BY VIVIAN GORNICK
What is never properly understood by those who do not experience it is how deep the rage over inequality goes once it is made conscious, how far-reaching it can be and yes, how unforgiving. At the moment, the hated imbalance between women and men, the one that all men, everywhere, have exploited for centuries, is in the dock, and women in the thousands have risen up to bring charges against men of power with the crime of having looked not at them but through them for as long as any of them could remember. These women are not yet Madame Defarge knitting at the foot of the scaffold, but half a century of insufficient progress, on the score of sexual predation alone, now fills their heads with blood and leads them to lash out at its ongoing pervasiveness, branding men to the left and to the right with accusations that include acts of real evil as well as those of vulgar insensitivity. As James Baldwin might have put it, an oppressed people does not always wake up a saint; more often it wakes up a murderer.
For many of us, it is dismaying to behold, in a movement meant to correct for social injustice, the development of what can seem like vigilante politics; the dismay, in fact, is being accorded disproportionate attention, as though its existence is more important than what gave rise to it. But if we stop for a moment to think rather than react, we soon come to realize that the courageous demand that begins with a visionary’s declaration of rights can, and usually does, descend quickly into the maddened belligerence characteristic of those who cannot stop rehearsing a grievance that feels very old and reaches far into the past. That is the course history has usually taken, and for the moment, we in America are all trapped in its turmoil.
Great essay by Briahna Joy Gray:
Identity is, at best, a loose proxy for a person’s political commitments, and individual identity groups contain incredibly diverse perspectives. Failure to recognize that fact can result in dangerous consequences: it can lead us to support policies contrary to the best interests of a community simply because of optics, and it can turn us into a “firewall” to lean on, rather than a constituency to be won.
Even worse, because the optics are improved, it can actually become harder to combat the harm posed by in-group bad actors: a black-run police force can be just as harmful to a black community as one headed by whites, but the optics of equal representation can obscure the reality of systemic racism.
“This is the day to emphasize the unity between work done in the so-called formal economy and the domestic sphere, the public sphere and the private sphere, and how most working women have to straddle both,” says Ms. Bhattacharya. “Labor is understood to be work only at the point of production, but as women we know that both society and policy makers invisibilize the work that women do.” The strike calls for women to withhold labor, paid or unpaid, from the United States economy to show how important their contributions are.
The platform of the strike seeks to elevate the demands of the majority of women, not simply the demands of the loudest or most privileged women.
“The language of feminism in recent years has been used to talk about ‘Lean In’ feminism,” says Ms. Bhattacharya. “We do not want a world where women become C.E.O.s, we want a world where there are no C.E.O.s, and wealth is redistributed equally.”
Socialists must support all emancipatory struggles which can be won within the boundaries of capitalism, but we also have to look beyond those boundaries. And our view will be obstructed if we accept the mystifications of capitalism, its illusions about the richness and autonomy of the extra-economic sphere, its false appearance of relegating class relations to a marginal and insulated economic realm, its attempt to pass a devalued political currency as the coinage of human emancipation.
Ellen Meiksins Wood, “Capitalism and Human Emancipation”