Of course it is early days but can the movement set up to oppose Donald Trump, the new President of the United States be successful. Or is it all much ado about nothing? The turnout for the marches was very impressive. The question is whether it can be maintained. According to the NY times there was a four (4) hour meeting directly afterward in New York by the organisers to think of ways to keep and build on the momentum. The danger is that it will frizzle out like so many other spontaneous movements.
An article in the NY Times by Farah Stockman makes disturbing reading as it points out that the issue of race was raised almost immediately by black activists. A comment by one such activist from Brooklyn wrote on the Facebook page encouraging participation, “…white allies. Listen more and talk less.”
On reading the above quote a wedding planner, Jennifer Willis from South Carolina was put off attending the rally. She had planned to do so with her daughters but felt that the message did not make her feel welcome.
While we may understand to a degree the activist’s attitude as black people are on the bottom rung in American society. Nonetheless, her belligerence put Jennifer Willis off. This was not an isolated incident as Stockman pointed out that the issue of race “erupted every day, exhilarating some and alienating others”. Tension was also visible in Tennessee and Louisiana.
Another damning point raised by Stockman was that Trump campaigned against ‘political correctness’ and won with half of white female voters supporting him. I’m sure that Trump had more than one issue on which he campaigned. However, the article highlights the divisions in American society which make it almost impossible to build a cohesive movement against his brand of politics.
A further divisive illustration comes from the Portland NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The body refused to become a part of, “…a white – women kumbaya march”. The main grievance was that the organising committee was not diverse enough and no speaker was arranged on the question of race. www.wweek.com/2017/01/11
Nonetheless, the march did go ahead and 100,000 turned out in the pouring rain to show their opinion. It is unclear whether the NAACP found a solution and participated.
Division was also evident in the choice of partner organisations. It appears that pro-life groups were not welcomed as found by the New Wave Feminists whose stance includes: anti-abortion, anti-war and against the death penalty. The complaint of the group was that they had been accepted onto the rooster but later ‘kicked off’, as were similar groups; ‘Students for Life of America’ and ‘And Then There Were None’. They joined the march anyway. www.catholichearld.co.uk
One group Planned Parenthood, who had carried out 324,000 abortions (2014 Annual Report), was accepted as a partner organisation. Therefore from the outset a political agenda was formed. Thus it is no longer a women’s movement but a political one. It may appear as a decisive step but if it leads to alienation then it is non inclusive. This is a sizable weakness. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Parenthood
The problem surrounding the abortion debate is the entrenchment on both sides. They are the ‘Bubble People’ they see only their point of view ergo there is no room for a cosy chat over a mug of coffee to find common ground.
The NY times also reported that minority women feared that any success for the movement would only benefit the white working class. While this would not be true it is illustrative of the hurdles that must be gone over.
The article in the Times also mentioned that, “Now a wide range of groups”, are trying to keep the movement going. At first glance such a coming together can appear as a sign of strength; rather, it’s a weakness. It is a weakness that can unravel the movement at any given time. Each group may come to a meeting not to find a common objective but to promote their own agenda.
Individual groups may argue that their programme for change is one that promotes all women. One could condemn any such group as wearing blinkers or of being politically naïve. Any bid to promote a singular issue is wrong on several levels:
- I have highlighted two contentious standpoints that of race and pro-life. Both of these areas have multiple bodies claiming to represent the whole and within their field there will be factions that want a more confrontational approach, while others will abhor any hint of violence.
- A place at the top table and how it will be manufactured can be a very divisive block. The question of representation can be critical as noted above. Will it be by quota, e.g. said amount of black people – Asian – Hispanics – Latino – white? What of partner organisations, will their size determine their quota or seat at the top table? How will this reflect on the political stance of the movement? Many questions, there resolution will be critical.
- Any attempt to list their priorities can also be fraught with problems. A danger rests in trying to accommodate all the partner organisations and thus the demands become too numerous to gain political traction. Some groups may feel that their particular issue has not been given sufficient prominence.
- In future demonstrations will the organisers insist on ‘passive resistance’ (Mahatma Ghandi & Martin Luther King) or allow each group to form their own policy. Another problem is keeping anarchists and others from trying to usurp the demos. Therefore who will police any future protests?
- It will be assumed that the organisation will be democratic; the problem will come in unrolling equal participation. How will they prevent any one group becoming dominant? Therefore causing others to walk away.
There are so many hurdles, so many pitfalls that it will be incredibly difficult to maintain a united stance. Some inspiration may be found in the Shriver Report of 2014 written by Sonia Pressman Fuentes of NOW (National Organisation for Women). The report highlights eighteen (18) issues that women should fight to implement.
- Poverty: I was surprised to read that in 2014 some 70million women and their children live in poverty in the U.S. That America has the largest number of homeless women and children of any industrialised country. Who could not lift their banner of protest against such a picture of despair?
- Wages: It is a universal truth that women are disproportionately found in low-paying jobs. But according to Harvard economist Claudia Goldin if employers showed more flexibility on hours and location the pay gap could be greatly reduced. This would help women everywhere.
