“progressive” party alignments, the “womens movement” and how it breaks my heart

Posted on November 6, 2012

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 “‘All voting,’ says Thoreau, ‘is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency.  Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it.  A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority’”

This election nonsense is really striking me at the core.  I feel the need to say as a disclaimer that I love people, I love my family and friends, and this is meant not in a disrespectful manner, but I’m disappointed and i need to keep it real.

I am so thoroughly disappointed that SO MANY of my so-called progressive, liberal, or even “radical” peers are avidly supporting Barack Obama. It makes my head spin. I’m seeing a lot of facebook statuses (Stati?) along the line of

“Don’t let Romney take over office this is our lives at risk!!”

again, I love the person who wrote this and would do anything for them – no disrespect!  But this implies our lives aren’t at risk with Obama. I get that Romney is worse; my uterus is saying we should flee the country if that clown wins, but the idea that Obama is all that is, in my opinion, ludicrous. Of course there have been some improvements (like healthcare reform and some student loan help, things like that), but we are in more foreign conflicts, killing more innocent people with drones, he’s done more to spy on US citizens/curtail freedom to dissent than Bush.. AND all while he was hoping to get re-elected! I think the discourse of “x is less evil than y” is silly when they’re funded by so many of the same industries. Not to mention Electoral College decides, not us. And so let’s pretend for a minute that I’m an every-day person who goes to work and pays my taxes and lives the “standard” kind of life… for sure, my life is not at risk, however the lives of people around the globe are.  Not just from the US’s imperialist foreign policy, either.  Obama is in cahoots with APEC and other free-trade organizations/collectives which do nothing except control and exploit people in developing countries for the sake of “profit” and “industry” and “development”. So even if MY life isn’t at risk, the lives of my brothers and sisters around the world are – they suffer at the hand of the US government which commits atrocities IN OUR NAMES. To turn a blind eye to this fact when at the same time we claim to hate oppression and injustice is hypocrisy.

I’m not saying that I think we should let Romney win. I’m saying that people who know Romney is definitely the worse of two evils should be wary of simply falling back on the Obama bandwagon.  Just because he is better than Romney doesn’t mean Obama’s a good choice and I for one feel that is an important distinction to make.

The other thing I’m really sick of seeing/reading/hearing is the whole “women rock the vote” thing.  Yes, I’m aware that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to sanction your uterus with more restrictions than Iran faces (poor joke, I know). I’m aware that republicans/conservatives are hell-bent on de-funding Planned Parenthood, restricting access to birth control, legislating fetal personhood, unanimously voted down the EqualPayAct, and all around just seem like a bunch of “He-Man-Woman-Haters” (yes, even the ladies of the party).  I get it.  I’ve been writing about it for years.  I’ve also proclaimed “Iron Jawed Angels” as one of my favorite movies of all times.  I think we can honor the heroic actions taken by women in the name of equality while holding a deep critique of those same outcomes.

I’m always somewhat cautious of spouting my woman’s suffrage/voting critiques because I’m afraid I will be viewed as ungrateful or unappreciative of the gains women HAVE made over the last century or so, like I don’t fully respect the hardships faced or the courage needed for those suffragettes to do what they did.  Let me be clear: ANYONE who works for justice and liberation, in any capacity, is a hero of mine.  Even if I disagree with the methods or the desired outcome.  Resistance work is resistance work and should be honored by all means.  But seriously ladies, what do you think you can accomplish?

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In “Woman Suffrage” Emma Goldman has this to say:

“Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it.  I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man.  But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed…To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers”

As feminists we should beware the purity trap.  That ideology that says “women will fix what men have broke” because we are “naturally” compassionate and just.  It’s such utter bullshit, and feminists should know better.  If men couldn’t fix this country through voting, why do we think we can?

“The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the laws.  Are the labor conditions better there than they are in England, where suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle?  Does there exist a greater motherhood…is woman there no longer considered a mere sex commodity?  Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double standard of morality for men and women?”

Those questions are valid today. What, realistically, have we achieved? How much ‘progress’ can be made through traditional channels of the State apparatus? As I mentioned before, just this year the Equal Pay Act was voted down, and thousands of pieces of legislation passed through state legislatures aimed at curtailing women’s access to birth control and abortion.  Yes, of course the fact that abortion is legal is an “accomplishment”, as in it would not have been achieved without women in government. but it also wouldn’t be necessary if not for the dominating power of government which prescribes how to live our lives (what is acceptable or not) and then coerces and forces compliance through the threat of violence/the threat of punishment.

And so abortion is legal (for now), what has voting done to target the root cause of unintended pregnancy? Yes, we have legislation like VAWA, but has it helped us ease the epidemic of violence against women?  Women in politics is, at best, a protective and defensive strategy.  It helps to ensure that women are not further disenfranchised by those who would wish to exert power and control over half the population However, it is not an effective means of achieving true liberty.  Voting was never intended to be such a thing. It gives us tiny slices of the power-pie, satisfying our cravings for liberation to ensure the powers that be have a broad enough base of support. 

“True, in the suffrage States women are guaranteed equal rights to property, but of what avail is that right to the mass of women without property, the thousands of wage workers, who live from hand to mouth?”

And this of course exemplifies the classic critique of the woman’s suffrage movement: that at best, it brought more power to women in the upper echelons of society. Property rights!  Rights to properties that were stolen from indigenous peoples, stained with the blood of other women. And today we still fail to see how our actions perpetuate the exploitation of sisters worldwide. Our comfort items, this fast-paced consumer lifestyle, this disposable lifestyle, rests on the exploitation of women around the world.  And we don’t really want to talk about that.  Or I will hear self-proclaimed feminists discuss it, philosophize it, but never do anything about it. Still shop at WalMart, where women are systematically disenfranchised in the various forms from unequal pay and punishment for pregnancy to sexual harassment and repercussions for speaking out.  Still buy products made by women in sweatshops over seas. Because it’s convenient. And because the way we view “the movement” today means putting our hopes in the hands of others, who are better-equipped to fight for justice and “equality”, instead of locating power within ourselves, viewing ourselves as agents of change and our every day lives opportunities to exert this power.

So I get that not voting Republican is an effort to save our reproductive rights, it’s important.  But again I’m very wary of 1. thinking voting can radically alter my life and 2. thinking because Obama isn’t overtly anti-woman he’s my ally

Women in this country (and the LGTBQIA community, for that matter) vote for and want “equality” with other members of our society.  In my mind that is aligning ourselves with power and control, exploitation, and hierarchy instead of with each other and our global community and true liberation.  Thanks to intersectionality theory we understand that it is not enough that some women are free. How can we be happy and feel accomplished and liberated when our sisters worldwide are suffering still? and that we have a hand in that exploitation is deplorable.

Compartmentalized or nationalistic views of liberation or “equality” do not suffice for me.

I’m thinking of writing in Duke for president, this whole Spectacle is whack.  That being said, I am voting for local measures. I want to know what I put in my body (37), I want the death penalty gone, I want schools not to face more cuts.  But what I really want is to have time and resources to be out in the community on the regular working with people who give a damn, uplifting ourselves and finding creative solutions to problems we have faced for far too long.

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