Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.

Revolutionary Imaginaries in a Time of Women’s Marches

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com


Or: For ‘Colored Girls’, when the ‘rainbow’ and white women being allies is not enough’

February 2, 2017

I am the same age as Hillary Clinton. I am a white anti-racist feminist. I grew up in the civil rights movement and was called a race traitor as a child. As an adult I worked with Angela, and bell, and Chandra, and Barbara, and so many fabulous women of color (WOC) trying to end the then exclusionary racism of the white women’s movement. How things change and do not. Today I am listening and resisting along with these friends and also learning from and with my younger sisters of color.


This might be a historical moment in need of a bit of theory—theory meaning connecting the dots between disparate actions so “we” can see the connections and see each other. The theorizing will be partial and inadequate but necessary. The resistance has gotten ahead of our theory—it is mixed, and intersectional, and wildly chaotic in a productive way. Terms like left, liberal, radical, feminist, etc. are in motion. And terms describing Trump, like proto-fascist, or pre-fascist, or totalitarian are not nuanced enough to name and therefore see the misogynist/racist excess of this regime.


The day after the Inauguration there was the spectacular outpouring of resistance by millions in the Women’s March on Washington, and its sister actions. This was a huge mass action against Trump on the streets of Washington D.C. and the streets of our cities and towns here and across the globe. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/it-started-with-a-grandmother-in-hawaii-now-the-womens-march-on-washington-is-poised-to-be-the-biggest-inauguration-demonstration/2017/01/03/8af61686-c6e2-11e6-bf4b-2c064d32a4bf_story.html?utm_term=.d6a0e77fc680 The marches were incredible and women of color led these many majority white marches. I am not ready to discount the importance of learning from this hugely successful action. If it was not radical or revolutionary enough for some of us, it still offers a fertile site for further radicalization. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-womens-march-succeeded-because-it-spoke-to-womens-outrage/ And, do not assume you know what the pink pussy hat means exactly.


What is there important to say about these moments that follow Trump being elected–so to speak–forgetting hacks and voter suppression and 3 million more votes for Hillary. He, along with Steve Bannon is consolidating their power and re-configuring the power elite. And these early days of massive resistance are only the beginning.


The right wing of this country is delusional. They are NOT the majority. Yet, their attacks have such breadth and depth that they have awakened almost everyone other than themselves. “We”, the rest of the people that Trump loves to hate, are: taxi drivers, restaurant workers, women of all colors and classes, the new working class, immigrants, Muslims, Black Lives Matter (BLM), Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Planned Parenthood (PP), Black Women’s Blueprint (BWP), undocumented students throughout the academy, Movement of Movements, Standing Rock, ACLU, etc. etc. There are many of us: occupying, protecting, rising, overcoming, revolting—trying to be ungovernable.


Women and men, trans, white and every other color—the bigger “we” that Trump insists on excluding have repeatedly taken to the streets to build a resistance at every opportunity. The commitment is to: form a resistance; to be ungovernable; to de-normalize the Predator in Chief and his cabinet.


Name this? See this? Do this? The Electoral College completely ignores, smashes, and sidelines this reality. The two party system – enmeshed in gridlock and dysfunction is probably done, if it ever was effective. What is next?


In this urgent moment Trump and his cabal are attempting to prop up racism and misogyny for the capitalism they love so dearly. In doing so they have deepened and exposed the fissures while all of us who they hate are trying to uproot and eviscerate anti-immigrant/racist misogyny once and for all. In actuality, ironically, Trumpism reveals the very oppressions “we” have longed to both expose and destroy. They do not get that “we” are the many, and they are the few.


With extra speed he makes executive orders/decrees: reinstate the global gag rule and disallow even the mention of abortion to all the women of color across the globe; continues settler colonialism re-issuing land rights to DAPL and the Keystone Pipeline; making full blown enemies of all immigrants and refugees, especially those from Muslim countries creating enemy strangers where they do not exist. Mass actions took over airports throughout the country as people were detained and refused entry.


There may not be a woman president but there are now many women leading the resistance in its many forms, like Sally Yates who just refused to enforce Trump’s immigration ban and was promptly fired.


I have lots of questions: how can these reform movements become revolutionary? How to think about this? Because the problem “we” are focused on is multiple and “intersectional”, as Kim Crenshaw and so many other women of color feminists would have it, the old questions centering capitalism and sidelining its whiteness and its misogyny are more insufficient than ever. Is it possible that if the problem itself is multiple, even single site assaults can disarm and weaken and make shaky the foundation?


And let us learn a bit here from the predator-in-chief himself. He made clear that misogyny—he will grab our pussies if he wants to –and his whiteness—his base is white—was key to saving global capitalism. But of course it is not just capitalism that he needs, because capital couldn’t do much of what it does if it didn’t use patriarchy and its deep roots/routes of settler colonialism and chattel slavery in modernized forms to garner its profits, for white rich powerful men.