- Violence: I was staggered by the numbers -270,000 rapes or sexual assaults annually in USA. That 1 in 3 females murdered is killed by a partner. Of course this is a world issue so perhaps the ‘movement’ in the U.S. could link up with Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) who have held large demonstrations in Argentina in a struggle against a culture of machismo. The fight in Argentina has been followed by groups in Uruguay and Chile.
- Abortion Rights
- Maternal Mortality Rates
- Sick pay and parental leave
- Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – needs to be enforced.
- Affordable Child Care: This like some others is a world problem. Johnathan Cohn cited in the report, states, “The lack of quality, affordable day care is arguably the most significant barrier to full equality for women in the workplace.”
- Women in prison and their horrid treatment.
- Human Trafficking: where nightmares are 24/7.
- Female representation in many aspects of society. A world problem.
- Discrimination in academia.
- Under representation in the Justice system.
- Under representation in large companies.
- Under representation and unequal pay in entertainment industry.
- Keeping women in high tech jobs.
- Lack of health insurance, affects 30m women and girls in U.S.
- CEDAW Treaty – an international bill of rights for women. USA only major country that has not ratified it.
They are all good causes though some are U.S. specific. I have chosen five (5) issues which I believe are uncontentious but significantly are world issues that could help galvanize women everywhere.
Poverty: Nobody can deny that poverty affects millions all over the world and if women didn’t cope our global society would fall apart. By embracing the cause of poverty and, the numbers in America are significant, a message of hope is sent wherever the internet reaches.
Wages: An issue that women in the Western World can readily agree with. It is in the West that the cudgel can be thrown down. If women in the West are not to be trifled with a message of hope flies around the world faster than a jet.
Violence: Where in the world have women not been acquainted with violence? The fight back in South America can only be uplifting for women everywhere. The culture of machismo is world-wide. Men are conditioned towards violence and especially when they feel inadequate. It needs a massive input into education.
Child care: Governments keep talking about getting more women into the workplace but do little to encourage or enforce businesses to cater for those with children. The quote by Johnathan Cohn above tells us just how big an issue it is.
Human Trafficking: The powerlessness of these women and children surely has a resonance with all women to some extent. A global business generating some $32 billion annually: what price misery. What cost men’s libido? It’s a tsunami of barbarity, women and children used worse than pigs in a pen. There is no bright star in their sky. Unless….
Equality of Burden
By accepting the premise that all women, no matter their status, are treated as second class citizens in some aspect of their life then you have equality of burden. There is no race, no religious or class issues; these are barriers to unity. If women can see beyond their present status and they can on many issues, then they can organise/vote for change as a singular body.
America has pole position in the chase for change. However, much will depend on their ability to overcome their biases. It’s a huge problem as bias can debilitate any organisation. As noted earlier tensions arose immediately concerning race, while some minority groups feared that it may become a programme for the white working class.
However, any change in working conditions would by necessity of law include all who work in that environment. What has emerged is just how divided American society is and how perceptions can be skewed. It is a massive task for the women’s movement but a unique opportunity to transform society.
A further testing case for the organisers of the women’s movement will be their attitude to the 53% of white females who voted but voted for Trump. (NY times & Newsweek) Two points can be raised immediately e.g. will they be welcomed to participate in subsequent action or simply dismissed as beyond exorcizing.
Unfortunately, some will dismiss them as right-wing fascists and want nothing to do with them. Others will recognise that if you nick them they will bleed. Surely there are issues on which the vast majority of women can agree? It would be a failure of magnitude not to invite the Trump supporters to participate. The opposition would correctly admonish the women’s campaign as not representative of all women.
Not to welcome, not to embrace the white women who voted Trump would be akin to railroading yourself into a cul-de-sac. It must also be remembered that around 30% of Hispanics voted Trump. If women are to make a credible difference, a long lasting difference, then they need the overwhelming majority on their ticket. This necessitates that some, perhaps more than some, will have to burst their bubble and walk out into the sun to welcome the warmth that camaraderie brings.
And thus it has to be noted that abortion is an extremely contentious issue and organisers must be cognizant of the millions of Catholic women and other religious groups that cannot accept abortion on demand. It is in recognising differences that we gain strength. As a fillip to the abortionist lobby I would recommend, the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”
We Will Vote IF…
That is why non-contentious issues are vital. One such is violence. State the case by issuing an ultimatum: we will vote if your party will sanction stiffer penalties for violence against women and a fully paid programme in schools to educate about such violence. If not fully implemented we will vote against you or abstain in the mid-term elections. Therefore you pick the battles you want to fight.
We will vote, IF… the government puts forward a programme to smash poverty by introducing legislation to build homeless shelters in every state. Produce a remit to subsidize specific charities to provide food and clothing to the most needy. No child should go hungry in America! No child should go without an equal chance in America! The same applies for the whole of the western world. A minimum wage can be a crucial element.
The issue of a minimum wage can be a winner as evidence shows it already has support from both Democrat and Republican women. At present the minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25. A proposition in 2014 to increase it to $10.10 over a two year period was defeated in the Senate by the Republicans.
