It many respects, it was a monumental time for women in politics, with one major caveat: most of the stories we were hearing were those of white women. The public’s reaction perpetuated the idea that sexism and misogyny are experienced identically by all women in politics, but, to put it bluntly, they are not. That’s why it’s so important that we acknowledge intersectionality — in politics, and otherwise.
More women in positions of power is lovely, but it’s not equality if the vast majority of them are white and benefit from class privilege. It is the literal bare minimum in the business of governing.
When we talk about the experiences of women in positions of power, we also need to talk about who is still absent. What violence are they facing? How are you – you as a person in a position of power – making change so that others can rise up too?
It is wonderful, empowering to hear women speak about their experiences with misogyny and violence directly related to their position. It fills me with hope, compassion and commitment. But it is rarely done to include the many voices who never get that platform.
The folks that stand out are the ones who acknowledge the privilege they have from the very platform they are using to advocate from. They acknowledge the experiences of so many others. They acknowledge the support they have due to their position. They root themselves in a community and they offer support. They stand with other oppressed folks.
Then there are folks who speak about themselves with no acknowledgment of how incredibly privileged they are. No acknowledgment that they have state resourced protection. Further, no reflection of work done to understand the systemic and institutional discrimination.
Those women & men speak in code: “that women who look like me, act like me, carry the same class privileges as me deserve better. Because I deserve better.”
They use that code to wink at each other while they make passionate speeches in closed spaces. They use that code to form policy that actively hurts communities. They have used that code over and over again to celebrate women in power while keeping the majority of women poor and economically dependent. They used that code to fight for the right to vote – but not if you’re black, Japanese, Chinese, Indigenous, or poor. They used that code to implement forced sterilization and marry First Nations women to white men.
They use it today.
It’s time to break it.