Women’s Rights Are Not Negotiable

The issue of women’s rights has been one of paramount importance for a long time. For millenia, we’ve had a serious problem of male domination in human society. This has led to innumerable acts of mindless violence as we have forgotten our feminine side. Life is about balance and we are significantly out of balance in respect to this. Compassion is not an option. It is not something to ponder the value of. It is part of life. We will not be able to consider ourselves civilized until we act upon this and find balance as a race.

As with correcting most ills in society, it begins with illuminating the problem – specifically to those who, for some reason, are curiously deficient in moral courage and wisdom. Corporate media has an incredibly powerful indoctrination process which strengthens these destructive deficiencies, but that is no excuse. We’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions. This takes on added significance when we consider that a large portion of the people who suffer greatly from this dis-ease are people who praise strength, courage, morality and self-determination. You’d think they’d be enthusiastic about correcting this deeply ingrained problem that has plagued humanity for so long.

The current political climate adds an additional layer of urgency to this issue as the executive branch of our government has been taken over by an oligarchy of predators who not only feed on economic terrorism but on racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance and, especially, fear. They deal in fear as a form of currency and, sadly, are “led” by a self-described sexual predator with questionable intelligence and a serious anger issue.

I’ve decided to end my introduction with a quote from Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, popularly known as Ida B. Wells. She was a brilliant journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Anyone who doesn’t know about this courageous leader who passed on more than 80 years ago needs to brush up on their history.

“The way to right wrongs is to shine the light of truth upon them.”

The following is from the informative website FREEDOM SOCIALIST Voice of Revolutionary Feminism:

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, we send you this Freedom Socialist article written just in advance of the truly epic Women’s March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21.

February-March 2017 – Volume 38, No. 1


Women’s Rights Are Not Negotiable

Bernadette Kelly
February 2017

Fighting for women’s rights means fighting for good jobs and good pay. Women who fight back are beautiful. When women of all colors, ethnicities, ages and sexualities come together to demand full equality, they are absolutely gorgeous — and so are the men who are standing with them!

The Women’s March on Washington, a week ahead as of this writing, is a howl of defiance against the sexist, racist and xenophobic rhetoric that characterized the presidential campaign. What is predicted to be the largest gathering of feminists in at least 10 years is a priceless opportunity to revitalize a militant women’s movement. And to recognize that the U.S. government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich will never grant full equality to all women, no matter who sits in the White House!

Twenty-five years into the third wave of feminism, the victories of the 1970s are under more vicious attack than ever. Activists are continually using precious energy to shore up this reform and that one. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to push this rotten system over?

Knowledge is power. Black women and other women of color know that they and their families are targeted by racist cops and bigotry at every level of society. Muslim and immigrant women know that they are being used once again as scapegoats by white supremacists and right-wing politicians; so too do lesbians and trans women. Working women, whose wages have once again been effectively cut as prices for food, gas, housing and healthcare go up and up, know that homelessness is one unlucky break away.

Young women going off to college learn that their safety from rape and sexual assault is not as important as their school’s or attacker’s reputation. Older women, whose life savings and pensions have disappeared into the off-shore bank accounts of billionaires, know that privatizing or cutting Social Security and Medicare means the choice between meat and heat.

Victims of domestic violence know what it means when money is cut once again from shelters, job placement programs, welfare and food stamps. It means they are trapped with their abuser because they and their kids can not live on air.

Women’s experiences make them acutely aware of the suffering caused worldwide by the wholly corrupt capitalist system. Many understand that its insatiable need for ever greater profits can only be met by more war, by more environmental destruction, by more trampling of Native rights, and by more exploitation of the working class. That is why women are at the core of any movement for social and economic justice. They have no choice but to defend themselves and their families.

Anyone paying the remotest attention to feminist blogs, video postings, articles, artwork and protests knows that women have had it with unfulfilled goals and the rollbacks of hard-won rights.

Feminists are still fighting for access to safe abortion and contraception and against forced sterilization of women of color or women with disabilities. Parents still need free, quality daycare and early childhood education. More than ever, women need free college and trade school educations. We want universal healthcare. We want affirmative action. We want equal pay for equal work. We want an end to discriminatory laws aimed at LGBTQ people. We want to live in a society free from rape and assault.

