Tree hugging, maple syrup loving, beaver cuddling Cannuck that I am, I should probably refrain from commenting on American politics, but I am so irritated that I cannot stand it anymore. All over the blogosphere, HRC supporters are declaring themselves to be in mourning for her loss of the democratic nomination. They speak about shattered dreams, and of feeling belittled, and used by a party that has come to take for granted their support. With an allies heart I listened to the plaintive wails and tried to sympathize. I wanted to emphasize with their feelings of grief, to feel some sort of shared solidarity in our common womanhood. I intellectualized it over endless pots of green tea, mused about it while incense burned, blocking out the smell of one too many cigarettes. Give it time I thought, it will come to me.
Then I woke up, and just plain and simple got real about it. Was she a victim of sexist attacks by the media, no doubt, but at the end of the day when she proudly packed up her bag, and walked off the stage with a class, and a grace that was remarkable, HRC is still a woman of incredible privilege. I think the privilege aspect of it all is where the disconnect begins for me. In the game of life that woman is a winner. Though she may not have won this particular race, she will be remembered as the first woman that had a legitimate shot of becoming POTUS. This is a positively historic moniker to own. There will be books written about her, songs attesting her strength and courage, and when her light finally fades, she will be remembered more for the positive that she has done rather than the negative; the true sign of fame, revisionist memoralization.
Let me tell you who will go unheralded, the single mother that struggles to put food on the table, and keep a roof over the head of her child, the wife that has taken so many beatings from her husband that she suffers from brain injuries, the prostitute that is raped for the 100th time, the homeless women that are suffering with mental illness, the everyday working mom doing the Herculean task of raising a family and having a career, the so-called illegal alien performing what amounts to slave labor so that Americans can have their fresh fruit and trendy clothes, and finally the WOC and the GLBT community who are rejected and silenced. (If I were to do a complete list this post would never end.) These are the women I mourn for, these are the women I hope for, this is where my solidarity lies.
Let’s be clear HRC is not just a woman, she represents the ideal of a certain class of women. Though her campaign targeted working class people, how often have the working class rallied only to be betrayed by the bourgeoisie? I submit that in a system that is corrupt from the very root, true and lasting change cannot occur from within, whether the candidate is HRC, or Barack Obama for that matter. The current leaders will always be beholden to those that granted them the power to rule, and unfortunately they will not remember their proletarian base. It is very clear that after decades of the so-called war on poverty, that it simply means eliminating the poor people, and not dismantling the system that impoverishes. There is much rhetoric about tolerance and justice, and yet there are still cases like Duanna Johnson and Sean Bell. In the wealthiest country in the world, how many children go to bed hungry, and how many will graduate high school without the basic skills to get a job, or continue their education?
It actually saddens me that feminism invested so much of its strength and energy to obtain a figure head, that could not despite her best efforts if she won achieve a substantive change in the lives of women. In pushing for the success of one individual what was forgotten were the needs of the many. We have become so disconnected from each other in the pursuit of material gain, that we have forgotten how to come together for the benefit of the least amongst us. In prioritizing our concerns, what we have forgotten is that as a movement we are only as strong as our weakest and most vulnerable members. Does anyone even still believe that the personal is political? Were they just words to mollify the legitimate rage of women that society has constructed as less than? At some point we as feminists have to declare that the bodies that the bourgeoisie have chosen to manipulate and exploit for their own enrichment matter, whether they are invisible, working, or middle class.
So while I don’t mean to offend you, or even belittle your sense of loss in any way, I will however challenge you to experience the same ferocity of emotion when a woman who is not as “accomplished” struggles to get through her day. It is not enough to state the domestic violence stats while spouting feminist theory. What we need as a movement is to feel true rage, and injustice every time a woman is marginalized, abused or exploited, whether or not we can identify with her life experience or not. It means owning our privileges, admitting we don’t have the answers, and listening closely. The next time we decide to unify, let us hope that we will be inspired from the bottom up, for in that way we assure that the needs of the many, will truly outweigh the needs of the few.