Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.

Serena, misogynoir, and the rest of us

SERENA, misogynoir, and the rest of us

I have 3 points I care about as the news continues to cover the U.S. Open Debacle: women’s ambition, women’s rage, and women’s bodies.

1. I watched the HBO documentary about Serena Williams in July because I wanted to see how she was going to reclaim her place in elite tennis. And as Serena made so clear in the Series, she was not coming back to play, but to win. Two days before the US Open match I posted on Facebook: “I’m rooting for the one who was recently pregnant, gave birth, had life threatening complications, and is demanding her body reboot and win!!!”

Two days after the match Serena is being fined $17,000 for the three warnings she received from the umpire, Carlos Ramos. What happened? Serena herself has spoken about demanding fair play and equal treatment as a woman in the game. Less has been said about her being a Black woman, but I think both are intrinsically connected. As Moya Bailey might say, misogynoir was in play. She was first and foremost an “angry Black woman” on the court, before she was Serena — greatest tennis player ever.

2. Rebecca Traister in “Serena Williams and the Game That Can’t Be Won (Yet)” and Brittney Cooper in Eloquent Rage have importantly focused on how Black women’s rage is so often misread and misnamed. But I also want to flip the focus and ask why was the umpire in such a rage, even if masked by rules? Why did he see rage from Serena when she was just speaking up for herself? She did not curse him; she just said he was a thief for taking her point away.

He overreacted as men often do to women. I like most women have been verbally attacked when we have no idea what we supposedly did or said. Psychoanalyst Dorothy Dinnerstein argues decades ago that men rage at women for the unstated anger and/or hatred they have for the mother — the person who has policed and regulated them their whole lives. This is often the story of domestic abuse, sexual violence, etc. Misogyny was present on the court with or without anything Serena did. So was racism as Claudine Rankine has written about in 2004, 2009, 2011. Rankine writes in CITIZEN:

“…it could be because her body, trapped in a racial imaginary, trapped in disbelief — code for being black in America — is being governed not by the tennis match she is participating in but by a collapsed relationship that had promised to play by the rules. Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the context — randomly the rules everyone else gets to play by no longer apply to you…”

When people go back and forth on all this — the overwrought and too fragile Ramos who over-stepped and then would not re-evaluate his misuse of the rules — say that the tennis is unfair to women and has a double and triple standard. Yes, the unfairness structures the court and the air breathed.

3. I really cared about the match because I wondered if Serena would be able to push her body far enough to win against Naomi Osaka a terrific 20-year-old player. Would Serena’s skill and strength be able to reclaim her fabulous steely body from pregnancy and emergency surgeries for embolisms, for elite tennis. After all, she has only had about a year to regain/reclaim her former body — and she is 36, and aging in the world of professional sports.

In the HBO documentary Serena says she never knew how hard it would be to come back. As someone who also has been pregnant — and with harsh complications from the rare disease diabetes insipidus due to a traumatized pituitary…I knew what she meant. And, as someone who has had her body carved to remove cancers, I also knew how foreign her own body must feel. It is so hard to reclaim a strong body after it is smacked back.

There are so many women, disabled or not — whether they have been pregnant or not, who know what Serena faces/d. We are not elite athletes so we have a different challenge — but “we” — no matter our race or class or gender identity — our bodies universalize the particular challenges. Most of us do not have the magnificent talent for elite sports. I myself am athletic — I hike or run daily, lift weights, and do a variety of sports — all very ordinarily like most able-bodied. But Serena and Naomi Osaka play to win.

This is what was at stake at the US open. Many of us just wanted to see what Serena could do, would do, knowing that winning means everything to her. We were rooting for her.

And on the subject of winning: winning always means someone loses. When Naomi was asked how she was able to concentrate during the distractions of the game, she said she was unaware of them. She was focused on the game and concentrating on winning. This kind of intensity let her win.

When I taught Adam Smith, who described life in capitalism as a race I always asked my students what this means for society if its like a race; and a race is about winning, and there is only one winner to any race. All the rest lose.

On this particular day, everyone did lose, even Naomi. We lost the chance to see if an older woman — at 36, and post-partum — could beat a young woman of 20. Some say Naomi would have won even if there was no confusion/confrontation. Naomi has been gracious and has not said she would have won; but she has said that in all her dreams when she has played Serena, Naomi has won. Serena, in all her post-game graciousness also has not weighed in here. But I am sure that Serena feels totally cheated out of the chance to really know.

There are so many of us out there watching, and knowing the difference between what we are watching, and who we are. So I am really pissed that misogynoir erased the possibility of knowing, and seeing more. If I am pissed, imagine Serena.



On March 8th women—in our complex identities—across the globe and across the U.S. will join together to make our resistance against the exploitation of women in all its guises public, collective and visible. #MeToo and #TimesUp are two recent public displays of the outrage against sexual exploitation in its harassing and assaultive forms—from sexual intimidation to rape. This intimidation and oppression exists everywhere our labor is done—in each and every kind of work we all do.

Our moment—women of every variety and across our race and class—is filled with chaos, and exhaustion AND amazing acts of resistance. Women of color—Black, South Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, and…[on and on]—have been resisting their coercion for decades against colonialism and imperial domination. Black women fought first as enslaved laborers in chattel slavery in the U.S.—then the courts, then against police coercion, etc. Feminisms of all sorts have demanded recognition of women in the labor force, as domestics in their own homes and hired care-givers, as consumers, as service-workers, as home-aides, as…[on and on]. “We”—the big “WE” do not want to limit the breadth and scope of our labors, and our laboring.

But much of women’s labor is often not recognized and is usually made invisible to others. For much of this labor there is no wage, or an unfair one due to sexual exploitation. Few women earn at the rate of their male counterpart. (72 cents to the dollar is the usual conversion). The movement #FightFor$15 expresses the demand for a living wage—from the waitress, to the caregiver, to all workers.