These are our survival needs and our human rights!

A strong movement fights for everyone. Capitalists own the media and bankroll the politicians. They own the banks and the factories and most of the farms; the energy industry, the “defense” industry, the retail giants, and the slickest lawyers.

They’ve got it all, baby. And just what have we got?

We have the only thing we have ever had — we have each other. That’s all the people in the anti-slavery movement had, that’s all the suffragettes who won the vote had, that’s all the fighters for the eight-hour day had, that’s all the people in the civil rights movement who ended Jim Crow had — each other. And that’s all the feminist movement of 40 years ago had when it fought for female control of female bodies and lives. When working people of all colors and genders stand together and demand justice not only for themselves but for all the people who are marginalized, the capitalists must either concede or break themselves on the rock of that solidarity.

To put it simply, solidarity is our best defense and our best weapon. It is the beating heart of all the great achievements for human rights and dignity in all the movements the world over.

But a tragic thing happened on the way to women’s liberation in the 1970s. A large sector of the feminist movement focused on career advancement for more privileged, predominantly white women and for reform within the system — translation, getting Democrats elected. Lesbians were told that their issues were distracting from more important goals. The issues of women of color rarely made it onto the agenda. Socialist feminists were politely and not so politely asked to leave their “scary” socialism at the door and “just be feminists.”

Those breaks in solidarity caused the second wave of the feminist movement to fracture along race, class and sexuality lines. This must not happen again.

Building solidarity through action. There is no doubt that many of the feminists coming together for the Women’s March on Washington have learned the lessons of their foremothers’ successes and failures. The original organizers were white and didn’t address racism and xenophobia. To their credit, they responded to criticism, broadening their ranks to include Black, Latina and Muslim organizers, and addressed their issues.

The mission statement for the march says it well: “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

Some dissension has continued over whether women of different races can or should work together, and if so, how. Who could expect otherwise in today’s fractured USA? The only road forward is by breaking down the barriers dividing us with unshakable solidarity.

The women of today possess the imagination, intelligence and organizational skill to push for much-needed reforms even under a President Trump. But if we leave the capitalist system in place, our daughters will have to fight these same battles all over again.

Let us commit to each other that no one gets left behind this time, that no one’s rights get negotiated away. That this time we don’t stop at reforms. This time we go for a socialist feminist revolution. And yes, you can dance in this revolution.

Send feedback to FSNews@mindspring.com.

5 comments on “Women’s Rights Are Not Negotiable

  1. Thus far I have found the women’s marches disappointing because in my view they don’t address the most important rights – women’s economic rights. I’m not talking about equal pay here – I’m talking about the fact that nearly 1/3 of US women are forced to raise their children in abject poverty.

  2. I know what you mean. Obviously, the only way to correct such a serious problem is to attack it from all angles. We need to take care of so many aspects of society, it can make you dizzy: the economy, the electoral process, cultural attitudes, judicial injustice, “law” enforcement, media…

    The list seems endless. The first step must be to raise awareness. We need to evolve past Capitalism, of course. It’s a daunting task, to say the least.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I definitely agree with the thrust of this post, but my feelings about the way ‘women’s rights’ are currently portrayed and pursued are much more mixed.

    If you support the rights of women (or any other oppressed group) because you think it will automatically lead to a better society I would humbly suggest you’re barking up the wrong tree. As women such as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and thousands of others have demonstrated, there is nothing gender specific about promoting violence and oppression. To imagine that putting women into key positions within oppressive institutions will improve matters is naive at best and pink-washing at worst. It’s no coincidence that the dirtiest corporations now predominantly employ women as spokespeople and marketers.

    You support the oppressed not because of some kind of utilitarian calculus, but because if you believe in freedom it’s the right thing to do. And in doing so, you really need to ask yourself whether you’re really supporting the rights of the group you stand up for or the rights of corrupt institutions to use them as a smoke-screen for their own self-interests.

  4. I find your comment insulting. I don’t understand why you would assume I don’t respect the rights of all beings because “it’s the right thing to do” simply because I wrote about the lack of balance in human society the past few millenia. Not only do I respect all human beings, I respect animals and plants as well. To point out various reasons why equality is important doesn’t mean I would use it as dressing for a hidden agenda. I find that despicable. It says more about you than about me for you to come up with an assessment like that when I gave no hint of such a disgustingly evil and manipulative ideology.