Maybe the global greed is undermining the golden rule. Instead of mystifying the racist hetero/patriarchal underbelly of capitalism Trump up-ends it. It is so revealing that when Trump defends the white working class male it is not called identity politics. Instead everyone else who calls out the racist/sexist/hetero-gendered unfair structuring of citizenship and political life are categorized as such.


Let the resistance call out the failed two-party system. Let some wonder about a third party. Let others imagine a whole new structural apparatus for communities living in a global world. Let some call for an end to nationalism as we know it, and with it the wars and destruction of the planet. Audre Lorde would point us to the master’s tools and the master’s house. It is not reformable. Rosa Luxemburg also demanded revolution and a vision of it that was not limited to resistance but moved beyond what seemed possible.


Following Audre and Rosa “we” need to imagine beyond what feels like possibility. We need to mobilize our different movements of so many differing voices into a risk-taking set of actions, even though too many are already at too much risk. It is for those of us—especially non-poor white women and men to listen carefully and then put our bodies between the police and their state orders, and alongside our brothers and sisters of every color.


So “we” need to be and can be diverse, and unified and multi-pronged in our visions simultaneously. Alicia Garza of BLM similarly says that the time is now, not before, so embrace whoever is ready in this moment. https://mic.com/articles/166720/blm-co-founder-protesting-isnt-about-who-can-be-the-most-radical-its-about-winning#.msnpfr7mJ “We,” the most of us people, can unite for the planet and our bodies against Trumpism and his cabal of violators and predators. S/exploitation is key to this system. Sexual and racial violence is present in all wars for domi/nation.


Let us name the revolutionary problem as global capitalist hetero/patriarchal racism. There are new possibilities, as global capital has demanded the mobility of labor threading many sites of colonial power: from Europe to the US. with new colors. Whiteness is more exposed as a minority global population than ever before, when earlier the predominantly white US could live its supremacist lie at home. And, when France and Germany could spin their white majority status for supremacy. Now the supremacy is harder to protect. White people have always been a minority in Africa, Asia, and South America. They are now becoming that in the US and Europe.


Newest right-wing fascist, xenophobic, misogynistic politics of Trump and Modi and Putin bespeak this politic in their own local discourses. The troubled yet promissory stance and status of white women exists within this complex moment. It is no surprise that women of color and especially Black women voted against Trump in overwhelming numbers. And way too many white women, across class lines did not.


Trump targets multiple hatreds and animus. Our resistance takes this assault and lovingly embraces the multiple venues smashing at us. This is a new cacophonous call to arms by the president: a calling out of the multiple systems of oppression of the nation by the commander in chief. Instead of protecting these multiple/intersectional ruling class sites, he exposes them. So it is important that “we” stay multi-purposed and unified in this very multiplicity. Oneness in diversity. The Black Woman’s Blueprint asks us to do this. http://www.mamablack.org/single-post/2017/01/06/On-January-21-2017-Black-Women’s-Blueprint-Will-March-on-Washington

Congressperson Luis Gutierrez did this when he said he would walk in the Women’s March with his wife and daughter because he cared about every slight to every human right. https://gutierrez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/why-i-will-not-be-inauguration-and-will-be-marching-women


A new collaboration. A new solidarity. A new revolutionary/reformist movement. “We” the people must be inside and outside; legal and extra-legal; uncompromising and compromising; supportive and more to each other. Difference and conflict must be embraced in order to grow. Voices of critique from WOC are opportunities, not condemnations. “We” are in a post-women march/es world. Deal with it: women leading us all for revolution whatever this will mean. At moments demands will be specific and singular. Other times demands will be inclusive. Sometimes the politics will have to be vague and unknown and scary.


Do we really know exactly how or why Trump won? Do we really know who the white working class exactly refers to, or if it is really white any longer? Do we really know why the Democrats undermined Bernie and chose Hillary? Do we really know how the new working class/es of women of color across the planet as well as here at home can become our new revolutionary hope? Although I am sure Ai Jen Poo of the Domestic Workers Alliance have some good ideas. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2017/01/see_whos_speaking_at_the_womens_march_on_washingto.html


Trumpism reflects an old radical feminist brilliant formulation: the personal is political and there is always a politics to sex. He like the former white radical feminists forgets to be newly brilliant and realize that personal politics in its racial and class underbelly is deeply, radically, revolutionary. So—the moment calls for WOC of every kind to go forth and lead this next revolutionary movement. I hope you remember to use what was incredible about your foremother’s brilliance and make it better.


And I am with you, listening and collaborating on your and our behalf, not simply as an ally, which does not explain my interest enough, but as an anti-racist sister/comrade, freedom fighter, in this struggle to finally up-end white supremacy’s gendered racist abuse of us all. The struggles are not the same between us, but they are similar enough that I and many others will risk everything. Because, when “we” are doing the work together we make a new world for us all.

As I finish this writing #GeneralStrike for February 17 is trending on Twitter.

And, as Osagyefo Sekou sang the other night in Ithaca, New York: “what a time to be alive. When we stand up we have already won”. Or, we have a fighting chance.








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