If ever it made sense to work with whatever differences exist between us and stand together, this is the time. With Donald Trump continuously demeaning women—his own bragging of “grabbing pussy,” the multiple sexual harassment charges against him that he refuses to address, his continual defense of sexual predators and domestic louts in his administration, it is time to show our muscle.

Given the explicit white supremacist policies endangering immigrants, refugees, and any person of color, women of every color, especially white women, must stand in resistance openly, publicly and together in this moment.

On March 8, 2018 come together with other women—in your apartment building, at your day care drop off center, at your job, with your friends, on a march, on a demo, and take an hour to support and love each other. For incarcerated women, know that we will be carrying signs of rebellion on your behalf. For women too disabled to come together, let us find and make new venues.

Whatever any of each of you can do, let us know by sending a note of what you are doing to https://www.womenstrikeus.org.

Let us end the double day of labor.

Let us end the triple day of labor.

Let us end sexual exploitation.

Let us end sexual harassment of every sort—from the workplace to policing and prisons.

Let us end sexual violence in every form.

Let us end rape.

Let us find our strength in numbers.

Let us find our strength in our mutual support of each other.

Let us use our strength in building bridges and learning from each other and caring for each other as we would care for ourselves.

If you want to make a public stand against the terror of misogyny and its capitalist exploitation of women, especially women of color, transgender women, women who are disabled, women who are incarcerated, homeless women, women of the working and middle class, women in our troops, take time on March 8 to come together.

Women—99 percent of us—are the workers of the world. We—every kind of us—hold up more than half the sky!!!!

Our statement for 2018, begins:

On 8 March, we will go on strike against gender violence – against the men who commit violence and against the system that protects them.

Last year on 8 March we, women of every kind, marched, stopped work and took over the streets in fifty countries across the world. In the United States we rallied, marched, left the dishes to the men, in all the major cities of this country and countless smaller ones. We shut down three school districts to prove to the world, once again, that while we sustain society we also have the power to shut it down.

8 March is coming again and things have gotten worse for us as women in this country.

And for the full statement: https://www.womenstrikeus.org/2018/02/02/we-need-a-feminism-for-the-99-thats-why-women-will-strike-this-year/

No action is too small and no imagined act of resistance too big. Let us see each other and give each other support on March 8. Then “we”—the 99 percent—will take this forward for rebellion in 2018.

ON RESISTING, while knowing it is not enough, and offering to think beyond where we are, together

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ON RESISTING, while knowing it is not enough, and offering to think beyond where we are, together.

Zillah Eisenstein

June 5, 2017

After 40 years of anti-racist and feminist activism and writing I want more—to be able to do more and to affect more. Most of my radical friends whether working inside or outside electoral politics want more too. This was true at the gathering of many progressive groups held in Stoneridge New York, shortly after Trump was elected. (We named ourselves A Movement of Movements) And it was true in the work I did as part of the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike/US this past May. These friends and political networks are a part of what I write here, in this disheartening time.


Upon Trump’s election (by the Electoral College) resisters said that we should not normalize any thing about his regime. I think now it is important to say that resisters should not normalize resistance itself. That the last months of protest, while Trump continues to flail, and tweet, and make horrifically punishing initiatives in health care and prisons and climate change and war, has shown us that coalition, not simply resistance and its reformist framing, is needed– even if “we” do not know what this exactly looks like.


At first the massive marches and continuous outcry by so many of us against the travel bans, the forced deportations, the attacks on Planned Parenthood, poor people, Obamacare, Climate denial, DAPL (Dakota Access Pipe Line) was invigorating. The millions who poured onto the streets for the Women’s March the day after inauguration, the tens of thousands who stood in defiance in our airports said that “we” would not let Trumpism define this country.


But outrageous policy continues to be made. Trump lurches forward with war with arrogance and hubris. He pretends he is speaking for coal miners, but coal miners have not claimed him. They actually say they want good jobs; not outdated and poor paying and filth making old ones. The United Mine Workers never endorsed Donald.


Maybe it is time to further build connectors between these activists, and interests, and movements and start to make a revolution.


Yes, Antonio Gramsci was right that when the old is dying the new is not simply born. For Trump resisters today, in all our cacophonous chaos, we are living at the near end of many things: industrialization, living wage jobs, climate survival, traditional militaries/wars as they were once fought, legalized misogyny and racism and heterosexism, and disability. The capitalist structures of power are disassembling–nation states are in crisis, whiteness as a majority stance in the US, the mystification of class wealth exposed. BUT the (white) men who love these systems of militarism, racism, and hetero-patriarchy are still fighting for them in their decline. These men populate failed states:Trump, Duterte, Sisi, Erdogan, Putin, etc….


I seems that the US is living near the end of a particular majority/white supremacy and the anger/hysteria/violence and backlash is the response. The established forms of nation states are no longer needed, or they are leftovers and now stand in the way of a more rapacious global capitalism and its neoliberal predation. As such, Trump is a leftover—the old kind of white male supremacist who grabs women’s crotches. But,Trumpism uses a crass macho physicality that exposes rather than mystifies and stabilizes.


As former political structures—some of which worked, many that did not—sputter and struggle, more and more people are displaced and precarious. In this version—our operational but defunct prison system, the decimated social welfare state, the racist policing of Blacks and people of color, the illegal “grabbing of pussy”, it becomes clearer that democracy, as “we” have known it, in its liberal and neo-liberal racist misogynist forms does not work. “We” need new possibilities that do not suffer foundational racist capitalist misogyny.


There are some foundational truths to be found here. What we are living through is the crisis of old forms that are not yet gone and the men who still want them and benefit from them. This is a reminder of the end of plantation economies and yet the ex-slave holders/masters brutal extension of their privileges and power. Tera Hunter exposes these fraught years that were expressed through the chaos of sharecropping, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and new marriage laws. Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2017) This history remains present today in mass incarceration, unprecedented police killings of Blacks, etc.


If “we”, all of us, recognize this horrific legacy threaded through important legal gains and civil rights and women’s rights struggles then it is time for us to move beyond the myth of success. Barack Obama was a first Black president, both because of all this, and in spite of it.


