From the March-April 2018 issue of News & Letters
by Terry Moon, Managing Editor
Women have changed the world through an incredible and sustained activism based on a humanism that runs like a revolutionary red thread through an amazing array of actions, demonstrations and statements. This development is based on over 50 years of a movement that the founder of Marxist-Humanism, Raya Dunayevskaya, characterized as “Woman as Revolutionary Force and Reason.”
Today’s manifestations are most obviously seen in both the Women’s Marches, which were not limited to the U.S. but spread across the entire world; and what became the #MeToo movement, which likewise is now worldwide.
The Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, was the launch of the resistance to racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, and xenophobic fascism made so much worse by the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. One year later, the January 2018 Women’s Marches proved that the struggle continues undiminished.
#MeToo’s significance is shown in the deep questioning of the whole rape culture that pervades the U.S. and the world. This questioning points to the need to fundamentally transform relations between men and women, and smash once and for all the idea that women are less than human.
WOMEN MARCH FOR A HUMAN WORLD, NOT DEMOCRATS
Many on the Left join the mainstream media in viewing—and dismissing—the Women’s Marches as merely fodder for the Democratic Party, and that does describe some of the March’s recognized organizers. But even if one stopped with bourgeois elections, what the marches represent to so many is not admiration for the Democratic Party, but a first negation of the horrific vision of the world the Republicans are determined to impose on everyone.
Rather than being grounded in the idea that the masses of women are backward and unthinking, it is what marchers actually say that brought them out as well as their signs that tell a different and more radical story.
A woman marching in Chicago told News & Letters: “We did this last year and it inspired us. It gave rise to activism in a generation that didn’t have it. I appreciate and understand my body and women have a right to a choice.” Her sign read: “If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?”
Her friend said: “Sexual harassment and abuse have always been around. We all need to stand up and say, ‘No, this kind of thing is not going to happen anymore.’” Her sign was a quote from Kyle Stephens, one of the young women who testified against serial child molester Larry Nassar:
“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
HOMEMADE SIGNS TELL RADICAL TALE
Two Latinas spoke to us, one saying, “I’m a social worker and I’m marching because I see what Trump’s policies are doing to my clients. It’s wrong; he is hurting those who can’t fight back.” Her sign read, “Together we rise,” with a drawing of an arm and a clenched fist wearing a bracelet reading “Sí Se Puede” (Yes We Can). Her friend’s sign read: “Make tacos not war. Viva la Mujer! (Long live Women!) We can, we have, we will!” A young Black woman’s sign read, “Don’t hide, don’t cover for sex predators.” A sign held by two Arab men proclaimed: “Allah wants me to be a feminist.”
Other signs—all homemade—announced: “I support Dreamers,” “Global reproductive justice NOW!” “Ningún ser humano es ilegal. No human being is illegal,” “End misogyny and racism in the Gay community,” “I am not free while any woman is unfree,” “Make racists afraid again,” “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s trash,” “Justice over comfort, equality over privilege, empathy over greed.” (See report of the Women’s March in the Bay Area.)
While marchers were majority white, those who blather that the Women’s Marches are a “white women’s march,” erase the strong and vibrant participation by women of color, disabled women, and Gay, Lesbian and Trans women.
Those who joined in the marches, who talked to participants, who read the signs and who experienced the solidarity, anger and determination of those there, know first hand the power of this movement. They are the best answer to those who aim to limit it, who disregard it or belittle it.
What should not be missed, but too often is, is the vision of a new society implicit in what marchers express in words, chants and signs. The task is to make that vision explicit. The same holds true of the #MeToo movement.
WOMEN ARE NOT THINGS
As with so many movements in the U.S., Black women began #MeToo when in 1997 Tarana Burke had a MeToo realization she couldn’t then articulate as she listened to a 13-year-old talking of her experience of sexual abuse. Burke explained that then, “I didn’t have a response or a way to help her in that moment, and I couldn’t even say ‘me too.’”1“The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags,” by Sandra E. Garcia, The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2017. But she was determined to change that and she did.
The #MeToo movement stands on her shoulders as well as the more recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) coalition. BLM, by their very existence and way of working, by the fact that their founders were Black women—Queer, cis, Trans—and by their insistence that Black lives also meant Black women’s lives and that they matter, foreshadowed #MeToo.
The BLM-initiated campaign “Say Her Name” brought to light the many Black women murdered by police and others, and recognized that for much too long the names of Black women, of Black Trans women, of women of color, who had been killed by police, by pimps, by poverty, by racism, had been ignored, had been rendered name-less. They are as much a part of the #MeToo movement as those who fought Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar, who spoke out and were finally heard.
What women brought into the light of day was how completely intertwined with society, with money, power, prestige is the right these men feel they have to rape and abuse women and girls, to ruin our lives; even to kill us; how entitled they feel to have sex with—that is, rape—whoever they choose, and how righteous they are in meting out punishment to women who dare reject them, or try, and how society supports them in every destructive step they take.
#METOO IS NOW WORLDWIDE
That #MeToo is also #YesAllWomen is seen in how the movement has spread worldwide.
