“Where are all the women?”

Los Angeles—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 at this particular march certainly numbered in the thousands, but nowhere near the half million that were estimated to have attended the Women’s March on Washington on Jan 21. Lately there has been renewed 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, just like there was in the wake of enormous antiwar demonstrations that occurred immediately before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Thousands of students protested on Feb. 1, 2017 at the University of California-Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulos' aim to begin a campaign against allowing the University to continue as a sanctuary campus that protests immigrant students.

Thousands of students protested on Feb. 1, 2017 at the University of California-Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulos’ aim to begin a campaign against allowing the University to continue as a sanctuary campus that protests immigrant students.

This task of the Left is indeed daunting: take as an example a city council meeting in South Pasadena, Calif., on Feb 1. The mayor and council members began the meeting by sharing pictures of themselves and their friends 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 was passed unanimously, over the objections of homeless rights advocates, who tried to argue in public comment that its likely effect would be to further criminalize the homeless.

Insofar as the Latina speaker 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.

(In this task of education, white people cannot actually get to a point where we have done “enough,” but it is fair to say we have to do much more.)

At the same time, the Latina speaker’s question, “Where are all the women?” performs a service for patriarchy. Although she presumably did this unconsciously, she was in essence laying the full weight of the responsibility of white privilege onto white women. This is obviously unfair. Not only are white women responsible for much less of white capital accumulation, but when they try to do something about the conditions undergirding the magnitude of that accumulation—like protest an incoming racist administration—they are invariably criticized for doing something other than their prescribed (proscribed?) role in patriarchal society; that is, to do something other than perform the uncompensated work which makes possible the accumulation of male wealth.

As before, men (in general) have not expended very much effort to challenge other men to recognize these facts about the basis of their very real wealth and power. This whole situation bears another question:

Where are all the men?

–Buddy Bell
March 20, 2017

 

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