    Additionally, to say that putting more women in positions of power would improve nothing is a bit disingenuous. Obviously, simply putting any woman in a particular important position would not automatically make things better, but to make significant changes that would cause society to become more balanced and equitable could only improve life for everyone.

    My statement that male domination has led to violence doesn’t simply mean that having men in charge brings about more violence. That’s simplistic. It was meant to point out how out of balance we are as an entire civilization. It was an observation that goes much deeper than simple anatomy or appearance. It is about burying our feminine side deeply inside ourselves and relying more on power and forcefulness instead of compassion and intuitive intelligence. It is about relying on competitive instincts more than cooperative instincts. This one thing has been the underlying cause of the human race bringing the entire planet to the brink of suicidal destruction.

    As far as your opinion on how the struggle for women’s rights is being pursued is concerned, of course you have the right to express your dissatisfaction. That is a matter of personal opinion and everyone is entitled to their own view (while, of course, women should have more latitude to express themselves on the issue than men).

    Today, the people that insidiously use token members of a specific oppressed group to create the illusion that they are fair and balanced on an issue are the corporate rulers that dominate our media and economy. Capitalists have engineered society to increase their wealth and consolidate their power by whatever means are necessary. Their use of an economic system as a state religion to push corporatism as our actual form of government is the engine that drives virtually all ills of modern society.

    I pray for the day that all living beings are respected and all people share the same level of freedom, access to resources, opportunities and justice.

  5. Err, I thought I made it pretty clear in my comment that I think it’s institutions – specifically governments and corporations – that are using pink-washing for their own agendas, not you.

    Likewise, I think my very first sentence made it clear the way women’s rights are portrayed in general was the subject I was critiquing, not your post or the article you quote.

    The sentence “You support the oppressed not because of some kind of utilitarian calculus, but because if you believe in freedom it’s the right thing to do.” is clearly addressed at the rhetorical “you” not you specifically. If I had said “You don’t drive a car after downing four martinis” would you have assumed I was accusing you of drink driving?

    OTOH, I think it fairly reasonable to conclude that someone who writes “For millenia, we’ve had a serious problem of male domination in human society. This has led to innumerable acts of mindless violence as we have forgotten our feminine side. ” (emphasis mine) is suggesting that much violence in our society is due not just to structural power imbalances but to the fact that men have disproportionately been the beneficiaries of those imbalances. The corollary to that is the assertion that if the jackboot was on the other foot (or perhaps if our male overlords were to embrace their ‘feminine side’) the problem would be alleviated.

    But whether you personally believe it or not, it seems pretty clear to me that many “equal opportunism” feminists are saying precisely that. It was a feature of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, despite her solid record of inhumanity and warmongering while Secretary of State (as per Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright and the men who have occupied the post).

    The truth is that feminist rhetoric is increasingly being used to justify violence and oppression – whether it’s the bombing of Afghanistan in the name of education for girls or the couching of Islamophobic memes as counters to sexism in Muslim majority societies. Here in Australia the ongoing erosion of Aboriginal rights is most often justified as means of protecting black kids and empowering black women. It was used by the liberal media to manufacture consent for the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act and the military occupation of Aboriginal communities. The fake news story that triggered it was concocted by an avowedly feminist journalist working in conjunction with a conservative government minister. It won her a Walkely Award (the Australian Pulitzer). So perhaps you can understand why I try to speak out against that sort of thing when the opportunity arises. The media sure doesn’t and neither, by and large, does academia. Last year IJFAB – a liberal academic feminist bioethics blog I subscribed to – called for a ‘boots on the ground’ US military invasion of Syria to ‘protect’ women in the war zone.

    I don’t consider myself a feminist. I don’t believe men can be feminists. Women speaking out for women’s rights is feminism. Men speaking out for women’s rights is paternalism (as opposed to calling for their right to opt out of patriarchal oppression – which is another thing entirely). However I have great respect for some forms of fourth wave feminism – such as those that put intersectionalism front and centre of the struggle. What I don’t respect is any suggestion that oppression is inherent in particular physical characteristics, be that genitalia or skin colour. Such simplistic analysis is certain to be used by powers that be to entrench the status quo.

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