From the May-June 2017 issue of News & Letters
Los Angeles—“Where are all the women?” That’s a rhetorical question posed by a Latina speaker at one of the several recent and massive immigrants’ rights marches in downtown L.A.
The crowd numbered in the thousands, but nowhere near the half million that attended the Women’s March on Washington on Jan 21. Lately there has been frustration over the Left’s inability to transform one-time demonstrators into a politically aware and active force to help enact life-and-death policy changes.
This task of the Left is daunting: take as an example a city council meeting in South Pasadena, Calif., on Feb 1. The mayor and council members began by sharing pictures of themselves attending the L.A. women’s march, then moved on to hear an ordinance to ban sleeping in one’s car, even on private property. The ordinance passed unanimously, over the objections of homeless rights advocates, who argued that it would further criminalize the homeless.
Insofar as the Latina speaker at the rally was implicitly castigating the stereotypically aloof white liberal, her question should carry a profoundly relevant impact for white activists in general, liberal or otherwise, who have not done enough to educate other white people about: 1) the immediate challenges faced by immigrants and people of color, and 2) the unpaid labor they have done to make possible the accumulation of white wealth.
At the same time, the question, “Where are all the women?” performs a service for patriarchy. Although she presumably did this unconsciously, she was laying the full weight of the responsibility of white privilege onto white women. This is unfair.
Not only are white women responsible for much less of white capital accumulation, but when they try to do something—like protest an incoming racist administration—they are invariably criticized for doing something other than their prescribed role in patriarchal society: to perform the uncompensated work which makes possible the accumulation of male wealth.
Men (in general) have not expended much effort to challenge other men to recognize the basis of their very real wealth and power. This whole situation bears another question:
Where are all the men?