Abolitionism—the abolition of white supremacist misogyny and its capitalist nexus, alongside the racist misogyny of every day practices must become the heart of our visionary framework. If assimilation and reform and accommodation and integration and equality presume the foundational structure of class, sex, race, gender, and ableism—then a new foundation must be imagined. Start with a materialism of the body that is never singular. Envision a foundation of every color/sex/gender and bodily ability in a shared commons, rather than a class hierarchy.



Chattel slavery today


Systems of power do not erode all at once. They do so in fits and starts and repetitions. Legal endings are very different than actual ones. Chattel slavery was challenged and undermined by enslaved peoples from the start. White abolitionists came on board in fits and starts, and each state had somewhat of its own history. The enforcement of chattel slavery was always varied and complicated and never unitary.


Vera Hunter shows that there were non-legal slave marriages; legal ones that were sometimes recognized, and often not, and multiple forms of unrecognized Black marriage unions. There was intra-racial and inter-racial rape and cross-racial master/ slave rape. Black women’s importance in reproducing new enslaved peoples was consummate. Marriage law was very much protecting the slave master’s ownership of the black female’s sexual availability and her progeny as well. It is may be one of the most articulated even if debased recognitions of (black) women’s importance to economic life. The plantation economy did not need or want slave marriage—it wanted to claim all of black women’s labor—including their children—as its own.


Thomas Jefferson spoke against slavery but owned slaves. He had an entire shadow family with Sally Hemmings and even gave his daughter 27 slaves as a wedding gift so that she would have an appropriate dowry. He instructed that “his” slaves should be given their freedom at the death of his wife Martha, although this did not happen. How do you not believe in slavery and have slaves? This is white supremacist thinking: vacuous and disconnected from the reality of being Black.


Dolley Madison, wife and plantation mistress of James Madison inherited slaves in and through her marriages. Black slaves gave her social standing inside a patriarchal marriage system that gave her few rights in relation to her husband and total rights in relation to her enslaved “help”. Her life is determined by the death of her first husband and her next marriage—she is only entitled to 1/3 of the inheritance…but her slaves are completely defined by her demands, her relocation after remarriage, etc. They have no rights, including the 14-year-old girl who was her “favorite”. (Marie Schwartz, Ties That Bound (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017)


The plantation economy ends but not the white misogynist supremacy of it. Chattel slavery documents the intimate weaving of ones class, sex, race inside it. Each of them is all of them. So Black men and women, though differently, are positioned in the newly evolving economy, free but without their rights. This is the racist/capitalist/misogynist classic lie: to be free is not to be equal—living at the end of something but not quite with a new enough beginning.


Resistance is not enough. Reform and assissimilation is not enough. Civil rights are not enough. Abolition of the old is necessary– but how to imagine the new?



White Supremacist Misogyny in Crisis


How do anti-racist feminists think and “do” and mobilize in this moment? Trump lies and makes punishing declarations and ultimatums daily. No one is safe from his bullying, except maybe his daughter Ivanka and the rest of his family.


Eve Ensler asks: how do you live at the edge of what is over? And I wonder with her, how do you know when something is over? Or how do you know what the leftovers might mean? I am thinking that white supremacy; at least in the ways it used to rule, in the slave trade, in colonialism, in early imperialism, is deeply changed. Maybe masculinism becomes less white as it becomes a tool for the globe that is majority brown and Black. Yet, white masculinist men and heterosexist racists are still in charge, doing their deeds in belligerent ways. The structures that buoyed and protected them at one time are no longer as enabling. Their challenged systems of structured supremacy beg for protection.


But why is misogyny always left standing? Why is it almost never targeted as actionable? Is it its incredible resilience and non-recognition that assists in its naturalization rather than a full throttle attack? What is it about capitalism that seems to suck all of the air out of a buoyant racial and sexual and gender critique? After all, in this political moment it seems pretty clear that the heart of the problem is capitalist hetero-patriarchal racism.


Why am I still forced to be making this case after all the years of incredible anti-racist anti-misogynist critique of capitalist-racist-patriarchy? Why is this still the question? Why don’t progressive thinkers and activists change more? Why does the “Left” fail to recognize that the personal is political, that there is a politics to sex, that racism is foundational to class? Why? Maybe this explains why there has never been a successful socialist revolution? Is it that socialism needs more heart, and body, and personal, and anti-racist feminism?


Trump dropped the largest bomb in recent history in the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. Noted scholar Phyllis Bennis says that he uses brute force in attempt to shore up US foreign policy. (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/04/06/carnage-and-chaos-loom-trump-weighs-military-attack-syria)That he uses uncharted illegal use of military force because he has no strategy or coherent policy other than the illegitimate use of raw power/a kind of sexual violence. I wonder if this “raw power” simply reveals his white male misogynist hysteria. From grabbing pussy, to rape, to dropping bombs, to deploying drones. Each uses terror to terrorize which is the main strategy of white male supremacy assisting empire.


Trump and Bannon and Sessions are each gladiator like, brutish, and mean white men. There is something particularly misogynistic about their irrational and illegal use of power. Trump is a noxious predator who continuously uses a brutish sexual physicality, which appears awkwardly visible against feminisms. His cabinet is all men. The committee to revamp his so-called health care bill is all 13 white men. His daughter Ivanka says he loves women. She sees no irony as he grabs her thigh or ass. So, feminism, the kind for the 99 percent must be brought into the coalition for solidarity.


And overly militarized police officers use deadly force against Black bodies, many of them children, as maybe we see the last gasps of white supremacy hurtling forward? But I also know that there are so many millions of guns everywhere waiting and ready.


Trump has re-mobilized an anti-abortion agenda, an anti-women’s health bill that is anti-contraception, anti-Planned Parenthood, and anti-woman. His appointees to oversee the public health say abortions cause breast cancer and contraceptives are harmful to the health of women and the nation. Really?

Ivanka claims to stand for women’s rights and their right to equality in the workplace with no recognition that planned pregnancies are a necessary for holding onto a job.


