and must be exorcised from all women’s gatherings. I suspect that when most women have gotten that memo, there will be a huge rebellion, and many things about gender that have been accepted without question will be scrutinized.
But that rebellion is years away, and I believe that for now the women’s movement is in a long period of struggle to accept and confront the problem. Our problem is not violence; it is male violence directed at women. Our problem is not gender; it is the use of gender by males to define, redefine, and undefine women. Our problem is not sexual harassment; it is the sexual harassment by males toward females (and children). Our problem is not religion; it is male religions dictating to women what we can and cannot do. Our problem is men, and until a critical mass of women can name the agent of our oppression, I do not see the women’s movement progressing, no matter how many show up for a non-directed protest.
There was an indoor follow-up event ten miles away from the Lewis rally, and I had planned on attending it, but after the rather demoralizing graveside experience I decided to get my tire fixed. I think that the March was a success in that it sent a message to our Democratic lawmakers that large numbers of women all over the country and all over the world are paying attention to Republican efforts to erode human rights, and that these lawmakers need to stand up to Trump. That alone was worth the small investment of showing up. As far as the march for women’s liberty goes — we have a long road in front of us.
The big Women’s March in DC is this Saturday January 21st, and I will be attending one the “sister marches” in Lewis, New York. This march will begin at the gravesite of suffragist Inez Milholland with a follow-up rally at a nearby grange hall. Details here.
Inez Milholland was a campaigner with the National Women’s Party who appeared in an iconic photo of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington. She was born in 1886 to a progressive family. Her father, wealthy businessman and newspaper editor John Milholland, was a founding member of the NAACP. Milholland herself championed a number of social causes in addition to suffrage during her short life, chief among them world peace and the rights of workers.
While a student at Vassar, Milholland was disciplined for defying the injunction against participation in organized feminist activities. A few years later she received her law degree from New York University. Though Milholland had a supportive family and was considered a brilliant woman, she was to find continual disappointment in the professional world. Only one firm would hire her, a criminal law firm that only allowed her to argue cases considered unwinnable. Partners in the firm believed a jury might convict a man simply for having female counsel. In frustration Milholland quit law and went to Italy to work as a war correspondent. Despite her efforts to persuade officials that a woman’s perspective on the war was important, she was never allowed to get close to the fighting. She returned to America in defeat.
One influential person who did recognize Milholland’s talents was suffrage leader Alice Paul. Milholland was a persuasive and engaging public speaker and in addition had the big-boned large-featured good looks that were fashionable at the time. Only some who came to see her were interested in the cause of women’s suffrage; others came to see a glimpse of the famous beauty. Paul began to give Milholland a higher profile in the suffrage movement and in 1916 convinced her to embark on a multistate western tour to argue for the passage of an amendment to allow women the right to vote. Milholland was feeling unwell but went anyway understanding the importance of the mission. She attracted huge crowds and a great deal of media coverage.
During the height of the campaign Milholland wrote to Paul saying she was ill and would have to suspend travel, but Paul wrote back urging her to continue. Milholland allowed herself to be persuaded. For her part, Milholland was finally seeing her efforts produce results, and it must have been difficult to contemplate walking away from a successful enterprise after being stymied so much in the past.
Milholland collapsed during a rally in Los Angeles and died there a month later. She asked that her last recorded words be, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
I moved the Frigga video to a separate page so it wouldn’t start automatically. For some reason my WordPress plugin will only play this video on autoplay. Here is the link.
Most of my videos I put on Youtube or Vimeo, which usually works well with WordPress. I was afraid the Frigga video would get my accounts suspended, however, so I did something different for this one.
This week marks my five year anniversary of blogging. I have blogged consistently over these years for a total of 297 posts.
I will be making some changes to this blog over the next year. I will be updating the blog’s appearance and transferring it over to my main site hearthmoonrising.com. I will be transferring my webinar page over to that site as well and, yes, I will be teaching some online classes this year. I will also be transferring everything to a new site host, and while I hope to archive the whole five years you might want to cache any pages you have bookmarked so they aren’t lost to you.
I don’t know what is going on with my Tumblr blog. I have not been able to log into my dashboard or to access the Tumblr homesite since mid December, although my past Tumblr posts are still showing. I suspect that this is related to the denial-of-service attack on Tumblr about this time, but it could be another attempt to punish me for my feminist political views, as I notice that other radical feminists whom I follow have not posted for some time. My Facebook account was briefly suspended a few years ago in response to a blog post here. Compared to other feminists, I have not suffered much of this abuse, probably because I don’t write much about politics, but I am very aware that my access to social media is tenuous and this is one reason I blog so consistently. If you haven’t seen me for awhile on Facebook or Twitter, come back and check the blog. Also, sign up for my mailing list to stay in touch. The link is at hearthmoonrising.com. I do a mass email about four times a year.
I will probably be letting the Tumblr site go. I’m annoyed that they are putting advertising on my site, and I don’t enjoy going to the Tumblr dashboard anymore because of the distracting videos that assault me from the corner of my eye. I haven’t been able to find software that will disable these particular videos, and I don’t think this is good for my vision. Fortunately the adverts on my Tumblr site itself are static, but I don’t like advertising on my webpages, especially since I’m not getting any of that income. I understand that Tumblr has to bring in revenue, so I tolerated the advertisements on my news feed until they got entirely too obnoxious, but I think I’ve had enough.
My next book is in production, and I will be posting more about that in the coming weeks. I wish to thank my readers and those who have linked and commented here for making these five years possible. Here’s to another great year of thought, worship, and study.