The women’s struggle for equality and the way forward in the age of Trump

March 23, 2017 11:36 AM CDT BY MICHELLE KERN

The massive worldwide women’s march on Jan. 21 showed that interest in women’s equality is at an all-time high. There has never been a better time to take advantage of the momentum to further the cause.

Some might now wonder, what next?  In an age when misogynistic attacks seem to be coming every day, how do we prioritize which issues to work on in regards to women’s equality?

Gender oppression manifests itself in social, economic, and political oppression. There are several arenas where we should struggle against misogyny, because it has a structural presence in our entire society.

The oppression of women isn’t limited to gender; is also enhanced by other forms of oppression.

These can include (and can be combined with) race, age, orientation, disability, gender identity, and of course, class.  The examination of the special problems of women must also take into account where oppression that isn’t often visible may be occurring—listening to the experiences of women in these identities is crucial.  Including the views and voices of women when doing work in any of these areas will be crucial to resistance.

Recognizing the misogynistic basis of Trumpism isn’t difficult when we look at which targets have been under heavy fire in the administration’s first days. The following is only a partial list:

  • Threat to defund Planned Parenthood;
  • Indication that the Violence Against Women Act will not be renewed, and that grants that protect against domestic violence will eliminated.  (Undocumented women have already been withdrawing charges of domestic violence out of fear of deportation);
  • Attacks on the Affordable Care Act will result in stripping away benefits and protections for women’s health care;
  • Transgender “bathroom bills” and attacks on the rights of transgender children in K-12 settings;
  • Threat to eliminate head of household tax filing status, which will disproportionately target single women with children;
  • Threat to separate mothers from their children at the border and deportations separating families, mothers from their children;
  • Attacks on the social safety net will impoverish already vulnerable aging women, one of the most impoverished sectors of the U.S.

In the short-term, all of those threats must be fought as they emerge.

For the long-term, we must also consider a structural approach to gain solid protections to make women less vulnerable to a wide-scale array of discriminatory attacks.

Here are three areas of action where we can exert pressure. If successful, they will have long-term effects in shifting the balance of power:

Restoring the Voting Rights Act

  • Since women have gained the right to vote, women have voted for a greater expansion of the social safety net.
  • More women vote, and more women of color vote for more progressive candidates, as witnessed in the 2016 election. Ninety-four percent of Black women voters and 68 percent of Latinx women voters voted for Hillary Clinton
  • Black and Latino people are more supportive of issues like socialism, according to polling, which will include many women voters who already have a track record of progressive voting in conscious coalitions.
  • Restrictive voter ID laws prevent minorities from voting, and restricting minorities from voting creates an electorate less favorable to women’s issues.

Moving along restoration of voting rights is going to take Congressional action.  Although there is bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act, no hearings for it have been scheduled. Create pressure by contacting your member of Congress and senators to tell them you support getting the process started.

Fighting against racist voter suppression should be a top priority on the road to the 2018 elections, as should supporting organizations that work to expand access for women of color in the midterm elections.  Some great organizations are Black Girls Vote and We Won’t Wait.

Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment

The fact that the U.S. Constitution lacks an Equal Rights Amendment for women means that discrimination against them on the basis of sex still has theoretical support in the law.

Supreme Court justices, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and the present nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who consider themselves constitutional originalists, felt comfortable with this interpretation of the Constitution.

  • The “three state strategy” is the planned path forward for ERA ratification, as the number of states needed was just short by three states during the first attempt to reach the threshold needed.
  • The Nevada State Senate and Assembly just ratified this month so now only two more states are needed. Illinois and Virginia are considered good candidates for the next two states to ratify the ERA, as each have passed it one state chamber already.
  • If you are in those states, pressure your state assembly member to take up a vote on it and pass ratification.
  • There is a bill in Congress to nullify the 1982 deadline that was passed several years ago to stop the process from going forward.  Pressure your member of Congress to sponsor the bill, and move the it to the floor.

Robust participation in Election 2018

In the 2018 elections, 10 Democratic senators are up for re-election in states that were carried for Trump.  This is going to be a vulnerable target, especially since this election will come before any attempt at fairer redistricting in 2020.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting 59 House GOP members in an attempt to unseat them.  But the GOP also has a list of 36 Democratic seats they are looking to flip, so there will be a need to protect seats as well.

One interesting development since the Women’s March is that 4,000 women have contacted Emily’s List to find out how to run for office. This number is unprecedented. Women presently make up a very small proportion of elected officials; women of color are also woefully under-represented in office.

  • Support efforts to overturn GOP gerrymandering.  President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder are leading the fight on redistricting, which will take place in 2020. (DemocraticRedistricting.com)
  • Swingleft, Flippable, and other organizations plan to shift the House and Senate toward the Democratic Party by targeting vulnerable GOP seats.  Sign up to find out how to get involved with your closest swing district.
  • Elect more women!