Abortion remains the canary in the mine in that it is used to always test the waters for women’s rights. But still and often abortion and misogyny are sidelined and misunderstood. There is no compromise about women’s bodies and our rights to decide about them. Abortion is not one issue. It is many. It is all of them. Women of every color and every class are impacted, most especially poor and undocumented women. So abortion is an economic issue. It is a racial issue. And, it is a woman’s issue simultaneously. It is therefore a human rights issue.


Reproductive rights are raced, and economic. Poverty is raced and sexed. But few public figures like the Pope, or Bernie Sanders really get this. Sanders recently decided to support Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate in Nebraska, even though Mello has had a problematic history on abortion. Sanders said: we cannot exclude people who disagree with us on one issue. Sorry, Bernie, abortion is not one issue, and it is not just “any” issue as such. Nancy Pelosi agreed with Bernie. Why is this still an issue?


For me, abortion is both controversial and non-negotiable. It clarifies that certain issues will always assist in uncovering what “revolutionary” means. Hillary Clinton says she wants abortion safe, legal and rare. #Feminism4the99 wants full access to abortion, and in a world that is egalitarian for each person. Make the world kind and equal and abortion will be different in a different world.


Pro-life democrats and republicans are not trying to make the world kinder. They are figuring out ways to punish the doctors who do abortions and the women who need them. I want a world that is not punishing, but restorative.





The need for coalition emerges out of the truth that no one resistance is enough. And, that no one “issue” is ever singular. Each issue, each individual, each structure is made of multiple problems, identities, and needs.


If individuals are always constituted by our multiple identities—no individual is ever singular in this sense—then the systems of power that attempt to control or release us will be structured in these multiple frames. Given this, all politics must be muti-plexed. And because this is the case, I look, in this interim, to build coalition strategies that connect the connections between sex, race, class, gender, nation, and…Fictions like the white working class do not help. Calling complexity identity politics does not assist.


When we work in coalition we temporarily can move beyond the limits of our politics. Unity is not the end goal here, but an intersectional/multiply differing solidarity is.


Expand sanctuary for all to include—all people of color, non-immigrant and immigrant, refugee and non-refugee—and Indigenous rights. Black, LatinX, Native,Trans, Bi, Disabled, Muslim refugee, and women across each of these identities. We must envision economic justice for all our multiple identities. This requires inclusive coalitions.


Coalitions are part of building solidarity with and between the differences. They are demanded by the complexity of our presences. We must move with and beyond the categories that push us apart like center and margin; we must move beyond binaries that separate and divide, and instead find a way towards connectedness that denies unity, or oneness, and instead images solidarity and its tensions.


This is a moment for cross-movement and intersecting actions that will create new alliances that we might not know or imagine yet. This means supporting autonomous actions that become cross movement through the intersections that exist within each.


BYP1000, BLM, Say Her Name, CTU, Fight for 15, ROC United, OUR Wal Mart, March 8 International Women’s Strike, Women’s March, economic justice, reproductive justice, the 3 R’s/Chicago—resist, reimagine, rebuild, immigrant rights, LGBTQIA rights, indigenous land rights, anti-militarism, pro-water rights, worker rights, feminism4the99, 100 women of color leaders, Black Women’s Blueprint—are just a few of the thousands of resistance groups in the US today.


The “Beyond the Moment” campaign, initiated by the national Black Lives Matter (BLM) network and their partners, that hailed May 1st, 2017 as a day to stand up against the ICE raids, and for worker’s rights, especially immigrant and undocumented worker’s rights. Black and Brown people, immigrant communities, the economically unstable, women, children, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, those working to protect our right to work and those fighting for our right to clean air and water, are all facing attacks because of a minority whose values are rooted in misogynist white supremacy,


Coalitions work to recognize and allow our complex inter-weavings, `double-jeopardy’, `adverse specificity’, ‘multiple status’, ‘both-ness’, all-ness, and `intersectionality’ of our being. These complex individual multiple identities exist within the structural systems of sex, gender, race and class. It is not enough to say that sex, class and race intersect with each other. They rather structure the selves and practices that already have multiple expressions. No one is ever just a member of a class in the singular sense; or simply a woman; or simply Black; or LatinX. So it is not about simply adding issues or identities or structures together but rather it is necessary to connect, blend, and marble them with the tensions that are inherent in difference and inequality.


In this process, it is important to remove binaries, such as race or class, and instead see them both, and simultaneously, so neither is separate from the other, but remains distinct, nevertheless. Displace the notion that there should be one center and with that rethink what is understood as the margins. We are connected and divided by the threads of sexism, racism, white privilege, militarism, environmental degradation, able-ism, heterosexism and transphobia. Sexist and racist violence oppresses so many of us, especially women of color, Native and immigrant women. So, there is a possible complex camaraderie in the making here.


Our work must commit to being radically inclusive. When one thinks of protecting the earth and climate this means naming environmental racism and environmental sexism as the hazards that they are. People do not all suffer in the same way from the climate disaster “we” all face: people of color live in areas that are the most at risk here and abroad. Women, especially disabled women of color face particular challenges as hurricanes hit, as was so clear after Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.


Poor people of every color face the misery of drought, of floods and tsunamis in more calamitous fashion, and poor people come in every sex, gender, sexual orientation, bodily ability, and geographical location. Climate change exaggerates these disparities so the resolution of these crises must address these inequities.


Bombs and missiles (their manufacture and the damage they wreak) heat the globe. One cannot support the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen without endangering human existence. Wars always involve violence, especially sexual violence, specifically of women of color, and women who are poor, older and young. We must end militarism and war to cool the earth and end violence of every kind.


Everything affects each of us but one’s race, and class, and sex and gender and geographical location, and able-ness, specifies the particular punishment each of us face. An anti-racist anti-militarist/imperialist, anti-misogynist climate justice demands that differences are recognized in order to find the huge commonality needed to save each of us and with us the planet.


