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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Women’s March lacked strong anti-war message
January 23, 2017
Many front page headlines about the Women’s March on Washington didn’t refer to race or ethnicity, or nationality except to say people elsewhere in the world were protesting, and showed participants with signs seemingly protesting everything but war. The question arises as to what might be the reason or the effect.
The election of Trump has probably damaged the United States’ credibility globally on gender issues. Say what you want, this writer has never heard a Chinese, Iranian, Saudi or Vatican leader talk about “grab[bing]” “pussy” – a rallying point for many marchers. Trump has done more to undermine the gender ideological aspect of U.S. hegemony than Obama did in eight years. In addition to eir touted policies bearing on domestic equality and supposed leadership on global wimmin’s issues, Obama as a biographical figure made it seem youthful Western lifestyle with some reservedness and restraint gave way to a later maturity even more stoic, “family values” – even a compatible feminism, at least of a kind that can be discussed in Glamour magazine. That is if Obama’s feminism wasn’t present in the beginning and discernible in a widely-read Vanity Fair article about Obama’s early love life. Sure, Obama has admitted to getting high impulsively and regretting it, and an ex-girlfriend suggested Obama might have withheld emotional attachment from less-idealistic females, but who can fault Obama for that in 2016 when there are so many male pot-smoking self-proclaimed feminists interested in having sex, if not also intellectual conversation, with older females who just want to have fun?
Those Americans trying to undo Trump’s damage to their country’s image will try to distance themselves, some by asserting both feminism and affinity with Obama in contrast with “dirty old man” Trump. It’s a balancing act. Amerikans want to distinguish themselves from supposedly especially sexist or reactionary people around them but without making amerikan culture and relationship/sexual violence, for example, look particularly bad to the world in international comparison. (Both u.$. males and u.$. females are highly privileged in various areas including leisure, but some aspects of non-Western gender/social culture or relations are better contrary to chauvinist assumption. It’s common and easy to believe females in the West are particularly free, and then claim people elsewhere are in need of Western saving or Western example.)
So, with Trump’s inauguration guaranteed, no doubt many amerikans sensed the need to bolster the United $tates’ standing on gender. Some photos show Women’s March signs self-consciously apologizing to the world. Also, white females helped elect Trump so there was a need for amorphous female identity in protest messages and media coverage. White/Euro-Amerikan sisterhood as a whole by itself didn’t do anything to stop Trump, obviously.
There are new specific reasons to be skeptical about alleged feminism and female upsurge in the united $tates. A higher percentage of females than males were registered to vote.(1) And, at 53%, females outnumbered males at the polling booth.(2) Yet, the vast majority of female voters voted for Clinton or Trump. Not surprising, but the number who voted for a third-party candidate is lower than one might think. On the off chance that some didn’t notice it, there was more than one white female running in the u.$. presidential election. U.$. females and males who wanted to vote for a liberal female candidate had a chance to vote for Dr. Jill Stein. Others might have voted for Stein if they cared that much about war or at least climate change. Stein got about 1.46 million votes. That’s only about 2.2% of Clinton’s popular vote count, smaller than Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump, and slightly less than 2% of total female turnout; of course, not all Stein voters were female. Not all of this can be blamed on newspaper/TV coverage; there is something called the Internet.
Despite any deficiencies and not having heard Stein’s inauguration weekend remarks, Jill Stein is somebody who clearly supported overall military budget cuts, at least verbally. There was a separate anti-war presence at inauguration protests in the u.$., particularly on January 20, but the big story now is the Women’s March. In the u.$., the marches unsurprisingly focused on u.$. issues and issues some assume to be important to females equally, globally. There were relatively few protest signs about war – not unimportant – and some statements that mentioned “equal pay for equal work” (within u.$. borders) didn’t make reference to opposing war or militarism at all.(3) In some places, there seemed to be more signs about Trump’s appearance or connecting Trump to Russia, than anti-war signs. More signs about Trump’s Twitter wars than about possible attacks and wars within the next four years involving drone strikes, cruise missiles, and dead people including girl children and adult females. Signs with lists, some long, of what “women” were “against” didn’t mention war. Apparently, war is now just a fact of life for many, a bearable one.
Some who felt climate change was an appropriate topic at the Women’s March didn’t seem to think so about war despite ongoing and likely future new u.$. involvement in wars. (Though arguably both are feminist issues, climate change isn’t more of a particularly female issue than war is, anywhere.) The blame for some of this has to go to Democratic warmonger, war criminal and former invader-in-chief Obama, whose actions and popularity combined to weaken anti-war sentiment and activism among eir supporters. Also, Obama linked wimmin’s equality and rights with climate change as part of eir Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development; some at Saturday’s marches and protests were just echoing Obama in a simple way.