Democratic Party women already in office have been leading the charge in the resistance—including Democrats U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Calif.; Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif.; Sen. Kristen Gillibrand N.Y.; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass.  Two women on the GOP side have broken ranks with their party to vote against some of the most controversial cabinet appointments, Sen. Susan Collins, Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska.  Cultivating strategic alliances and exploiting divisions in the current GOP power base will be crucial to stopping restrictive and misogynistic laws.

In San Francisco Bay Area, over 300,000 participate in Women’s Marches

January 25, 2017 9:15 AM CST By Marilyn Bechtel

OAKLAND, Calif. – One of California’s largest Women’s Marches took place here on Jan. 21, drawing a crowd estimated by mainstream media at 100,000. Like other marches around the country, this one was joined by participants from a broad range of movements, from Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights to climate, faith communities, LGBTQ rights, a woman’s right to choose, the Fight for $15, upholding the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and Medicare, and much more.

As starting time approached, marchers in an upbeat, fight-back mood jammed the streets for many blocks around. The iconic pink “pussy hats” abounded – many crafted by the women wearing them. Some men sported the hats as well.

Among participants were the young and old and everyone in between, marchers with disabilities, people of all colors, among them many men.

Many had encountered long delays on their way, with trains and buses crammed to capacity despite transit systems adding extra runs to their schedules. And after the rally people in pink hats could be seen throughout the downtown business district and around nearby rapid transit stations.

Oakland’s numbers were even more outstanding considering that the demonstration was one among several in other Bay Area communities, among them San Jose at 30,000, San Francisco with 150,000, Santa Cruz at 15,000, Walnut Creek with 10,000, Berkeley at 1,000, and Albany at 500. Of course, no march in the Bay Area topped the 750,000 turnout in Los Angeles,  the country’s largest outside of Washington DC. The Sacramento Bee estimated afterwards that even conservative estimates showed almost one in 45 California residents participated.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

After processing up the side of Lake Merritt, marchers wound down Grand Avenue before heading to the center of the city, where as many as possible crowded into the plaza and amphitheater in front of City Hall. Observers said the march stretched for as many as 40 blocks.

Once at the plaza, protesters cheered and applauded as speaker after speaker from across the spectrum of movements called on them to carry forward a broad, united, persistent and courageous movement for positive change, fighting back against racism, misogyny, attacks on immigrants and militarism, and at the same time upholding vital human services, climate protection and the rights and needs of ordinary people.

Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, told the crowd, “As the only big city mayor in California who is a woman, I have a strong personal feeling about this new reality … I stand here today with my mother and my daughter, to show my gratitude for the past generations who have fought for my rights, and my hope for the future.”

Marilyn Bechtel/PW
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Schaaf declared, “We will fight for women’s rights in a way that advances all rights.” Noting that Oakland, like many California communities, is a sanctuary city, she pledged “to do everything in my power to protect our planet, our people and our values.” She then asked rally participants to join hands and raise them above their heads, signifying unity “as a single fabric of this entire nation today.”

Among speakers was Elaine Brown, who headed the Black Panther Party for several years in the 1970s, and is active in community movements here, including prison rights and projects to help formerly incarcerated people re-enter their communities.

“I’m going to say, Power to the People – it’s time to get on up and recognize who Trump is,” Brown told the crowd, “and that he is not new. We have been asleep.”

Marilyn Bechtel/PW
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Drawing parallels between the new president and Adolph Hitler, Brown called on people “who hold progressive, humane and even revolutionary views” to carry forward struggles for Latino, black, gay and women’s rights, and to “launch a fight for the survival of ordinary people whose industrial jobs are dying every day with the rise of technology.”

West Oakland activist Iris Corina called on the crowd to join her in singing the civil rights anthem, We Shall Overcome, and declared, “Don’t let this march be a game. Go back into your communities and raise awareness and encourage hope … If you want to find out how to make changes, how to hold politicians’ feet to the fire that’s stoked here today, you’ve got to get involved with your community.”

Environmental activist Tom Steyer and area state Senator Nancy Skinner also urged participants to help build a powerful, ongoing, unified people’s movement.

The largest Bay Area march was held later in the day in San Francisco, and even a cold rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of more than 150,000. In her speech, SF Supervisor Jane Kim pointed out that the other five women supervisors were also present, while folk singer/activist Joan Baez inspired the crowd as they began to surge down Market Street toward Justin Herman Plaza. Observers reported that it took marchers two hours to pass by a key downtown intersection.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

In an Inauguration Day letter to Californians, state Assembly Democrats pledged they would “continue to honor our commitments to the people of California. The California contract is a promise to ourselves and to one another that we will build a sustainable econ9my, environment and society that doesn’t just protect the wealthy or the powerful, but instead will be benefit every Californian and benefit from every Californian.”

Their letter specifically listed goals in transportation, affordable housing, education funding, good jobs with the right to organize, clean air, justice that protects all without abuses, affordable health care accessible to all, protection of retirement security, government transparency, and a welcome to all residents including immigrants and refugees.

Via People’s World