Unity is not the goal. So let us move forward finding the connections, not expecting ease or immediate results. Maybe we could further the coalitions that are already started by also nurturing cross movement alliances on some of the demands below:


single payer health care for all

alternatives to prison

universal guaranteed income

full access to contraception and abortion

justice and freedom for Palestine

end the use of fossil fuels and ban fracking

affordable housing for anyone needing it

immigrant rights and sanctuary cities


Right now this work demands a loving generosity with each other as “we” try to find a way to go forward together. Whatever issue you are committed to, make sure to connect with others. “We” must demand everything from each other and ourselves to find the courage together to make a revolution. And making a revolution is a process that has no end in sight, but will create new possibilities.


So, yes—I am stuck and also ready to begin. If enough of us are ready “we” can start, again, now. And, take all that we have learned, and have been given, by earlier struggles and present ones, into the fire, humbly and courageously.





An Open Letter to Katha Pollitt

An open letter to Katha Pollitt

You wrote many of us on the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike and asked us why Palestine should be a feminist issue. We all wrote back and you obviously did not like what we wrote. You mention none of our responses to your queries in your recent piece, “Actually, Not Everything is a Feminist Issue”, and instead you just repeat your questions.


Your queries reflect the stance of a white imperial feminist, from a privileged site that does not need to demand full inclusion.



  1. Can feminism be too inclusive? My answer, no. Our feminism of the 99 percent cannot be too inclusive, too democratic, or too big.


  1. Once you widen the lens of feminism how do you know where to stop? My answer: “we” do not want to stop. For the past ½ century anti-imperial feminists in the heart of empire have been learning how to deepen, what you call widen, our gaze to see more and know more. “We” are hopefully catching up to our sisters of color across the globe.


  1. Must women save the whole world? I wonder which women you mean. But “we”–#femnists4the99, are not saving the world, “we” are saving ourselves and with us, the world. Yes, “we” must save our communities, our families, our planet, and thus ourselves from a rapacious, militarized, corporate power structure. Palestine is one critical, but not singular piece of this. As long as Palestine is colonized by Israel and the support of the U.S. there can be no world peace. The apartheid conditions in Palestine have become the challenge of this century as South African apartheid once was. But I already said this to you in our correspondence.


  1. What about other countries like Syria? or Iraq? or? Why does the International Women’s Strike (IWS) not name them? Because the question of Palestine lays embedded in these other sites and some of us do name these other conflicts. Each one of us may not be able to be present for each and every action. But “we” can support and sustain each other across differing commitments. The fact that there is so much to be done is not reason to recoil from it.


  1. Is feminism at risk of diffusing itself within the left? No. Feminism is multiple at its root/route. Women—trans and gay and cis—are leading Black Lives Matter and they are anti-racist feminists. Women of all colors are leaders of the $15 movement; Native women lead the Standing Rock and DAPL resistance. You see dispersion where I see complex and overlapping coalition building. Feminists connect differing movements and different movements exist within a #feminism4the99.


  1. Are feminists becoming “perfect ideologues” and looking for purity? No, #feminists4the99 are looking for solidarity, not unity; complexity, not purity. Differences are necessary and embraced. They enrich and extend us.


  1. How do you make a mass feminist movement? By reaching deep and wide. By naming the specific struggles that must be addressed and by doing so actually destroying boundaries and borders that require wars. And, this mass movement may and can become revolutionary if it is opened widely enough.


Katha you are holding feminism back, by keeping it defined by liberal and neo-liberal agendas. In the last decades I hope I have grown in my understanding of the complexity of white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. This has meant a constant engagement with women of color across the globe, most especially my Black feminist sisters here at home. My/our commitments to liberation must remain expansive and creative. Closure is not a goal here.


I have always treasured your defense of women’s right to abortion. But it is time for you to recognize that this singular focus should be used to broaden and deepen feminism, so that our multiple identities are always at the heart of everything. Your fabulous devotion to women’s rights to their bodies—their right to abortion, always—needs to grow and make sure that the color, race, nation, sexual preference of these bodies build the coalitions that are needed for the liberation of all women, and thereby, all of humanity. “We” women must control our bodies, but our bodies are multiple, complex and radically plural across this globe. Drop your imperial gaze and you will see more.


“We” live in impossible times. Economic inequality is at obscene and unconscionable levels; white supremacy continues to be murderous to people of color, especially Blacks; Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies create impossible conditions. A #feminism4the99 has no choice but to embed itself in these crosshairs.


You get it wrong. When anti-imperial, anti-racist feminists specify Palestine, or world hunger, we do not divide, but rather open the gates to an inclusive humanity. How can you ever be too inclusive? That is like saying, as neo-liberals do, that you are too equal, or too free, or too democratic, or too feminist.


You have clarified the difference between white imperial neo-liberal feminism and the #feminism4the99. I hope you can see the difference/s. If you can, join us.



The Many Ways To Strike on March 8: Rise, Resist, Organize, Dance, Dialogue, Refuse


The Many Ways to STRIKE on March 8: Rise, Resist, Organize, Dance, Dialogue, Refuse

The International Women’s Strike, US, on March 8 hopes to be a catalyst for the liberation of all women, cis and trans—of every color, sex, gender, class, nation, and identity—from every kind of exploitation. “We” have an opportunity in this moment that we should not ignore. There is a long labor history to the celebration of women on March 8. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/21/womens-day-strike-march-8-donald-trump A strike for women is more complex and multiple than the usual notion of strike. So much of the work women do takes place outside the factory or restaurant or day care unit, and is not paid at all. There are as many ways to strike, as there are ways that women labor.

Women always need to be imaginative and inventive with the political language that exists. So a strike for us, the “big inclusive” us means in part, to re-invent the meaning of strike. In established discourse a strike happens at one’s place of work, and work means a waged-labor site like a factory or a service job. And, a great many women, especially women of color, work at these sites. But work is happening elsewhere all the time, and most women do it whether they are working a traditional job or not. So, the IWS/US intends to strike in new ways that recognize the multiple and differing and complex forms of labor that all women do. So, there are many kinds of actions—recognizable and newly formed– that will be taking place throughout the country from California, to New York, to Wisconsin, to Washington, D.C., to Illinois.