♀ In Sweden, that supposed bastion of sexual equality, Cissi Wallin, whose 2011 police report of sexual assault was dismissed “within weeks,” saw the #MeToo movement in the U.S. and outed a well-known Leftist columnist on Instagram with her statement that he had drugged her and then violently raped her years earlier. Quickly “tens of thousands of Swedish women signed a series of appeals in the national press detailing incidents of brutal sexual assault and harassment in almost every professional field…”2“Yes, It Happens in Sweden, #Too” by Jenny Nordberg, The New Your Times, Dec. 15, 2017.
♀ In South Korea, a Harvey Weinstein clone and longtime director of the National Theater of Korea was compelled to apologize for 18 years of abuse after an actress reported his sexual abuse on facebook. His fall was preceded by women speaking out in other professions, including furniture workers, nurses, students, women in corporate and legal professions and even poets.
♀ In France, where actress Catherine Deneuve had trashed the #MeToo movement as something feminist women there would not embrace, other French women made themselves part of the movement and accused the well-known Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan of sexual assault; and he was only one of many.
♀ In Turkey on Nov. 25, women defied President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s phony “state of emergency” and rallied in several cities in solidarity and support of the #MeToo movement.
♀ Then of course there is Britain, where #MeToo seems to penetrate every corner of society from Parliament to the BBC, including the sexist President Club, whose wealthy, entitled men used charity for children as an excuse to savage the women forced to wait on them in sexually provocative outfits.
♀ Other countries where women have made themselves part of the movement include Morocco, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Canada, China, Israel, with more to come.
#METOO THE LATEST IN LONG MOVEMENT
Just as the #MeToo movement in the U.S. was preceded by women like Burke and others, so too, this #MeToo so-called “moment” is actually the result of decades of struggles by women against horrendous experiences of everyday abuse. Every country has its own unique struggle.
In Mexico, for example, it took the creation of a new word, “femicide,” to describe the mass killings of women, many in cities bordering the U.S. The movement includes women who were brutalized by the police in San Salvador Atenco over a decade ago and have been fighting for justice ever since.
In India, 23-year-old Jyoti Singh’s horrible rape and murder in 2012 gave impetus to a movement that had been waged for decades against an intransigent government and police. It broke out again in Kolkata, where over 100,000 people marched on Sept. 20, 2014, for women’s freedom and against police violence after a college student was assaulted and the government and college refused to act. Yet still today, New Delhi is roiling again after the brutal rape of an eight-month-old baby girl in January.
In the village of Lote 8, Guatemala, 11 Mayan Q’eqchi’ women were brutally raped by Vancouver-based Skye Resources security personnel, police and Guatemalan soldiers in January 2007 while they were being illegally evicted from their land. In the attack their village was destroyed. Since then they have been fighting for their rights both in Guatemala’s notoriously corrupt courts, and in Canadian courts, as Skye Resources was bought by the Canadian company, Hudbay Minerals/CGN. Their case, even if they don’t win, is groundbreaking: it would be the first time a Canadian company would be tried in a Canadian court for harms and crimes committed in another country.
In Turkey a savage sexual assault and murder on Feb. 11, 2015, of Özgecan Aslan, a 19-year-old student, brought forth thousands of demonstrators, mostly women, throughout the country and beyond. Aslan was raped and then stabbed to death by the driver of the bus she was taking home. Over 5,000 came to her funeral, where women refused the orders of the Imam to step back during the ceremony and instead stepped forward to carry her coffin and to bury her, vowing: “No other man’s hands would touch her again.”
These four countries help show the decades-long struggle that women have been fighting to transform the world into one where women are comprehended as human and are treated as such.
FIGHTING THE BACKLASH
Now the #MeToo movement is facing a ruthless and rising backlash. Attacks come from individual men; from the alt-Right; from some in the Left who also shamefully trash the Women’s Marches; from those in President Donald Trump’s administration like Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, who is deliberately destroying the safeguards against rape and harassment that women on college campuses fought decades for; from others in President Trump’s administration; and especially from Trump himself, who has made no secret of his hostility to women who dare to fight back against rape and sexual harassment and abuse.
It is clear that the struggle is far from over. That is something we expect to see March 8 on International Women’s Day only a few days after we go to press, when women will, no doubt, make that day a time to increase their demands and the movement.
When something so profound as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement emerges from below, from the movement from practice, it is incumbent on those whose vision is to create a new human world to actually hear—and make explicit—the theory, the Reason implicit in that mass outpouring. What is clear is that the demands women are making are for a very different world than the one we now inhabit. It is one where human beings are valued as human beings and that is a world it will take a revolution in permanence to create.
Celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month and learn:
♀ How women started the Russian Revolution of 1917
♀ What were women’s contributions to the revolution in Portugal in 1974
♀ That 100,000 women marched for abortion rights in Italy and brought down the government in 1976
AND SO MUCH MORE
Get both Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Liberation: Reaching for the Future
and Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution
both by Raya Dunayevskaya
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