Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Women Do Wrong. David Brooks And Others Explain Why The Women's Marches Failed.

That, my erudite and kind friends, could be a title for many of my blog posts, because the media does tend to keep us very informed about all the ways women fail.  But it's only a title for the criticisms of the Women's Marches last Saturday by conservatives.*

Those marches were a tremendous success.  The numbers marching might have reached 4.5 million worldwide!  Many who marched had never marched before, and they were marching against the ideologies of one Donald J. Trump and his Republican acolytes.

How to turn all that into a disaster?  Hmm.  Think, think!

I know!  Criticize the women for their looks.  Tell people that only ugly or fat or lonely or unhappy women would march,  and that only failed women would care about their rights!

Or make fun of the very idea that women might be equal.  You can do that by pretending that you are cracking jokes about your shirts needing ironing or about your sandwiches not getting made.  Because the only proper role for women is as servants to their menfolks.

If that doesn't work, criticize the women for not marching against the Right Thing, the thing which really matters, and carefully spell out the right thing you wanted them to march for.

It could be economic class.  It could be the horrible situation of women in Saudi Arabia.  It could be whatever the more informed and more expert guy who writes the criticism deems the correct object of the march.  And at no place, ever, make the assumption that someone else might organize those other marches.**  Just insist that American women must march against what you tell them is the relevant goal, while also spending the money, time and energy to organize that march.  For you.

David Brooks has written a whole column on those thoughts, (man-)explaining to us small-brained women what we should have marched for.  You are going to love his thoughts!

Let me begin with the end to his column:

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Bolds are mine.

Imagine the signs at that alternative march!

"One Dollar, One Vote!"  "The 0.1 Percent!  Job Creators!"
"Catholic Church Working To Keep Women From Priesthood!"
 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Oops!  Now that one seems to rule out a march by women altogether.

Brooks loved Mark Lilla's article about how identity politics is killing the Democratic Party!  

Finally, identity politics is too small for this moment. On Friday, Trump offered a version of unabashed populist nationalism. On Saturday, the anti-Trump forces could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.
Instead, the marches offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them. The definition of America is up for grabs. Our fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow. But the marches couldn’t escape the language and tropes of identity politics.

Actually, I'm very willing to march for David Brooks' right to have a safe abortion, to have access to birth control and to use Planned Parenthood clinics for his PAP-smears and for referrals to mammograms.  More than fifty percent of Americans need such services at some point in their lives, you know.  I wouldn't call anger at the killing of those services mere identity politics.

Then note Brooks deafness and blindness when it comes to Trumpian identity politics:  Trump's rallies were not just about white identity politics, they were also about male identity politics.  He preached about the building of the wall which would offer very few jobs for women.  He praised the veterans and the armed forces and the police, all occupations with many more men than women.  He never praised nurses or school teachers, or at least I never heard him praise those groups.

Then those references to pink hats and pussies in the marches!  I'm not cruel enough to write that David Brooks is utterly clueless (though I just wrote it and he is).  But surely he might vaguely recall how Trump boasted about grabbing pussies because he is a star?  How that is sexual harassment if the woman whose pussy is grabbed is not first asked for permission?  How Trump rates women based on their looks?  How all things pink are associated with women and thus made into something soggy and powerless and how turning the color pink into a rally symbol is therefore meaningful?

But nope.  None of that matters to our David, because women were supposed to invent a new patriotism, one that he could support, one that somehow would bind all Americans together (except for that fifty-plus percent who happen to be women), and that patriotism should be based on capitalism and the Bible.  Also, of course, on gender and racial equality, but, ladies, please, keep that in the background.

Brooks tells us that the central problem in the United States is not patriarchy or that "difference" is not adequately celebrated.  Instead:

The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea. 
I have no rutting*** idea what he means by that, to be honest, possibly because I have lady brainz.  But I would think that "rebinding a functioning polity" is a problem that largely belongs to the fanatics in his own party, the ones who put Trump on the throne and the white male supremacist Bannon as the Trump Whisperer behind the throne.  And the "binding American idea" of the past left an enormous number of people outside, or below it, as not real citizens.  That included African-Americans and also white women.  It's hard for me to see how that idea can be modernized without making sure that all Americans qualify for the full rights of citizens.

Finally, I must stress that all these attempts tell us how very successful the marches were, how they are worrying the right.  This is a Good Thing.  Yes, the resistance must continue, and, yes, we must find ways to keep the newly awakened marchers active and involved.  But the marches mattered.  Even their emotional impact mattered greatly, whatever David Brooks might mutter.


*  This post is not about the disagreements from other directions or inside the movement.  That deserves a separate post.

**  Have you ever noticed how men, whether feminist or not, are not expected to march for the oppressed women in Saudi Arabia?  Not even anti-feminist women are expected to march for those women.  Only feminist women are expected to do any work that might benefit women, one half of all humankind.

That suggests to me that the rest of the right-wing world is AOK with women not being able to do much anything in Saudi Arabia.  Those Saudi women are only used as a reminder or a threat that things here could be a lot worse and that American women should count their blessings.  If the concerns were real, then we would see the critics organizing marches to benefit women in Saudi Arabia.

***  Taken from the Firefly television series.