The purpose of a strike is to stop the usual work being done and to make sure that people acknowledge that the work is not getting done. And it is not getting done because the worker says no, that, the labor is unfairly taken, stolen, un-remunerated, etc. For women, our labor is never paid its worth. And, there is a raced hierarchy to the exploitation. Often the labor is not paid at all. Almost all women labor as domestics in their own homes for no pay, and when women, particularly women of color, labor in someone else’s home, it is for super-exploitive wages.

Women also labor as the major consumers of necessities like food and clothing. This consumer work is dispersed and chaotic. The emotional work of family life is a full time job, but most women have other jobs as well. Women routinely multi-task so a triple day of labor is a matter of course: reproductive, productive, domestic, and consumer laboring goes on simultaneously. So, the IWS/US asks women to refuse, or strike on March 8, in new creative ways that reflect their complex lives. These actions will amplify the already on-going mobilizations planned by women workers in the workforce. These unions and work groups are also planning with new strategies that protect workers who cannot afford to be fired; so there will be partial work stoppages, the use of vacation and sick days, etc. http://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a43109/women-strike-history-significance/

The guide to “us” all is to make our labor visible especially if it seems invisible to the larger world. As a friend suggested to me: maybe instead of refraining from the invisible caring work that we do for our families we can make it visible: make a Facebook post and/or a Tweet describing the labor of the day. And, tell others to do it to. “Today I made 3 breakfasts, did 2 loads of laundry, shopped for dinner, went to the office for 4 hours, came home, made dinner, comforted a distraught child and…” The national planning committee is hoping to set up a log-on to the IWS/US website so women can keep a labor tally for the day, and collectively.

And, for whatever part of your labor you refrain from on March 8, publicize it in as many ways as you can. And, with the time this frees you up from your work we hope you will join with other women to: support each other, listen to each other, organize against what feels tyrannical to you. THERE IS NO ACTION THAT IS TOO SMALL. HOLD A SIGN OUTSIDE YOUR PLACE OF WORK OR SUPER MARKET. ALL YOU NEED IS TWO PEOPLE TO DO THIS. OUR WORK IS DISPERSED TO MULITPLE SITES SO OUR RESISTANCE WILL BE AS WELL. Build small and large communities with others that you will trust and resist with. This is what an anti-racist/anti capitalist FEMINIST revolutionary process looks like.

The International Women’s Strike/US and the Women’s March, initiated on January 21, share similar commitments for March 8, with the Women’s March campaign to highlight “a day with out a woman”, along with our recognizing the multiple forms of labor, paid and not paid. We are coordinating together when possible, and also may have autonomous commitments. We are doing what women do: partnering, sharing, endorsing, and embracing one another, and across difference. We all are hoping to grow our coalitions while at the same time many of us have uncompromising commitments to anti racism, anti colonialism, anti misogyny, and anti-neoliberalism. Out of this unknown mix of commitments we are growing a new feminism for the 99 percent. Do not be too ready to say that this cannot work. Give us a chance to make it work. https://www.thenation.com/article/striking-on-international-womens-day-is-not-a-privilege/

It is urgent to find and build the camaraderie that develops as coalitions across differences of race and class and gender and sexual identity become possibilities. All of these actions taking place before and on March 8 are getting us ready to confront and dismantle the present political regime. “We” are getting ready for whatever is coming. “We” are building a revolutionary resistance. March 8 is not an end to itself. It is a process of mobilizing new alliances and coalitions involving risk and trust.

If you think sexual violence towards women is part of everyday life, especially in places of work, if you are ready to dismantle white supremacy, if you want a living wage, if you want to have access to contraception and abortion facilities, if you believe in universal and affordable health care, if you want to end the wars everywhere, if you want to end all deportations of immigrants, if you want to welcome refugees until the wars end, if you want your city to be a sanctuary in this unsettled time, if you want to build schools rather than prisons, if you want guns controlled and then eliminated, if you want Palestinians to be free and equal, if you want to save the planet from environmental devastation, if you want every woman who needs an abortion across this globe the ability to get one, if you want to end hunger and poverty….you want to strike with “us” on March 8. All you need to do is to decide on one action related to the labor(s) that you do, and share it with others.

Women are already readying to do this. A doctor in Miami, Florida says she will be standing with IWS/US while she treats her uninsured and undocumented patients. A friend from South Africa says he will invite a speaker to his university on March 8 who will speak about “women, race and revolution”. In Poland women write that they will take no more abuse and denial of their rights to their bodies. They say they have the best weapon available to them in order to win: their solidarity. Tocan a una, tocan a todas. They say their rulers should be scared of them. I say, let us join our Polish sisters.

In Washington D.C. on March 8th women workers from around the country will join together in a massive rally along with women of One Billion Rising who rise against all violence towards any women– they demand an end to sexual violence and all its iterations—at work, at home, in war, against the earth. They will surround the Department of Labor with their bodies. They—the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), and Jobs with Justice, and the National Nurses United, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, and OUR Wal Mart, along with V-Day activists, will demonstrate, and rally, and say no to exploitation, to work place violence, and yes to a living wage, paid leave and labor rights at work. https://www.facebook.com/ROCUnited/ These women of all colors express the solidarity “we” all wish to achieve. Their rally will be done in solidarity with women around the world rising for racial, sexual, economic justice. Join them if you can.

Women will rally in Washington Square Park, New York City to publically stand together for a feminism against the cruelty of neoliberalism and deportations and criminalization of Black and Brown people. They will be organizing a feminism of and for the 99 percent.

Nawal el Saadawi is standing with us from Egypt. Years ago when US women asked her how could support the revolution in Egypt during the Arab Spring, she said: “make your own revolution, and free the rest of the world from your imperial government.” And, that is what “we” will hopefully begin to do now.