With regard to supporting Muslims, some even after the election and the inauguration want to pretend white females or at least liberal females in the u.$. have supported Muslims all along. Yet, Western pseudo-feminism and chauvinism about Islam played – as they did when George W. Bush was the president with liberal co-conspirators for war – a significant role in support for the wars Obama either started or didn’t finish. Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton supposedly both supported accepting more Syrians as refugees than had been admitted into the u.$., but it isn’t clear to this writer that u.$. females in particular pressured Obama to accept more Syrian refugees. For example, one poll shows statistically equal percentages of males (26%) and females (25%), likely general election voters, agreeing “it is our moral duty to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees” in November 2015.(4) The same for females (74%) and males (73%) approving of the creation of “safe havens with no-fly zones and humanitarian aid for Syrians to receive in their own country.” The no-fly zones part itself had military implications as discussed in the media. In addition, statistically equivalent percentages of females (50%) and males (49%), half of each, saw “immigration from the Middle East to the United States” as being very dangerous; another 35% of females and 34% of males viewed it as being somewhat dangerous. Ignoring margin of error, it seems the females in the united $tates were actually slightly more scared about Middle East migrants than the males were. According to another poll, 28% of female registered voters supported “banning people who are Muslim from entering the U.S.” in December 2015; 25% of registered male voters did.(5)
After terrorist attacks, sizable percentages (mid-30s, low 20s) of Democrats (who are disproportionately female) opposed accepting Syrian refugees.(6) The u.$. admitted more Muslim refugees in federal fiscal year 2016 than in the previous decade and a half, about equal to the number of Christian refugees admitted in 2016. Only a fraction of these people, 15%, were Syrian though the number was higher than the 10,000 goal.(7) The total number of Muslim refugees the u.$. admitted from all countries since 9/11 was less than a third of a million: a fraction of one percent of the u.$. population. According to U.S. Census Bureau information, the number of Syrian-born in the u.$., of any status, wasn’t more than ninety thousand in 2015.(8) Given how large the u.$. is, how much responsibility the u.$. has in the Syria war, and the total number of refugees of that war, the number of Syrian war refugees in the u.$. is extremely small. It may be fewer than 20 thousand. Countries much smaller than the u.$. have accepted dozens of times more refugees.
Here’s the thing: CNN, the Huffington Post and the New York Times were all exposing amerikans to stories about “patriarchal culture” and alleged wimmin’s rights abuses in Islamic countries, in early January and before Inauguration Day, and in months and weeks before November 8. In addition to the Saudi music video discussed favorably by Teen Vogue and others with a feminist claim or reputation, CNN a few days before the inauguration was talking about “the Saudi women afraid to go home” and “renouncing Islam.” On the very eve of the inauguration, the Times ran “Saudi women seek asylum in U.S. to escape male guardianship” in case some readers didn’t see the CNN story. To make it clear it wasn’t just about Saudi Arabia’s particular culture and society: “It wasn’t only Saudi Arabia that Arwa left behind, but Islam as well.” If u.$. so-called feminists and liberals of any gender were serious about helping females or Muslims in alleged hellholes – somehow without opposing the wars resulting in refugees – or opposing xenophobia, there would have been more support for taking in Syrian refugees. The number resettled in the u.$. is less than 20,000, and now Trump is President. Obama basically just ran out the clock to help Democrats in elections. True, females and liberals are among those who supported Obama wars and invasions and Democrats did make a thing out of the Muslim parents of a dead u.$. soldier, and Trump made the fearmongering statements against Muslim migrants and tourists, but many Democrats cared about racism only to the extent they needed votes or were worried about preserving diplomatic influence in Muslim countries. There was some discomfort when Charlie Hebdo portrayed small Syrian child Alan Kurdi as a future groper, but where was the white female outrage when the media was week after week portraying Islam, Arabs and Muslims outside the u.$. as particularly backward, even violent, on gender and sex, before Obama and Clinton invaded Libya and when the u.$. had a 700+ billion dollar military budget?
Feminism in the limelight
Photos showing a pink sea were on many front pages. Even in many articles discussing both the Friday and Saturday protests, the Women’s Marches were the center of attention. Anti-capitalism trying to have broad appeal in a country like the u.$. had ended up leading people to protectionism, populism, and ultranationalism, in the first place. For other reasons (not just larger numbers on Saturday), maybe it seemed feminism had more potential. One interesting phenomenon at Women’s March protests was males and/or people displaying a male-typical appearance wearing the pink “pussyhat.”
Predictably, some image-focused people used a “beta male” dating/mating strategy theory of male feminism to criticize what the males supposedly believed/said – a form of ad hominem that scientific feminists reject. Some of what those males, and some or most of the different things females like Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin and Germaine Greer were saying decades ago, could have been correct (or incorrect) regardless of alleged identity, appearance, or behavior. One of the facts of multiple kinds of “feminism” supported by both females and males in the u.$. is that “feminism” had to change to become acceptable to various males and females. Apart from hardcore Christian so-called feminism, “feminism” had to become pro-porn, pro-casual-sex, prostitution-friendly, adultery-tolerant, and pro-raunch, among other things. It couldn’t be separatist, and it had to keep or build on the pro-beauty, pro-romance, quasi-Freudian and liberal-individualist attitudes of the mainstream, even parts of the mainstream’s norms of femininity and masculinity. Currently on social media, males have to “need feminism because” – which sounds reasonable given that males are slightly less than half of the population in most Western countries, but could also lead to a lack of real struggle and even to females’ disidentification with feminism. After all, if feminism is so easy to support and may already be mainstream in some aspects, then why go to the trouble of claiming it? What is edgy about it? If a globally circulated music video about Middle East wimmin’s conditions, with some anti-Trump content and words about males disappearing, is more threatening to faraway males in the Middle East than to u.$. males, self-centered or domestically focused people may lack interest; at the same time, u.$. males may have little problem accepting and needing such “feminism.”
