Our politics must go beyond defensive posture


How can the Left build on the excitement, creativity, and political energy that the astonishing mobilization of the Women's March called forth? First, let us immediately agree not to spend another minute criticizing the marchers’ liberal politics or their pink hats or their “peacefulness.”

Let’s also acknowledge that the demand for bodily self-determination and respect — whether around sexual harassment, rape culture, or access to abortion — are fundamental demands that the Left must support. Then we can begin to think through how to connect women’s legitimate outrage to all the other struggles that will be part of an ongoing resistance to Trumpism and the right-wing agenda.

Our politics will have to go beyond defensive postures like “love trumps hate” or “an injury to one is an injury to all.” There’s nothing wrong with these sentiments, but we have to articulate what we have in common other than a common enemy. What are we for that unites us?

The best place to start is local. Liberal organizations are going to more or less control the click-activism and “call Congress” responses to the many provocations issuing from Trump and the Republicans. But at the local level we have the possibility to organize coalitions around a feminist, anticapitalist, antiracist politics. Here are a few ideas about how we might do this.

The politics of reproductive justice, developed over the past twenty years by women of color activists and organizations like Sister Song, offers a way to connect what are often seen as separate, single issues.

Reproductive justice argues that it is every person’s right, regardless of their gender identity or expression, to end a pregnancy, continue a pregnancy, to never have children, to build a family, and raise children with health, dignity, and freedom from violence. Here’s an example of a reproductive justice “speakout”: women telling abortion stories paired with environmental justice activists telling stories of their children’s asthma; immigrant women telling stories about sexual harassment at work paired with fast-food workers describing how their crazy schedules harm their kids.

We also need to think through how to square the analysis of the police as a tool of white supremacy and capitalist power with the “law and order” feminism that demands more policing of sexual assault.

Here again we should appreciate the work that Native American and black feminists (such as Incite!) have done in creating alternatives to relying upon the carceral state.

This model shows how it is possible to, for example, mobilize to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, while also linking this violation of indigenous sovereignty to the history of state violence against native communities that has led to sexual violence within native communities.

In these ways we can work towards developing a politics of care that centers on the “right to give care” as well as the “right to be cared for.” In doing so, we foster opportunities to challenge the everyday denial of these rights by corporate capital and the neoliberal austerity state, and to move beyond sentimental invocations of the family toward a broader vision of caring as social solidarity.

First published on www.jacobinmag.com

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