Figure out what makes sense for you and your friends and get organized for March 8. When you read the IWS/US declaration of purpose you will see a large and inclusive set of commitments. https://womenstrikeus.org/ It is a feminism against racist/capitalist hetero-patriarchy; against an anti-imperial feminism, against anti-colonial feminism; and for an anti-white supremacy anti-rape culture feminism. Even if you are hesitant, even if you disagree with some of the commitments, even if you think the vision is incomplete, join us. Join us, and engage with us. We will build a new revolutionary comraderie together.

The women’s actions, and rallies, and marches on March 8 are part of a process that began with the first resistances against the Trump regime after his inauguration, beginning with the Women’s March on Washington, and its sister marches throughout the country and globe. Acts of resistance have continued apace ever since that moment. The International Women’s Strike/US will continue this process. And the process is readying us for when we must all come together and dismantle this regime. No one knows when this moment will occur, but we do know how to build the camaraderie to get us ready. Revolutionary resistance is a process. Help us begin and continue to nurture this process.

“We” the organizers of the IWS/US are looking to build coalitions with and between our shared and differing needs. Unity is not needed–just trust and a belief in the possible.

Check out our web page for a local action. If you don’t see one, make one. https://womenstrikeus.org/

A note: Here are some possible hashtags you can begin to reach out to others with.


#BreadAndRoses   #WomenWorkersRising   #InternationalWomenStrike/US

#WomenStrike #ADayWithoutAWoman   #AWoman’sWorkIsNeverDone

#WomenRisingMarch8     #WomenUnitedMarch8


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.







The Everywhereness of White Supremacy; from Glacier to Standing Rock, to Tulsa, to Charlotte, to

The EverywhereNess of White Supremacy; from Glacier to Standing Rock, to Tulsa, to Charlotte, to…

The EverywhereNess of White Supremacy;  from Glacier to Standing Rock, to Tulsa, to Charlotte, to…


Zillah Eisenstein


I have just returned from hiking in Glacier National Park. It is a strange place to have been—during this hate-filled racist/misogynist Presidential election alongside the repeated brutal police killings of Black people.


I am white. I am also an anti-racist feminist activist. I was 10 years old when my family picketed against Woolworth’s segregated lunch counters. I have wondered most of my lifetime how one remains truly antiracist when one is white, when white privilege so often operates invisibly, insidiously, and always. My recent hiking takes me here, again.


I left hoping that the election noise would recede as we unplugged. We flew west, to Spokane, Washington and then drove through Idaho to Montana. Idaho felt open and expansive. The forests are dense and tall. Trucks filled with harvested trees, soon to be lumber barrel by.  Crosses line the sides of the highways noting people killed in car accidents.   Everyone killed appears to be Christian. There were no visible death symbols for Jews, or Muslims, or Natives. And we saw no Blacks driving, or anywhere.


As we traveled and the media noise receded I was confronted with disturbing silences. And silences are most often where white privilege hides, especially for whites. For those of you who are white and reading this let me say from the start: I know that what I write here may not be universally true to Glacier Park, or the drivers in Idaho, or the erasure of Native peoples, but it is true.


It is also true that racism always has been threaded with sexual violence and rape during the dispossession of Native peoples and the exploitation of Black women and men in chattel slavery. They are glued together historically and silenced in similar ways. And just at the time of this writing there is the naming of rampant sexual harassment in the National parks. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/09/22/top-park-service-official-acknowledges-no-one-has-been-fired-for-sexual-misconduct/


Structural racism creates white spaces, and does it most often invisibly and silently, as Carolyn Finney notes in her Black Faces, White Spaces. http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/10290.html The history of the process is erased. The space is cleansed. And in spaces that are racially mixed people of color are already encoded against this naturalized whiteness. So a Black person is already doing something before they do anything. Their lack of power is structural, structured into their absent presence. What they do individually has no validity.


Richard and I saw no Blacks, nor Indigenous people, nor South Asians in the 8 days we were there. We visited three of the big Park Lodges for our meals, stayed in the cabins, drove Going to the Sun Road, hiked through camping grounds, and many of the trails. And, we only saw white people. When I asked one of the (white) lodge managers if this was always the case he was not sure what I meant. Glacier Park is a segregated white space.


I wonder what my parents would think of me hiking in Glacier. When I was fifteen and lived in Columbus, Ohio, I asked for permission to attend a swimming party. The pool was on the North side of town that was mostly white. I was told I could not attend because it was a segregated space, even if not legally so. My parents insisted that I think deeply about which spaces I wanted to inhabit.


After my father’s horrid political tenure battle at Ohio State University, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. We lived in the Black neighborhood in faculty housing bordering Atlanta University. I went to a newly integrated white school near-by. There was one Black student. When I walked in the halls with him I was called a N—– Lover. I felt totally alone and never thought about my privilege as white in these early years.


It is pretty well known that (most) people of color do not visit the National Parks. http://www.colorlines.com/articles/why-people-color-don’t-frequent-national-parks. President Obama called attention to this when the first family vacationed in Yosemite this past summer. While we hiked Glacier, while white, seeing whites, I wondered if we should have come. Are the federal parks just another form of segregated swimming pools?


I thought more. How much of Black Absence is about safety, and the fear that Blacks, and Muslims and Native Americans live with today? Why explore unknown spaces when the ones you inhabit are already life threatening, or have been stolen? I did wonder about all these white people fascinated to see a bear, but not wanting it to confront or hurt them. Think about it. A Black person is lucky to get through an ordinary day.


Here are a few of my notes written during our time. I think you will see both the privilege of enjoying the beauty and my continual discomfort.


Day 1


We started the day headed from Spokane towards Coeur d’Alene and then Sandpoint, Idaho. The vistas were so rich—Hemlock and Spruce trees everywhere, lakes continuously in view, expansive blue sky, flat valleys against the high mountains, gorgeous farms. Amidst the beauty of sky and terrain was ranch-style raw poverty sprinkled through out.  Most of the people we were seeing, both in the towns and in cars, are white.