Even among hardcore Christians in the u.$., who sometimes claim to be feminist particularly for international purposes, there came to be increased tolerance of non-reproductive sex within marriage to the opposite sex, and various other things that used to be considered unchastity, immodesty, or prohibited. What united the Christians and the atheists was Western-chauvinist opposition to Islam to justify wars against economically and strategically important countries.
Importantly, mainstream feminism is now clearly potentially pro-war. It has demonstrated that in different cases. U.$. females may still tend to support war (or at least male ground battlefield performances) less than u.$. males do, but the resurgence of a global “feminism” with amerikan leaders, who claim to oppose both a Republican president and global abuses of wimmin’s rights, sounds like a rehashing of some of the dynamics that supported war and sanctions in the Bush years and continued to be profoundly disorienting during the Obama period of u.$. hegemony. There are still female-male differences in support for military actions, but half of u.$. adult females (speaking English or Spanish) supported u.$. drone strikes “to target extremists” as of mid-May 2015.(9) (As a group, a lower percentage of Chican@s and Latin@s supported drone strikes.) Trump may just need to come up with a good enough liberal-friendly pseudo-feminist excuse to get pro-choice females and males, focused on domestic issues, on board with using missiles to attack some Muslim country.
Some of the preceding will be controversial, but people outside the u.$. shouldn’t get the wrong impression. The morning after the Women’s March, streets in Washington and other march sites were comparatively empty. People made a statement and left. “The revolution” isn’t happening as some said it would with a Trump election/inauguration following a disappointing Obama presidency, which was actually viewed rather favorably at those Saturday marches and protests building for future Democratic victories. There are not now throngs of people calling for Trump’s removal in DC and outside federal buildings. Even if there were, the rhetoric from the 1999 WTO protests to Occupy Wall Street to the 2016 election shows there is little chance of even most so-called leftists in the united $tates steering themselves and others away from the kinds of rhetoric and demands that both contributed to Trump’s election and contributed to the similarities of Trump, Clinton and Sanders on many points. So-called feminism that appears war-neutral and in fact can be useful for war purposes isn’t likely to cause a sea change in amerikan politics. There is no real fascism-versus-socialism competition going on in the united $tates as there was in some European countries during World War II. If things are getting worse and worse in the u.$., it could be because that is the only direction amerikans can go in now. That is a reason not to give up, but for more resolute anti-amerikanism and for influence operations appropriate to the exploiters and oppressors who make up amerika. ◊
• “Is the West to blame for Islamic patriarchy? Let us count the ways.” https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/gender/islamicpatriarchy06.html
• “Pro-choice is pro-war at this time: Sterilize all men!” https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/gender/choicewarmongers.html
• “Gender and why Democrats are going “fascist”,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-10-news-Trump-gender-appeal.md
• “Climate for anti-Americanism versus anti-fascism: Only 2% of Americans named environment as most important issue, right before election,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-21-news-climate-change-Saudi-Arabia.md
1. “Voting turnout statistics.” http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/
2. “Election 2016 national exit poll results and analysis,” 2016 November 9. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/election-2016-national-exit-poll-results-analysis/story?id=43368675
3. Example: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/584086c7be6594762f5ec56e/t/5877e24a29687f9613e546ff/1484251725855/WMW+Guiding+Vision+%26+Definition+of+Principles.pdf
4. “SecureAmericaNow – Public Opinion of the Syrian Refugee Problem,” 2015 November 25. http://mclaughlinonline.com/2015/11/25/secureamericanow-public-opinion-of-the-syrian-refugee-problem/
5. “December 23, 2015 - U.S. voters oppose Syrian refugees, but not all Muslims, Quinnipiac University national poll finds; President should combat climate change, voters say 3-1.” https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2312
6. “What do Americans really think about Syrian refugees?” 2016 March 4. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/03/04/what-do-americans-really-think-about-syrian-refugees/
7. “U.S. admits record number of Muslim refugees in 2016,” 2016 October 5. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/05/u-s-admits-record-number-of-muslim-refugees-in-2016/
“U.S. on track to reach Obama administration’s goal of resettling 110,000 refugees this year,” 2017 January 20. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/20/u-s-on-track-to-reach-obama-administrations-goal-of-resettling-110000-refugees-this-year/
8. “Place of birth for the foreign-born population in the United States.” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_1YR_B05006&prodType=table
9. “Public continues to back U.S. drone attacks,” 2015 May 28. http://www.people-press.org/2015/05/28/public-continues-to-back-u-s-drone-attacks/