However, the Republican states of: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all elected to increase their minimum wage. This is a clear illustration that certain issues can bridge the gulf between the classes and race to gain cross political support. The measure would have affected 16.5 m workers and lifted 900,000 out of the poverty trap. A study of Claudia Goldin’s research might reveal a second route forward.
Furthermore, to have someone’s living standard dependant on the size of a tip is monstrous. It means that tipping becomes an expectation and a must, and, is thus an unfair burden on both the waiter and the diner. Surely the amount of a tip should be based on the quality of the meal and the standard of service and not as an obligation to help the worker survive.
It’s unbelievable that the worker gets around $2.13 an hour and has to make the rest up by tips. Does the owner of the establishment then take a cut if the tips go beyond the national minimum wage? The owner must be sitting in the back of the premises counting up his profit. Scrooge lives!
Further up the ladder would require legislative change to enforce employers to act accordingly with severe penalties if they do not. Example: Any employer found to be breaking the law should be made to pay full compensation to the employee- X – by the number of year’s service and face a fine of the equivalent of one year’s income for each employee affected, plus the cost of bringing the action.
Child care is the one issue that affects every family though some much more than others. I was drawn to a TV news programme the 51% on France24.com. 31/01/17 The programme which focusses on women’s issues worldwide highlighted a growing dilemma for nations in Europe. Apparently women are having fewer children and a growing number are having none. This can be construed as a matter of choice but it has long term consequences.
The obvious downside is fewer young people which equates with less taxes = less to pay for pensions + less workers = less people available in care industry etc. The main solution was to greatly increase provision of affordable child care allowing more women to have a career and a family. It gives considerable credence to the view expressed by Johnathan Cohn cited earlier.
Discrimination against pregnant workers and new mothers is an ongoing problem. It should be a matter of law, an obligation of society, taken for granted that such provision is given. After all, were would we be without pregnant women? Again it requires government to get tough but it will only do so with your vote or threat of abstention.
Child care generally is patchy, haphazard and chaotic in places but its importance cannot be underestimated, “High quality early childhood programs are viewed by many educators as a critical way to help overcome the learning deficit many low-income kids face when they start kindergarten – an obstacle many never overcome”.
While 1.6 million families use federal subsidies the facilities and teaching are not always up to scratch. Overall there is $5 billion spent on subsidies but few reports on inspection or on background checks of the workers. www.cbsnews.com/news/review-finds-lax-child-care-rules-across-us
This investigation took place in 2013 and since then Obama has instituted a programme, Preschool for All with an estimated cost of $75bn over ten years, paid for by a tax increase on cigarettes. At the time over one (1) million were not receiving any preschool. The take up figures for those living below the poverty line was less than 50%. U.S. is one of the worse industrialised countries for preschool education and especially if your poor.
Moreover, Obama’s scheme has come under serious criticism from an educational specialist, Grover J. Whitehurst who argues that a study in Tennessee has more of, “…a positive effect on children’s social/emotional development”. He argues that Obama’s plan is lacklustre at best. Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Program (TN – VPK) is aimed at 4 year olds from low-income families.
There is a road so dark that only evil walks there, it’s the route of the people traffickers. It has to be the most despicable of all trades and this should be reflected in the punishment. A minimum of 30yrs in prison and all assets seized. Every nation should have special units that cooperate worldwide.
Any politician found to be involved must immediately stand down and all their assets seized even if it leaves their family without a home. Tough, but then they are the perpetrators of unimaginable misery.
This is a long term proposal over a ten (10) year period but action must be seen to be taken. It is also a critical issue because it mainly affects women and girls. If you can’t send out that message of hope – then go home.
The NOW organisation was founded in 1966 by 49 members of whom two were male. Only nine of the stalwarts are still active but seem to have their finger on the pulse.
Moreover, the folks at NOW might have a lot more to contribute to today’s organisers. What has inspired them to keep going all these years? What have they learned and what can they impart. There must be many stories about achievements and disappointments. There will also be lots of contacts; not forgetting the stored ability of those still standing.
If the road was clear, with no traffic, then the women’s movement could march straight ahead gaining momentum as they pass each village and town. (Ghandi’s Salt March) Unfortunately, there are many actors who are cocksure of their direction and are adamant that their voice should rise above all others. They are a hindrance because they cannot hear the others sing. They are the soloist who feels superior to the choir.
It is these soloists that will hold back and eventually break a movement that holds a mountain of promise. They must be told to leave their baggage at the door. If they cannot burst their own bubble it must be broken for them.
There is abundant evidence that at grassroots there is massive support to push forward women’s issues. It is the collective noun that is the vital ingredient to the mix. There is an overwhelming wealth of talent out there, it would be a catastrophic failure to restrict it or allow it to fritter away. There is also solid evidence that a victory can be won by promoting a National Minimum Wage.
This is a win – win issue that can galvanize the whole movement and give heart to those on both sides of the track that all can contribute. It can be a significant stepping stone. Be careful Donald, there’s an army on your doorstep!
Vote or Abstain: the power lies with you!