A huge sign in the mountains read TRUMP THE BITCH and we cringed. As a feminist I know we—all women no matter color or class—are in this context, bitches.


Road signs in Idaho obliquely named with whispers of a Native past remind me to see the Native/indigenous peoples who are segregated elsewhere and to remember the settler colonialism of this country. https://www.google.com/#q=ward+churchill+books And, I try to link where I am to the ongoing historic and massive rebellion of Native peoples against the North Dakota pipeline, at Standing Rock.


Day 2


We drive along the Going to the Sun Road and see amazing vistas, and mountains surging in the blue sky, and lakes that are perfectly both blue and green. I am thinking what utter beauty, but knowing that nature is not natural, nothing is. Not the glaciers that are clearly melting, nor racism, nor whiteness. I am thinking white people made racism.


We drove into Glacier—eager to get our bodies moving and stretched out. We parked our car at Lake MacDonald along with everyone else. There were tons of people—parking and milling around. But did I say that in all these people we saw not one Black person? Whiteness, in this silent exclusivity, rules.


Most of the afternoon and into early evening we hiked. Richard asks, do you see the moon? It is just a sliver. Do you see these huckleberries? This is what the bears are looking for. Do you see this scat? It is from a bear and there are huckleberries in it. Richard is wearing a can of bear spray.


We stayed at Rising Sun Lodge for the first night. This name elicits the legacy of Indigenous peoples, but not enough. Silent noises occupy my mind. Should I be here? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002V1I6EI/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


Day 4


Our first morning at Lake MacDonald I overhear a white older couple ask the waitress to warm their coffee cups. She brought hot water. Others—all white—

Are annoyed that there had been no egg delivery due to snow. Breakfasts would have to be eaten with no choice of eggs. I thought, white class privilege being dumped on a white waitress.


It was very much already fall in Glacier–with amazing yellows and different kinds of green. There were no reds or orange because there are no Maples and Oaks.

Life cycles seem so at ease in the forest. There is forest fire residue everywhere mixed in with the new. Death and life are both present together. Neither hides or silences the other.


Day 5


This was a huge day of everything. We climbed 16 miles of up-and-down trails noting bear scat. Rich would make these wild noises to announce our presence. By now I thought that we did not belong where we were. That the park was someone else’s land, and that there should be markers and memorials everywhere we were walking. White privileged settler colonialism birthed this gorgeous park. White people, like me, not Native Americans now populate it.


Interestingly, the waiters in the lodges and service areas, in September, are from Japan and China. Xanterra, the contracted company for park services, hires them to fill out the latter part of the season, given their later start date for college. I want to know more about this.


Day 6


The day started at 38 and reached 68 degrees by time we were hiking up towards the glaciers. Logan Pass was closed due to snow so we headed to Many Glacier where we spent the night in a lodge sitting right on an alpine lake. The smells and sounds are wonderful. But the racism is still absently present everywhere.


Our few thoughts from this day: weather happens and dominates and it should; the Blackfoot homelands adjoining the Park have poverty written into the earth; fall happens differently and at differing times across the planet; the Continental divide is geography at its best.


We go to Logan Pass tomorrow—and a word about Logan Pass. I researched it upon our return. It is named for William Richard Logan, the son of an Army captain who was no friend to the Blackfoot, who inhabited and hunted on Glacier land long before it became a federal park. Logan referred to Native Americans as “natural beggars and bummers”. Such racism is deeply embedded in other histories of the national parks as well. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/07/anniversary-national-parks-racist-history-madison-grant



Day 8


We hike to the top of Mount Apgar at 5200 feet and the uphill was challenging. The glaciers are melting. The planet is under siege. It is not being cared for. It is responding in the only way it knows how. I see racism in the melting glaciers.


We finally make it to the high peaks of Logan Pass. Despite many signs noting, “bear activity” we saw none. I had already decided to crumple downward and play dead if one unexpectedly approached. After all, I am in their space.


AND, our take-away from Glacier: This fabulous/amazing Park was not an uninhabited space at the start. The land in large part was appropriated, colonized, invaded. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-transit-of-empire

Historical crimes happened here. http://thenewpress.com/books/terra-nullius


And yet, and also, this public space would never have been built in our present neo-liberal racist world–the labor it took to build it is phenomenal. AND, this park/public space is in the process of vanishing today due to the neo-liberal climate crisis of capitalist-racist-patriarchy. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/environmentalisms-racist-history


We left the park late afternoon and drove back through Montana into Idaho. Instead of thinking about grizzlies I was thinking about Trump. And by time we turned on a TV at the Spokane airport hotel we were hearing of more killings of Black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Columbus, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Each of them are innocent Blacks going about their lives—trying to deal with a broken down car on the freeway, a frightened child himself running from police, another, picking up his child from school.


Given white supremacy, just “being Black” is dangerous. So much so that the Massachusetts Supreme Judiciary Court has decided that Black men have a “legitimate reason to run from the police”, and that “fleeing should not be seen as suspicious”. In these circumstances, walking, let alone hiking are dangerous.


And what about my white privilege and me? I have offered some of my process for others to think with. Seeing our/my own white privilege is a process that is uneven and challenging. White supremacy is always changing and modernizing, as racism and its practices morph newly. I am inside it at the same time I am trying to see it, know it, and change it. This is part of the rub—the very supremacy that blinds me because I am inside it can be seen and is seen by those excluded from it. The visible invisibility for whites is always visible to Blacks and Indigenous peoples. I think about this daily with all my beloved friends of color.


As a white anti-racist feminist I need to be more than an ally. I need to be what Awesomely Luvvie asks of us: to be a co-conspirator. It is up to white people to fix racism because we made/make it. (http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2016/09/white-people-and


Meanwhile, at the very least, we need to start a petition to change the name of Logan pass. And demand reparations for Native Americans along with Black people. And, did I say—stop killing Black bodies. In the few days that I have been finishing this writing two more Black men have been killed, and both were calling for help during medical crises.


One should not need white privilege to take a walk, or hike, or simply to stay alive.