I did not go to the women’s march nor feel inspired by it, and I have been trying to work out why. At first I thought it was because I’d been to a feminist protest the week before and needed a break – but there’s more to it.
I am jaded by the way Trump conversation is unfolding – even in the publications that normally offer us some perspective. I recently opened the London Book Review of January 18th and discovered that the first-page article is yet another outline of how misogynistic Trump is. It feels like the new paradigm is simply to keep reminding each other of how angry we are about it. Is it only now that we are angry? Only now, when we see this particular ignorant rich buffoon on our screens on a daily basis? The world was full of misogynistic people in power before Trump. Why didn’t all these people care about that beforehand?
If we reflected for a moment, we might discover that we have more in common with Trump voters than we think. In his article from January 17th, John Pilger reiterates his view that ‘identity politics’ are the scourge of our age. He believes that they are leveraged by transnational capitalism to obscure class, and end up demonising white working-class men who have nothing to turn to but neo-nationalism to make sense of their woes.
He somewhat undermines this argument by referring to Chelsea Manning as ‘he’, making it sound like his opinion is coming from a rather reactionary place. Still, I believe that Pilger has a point: working-class white men are also an oppressed group, and in the conversations about intersectional struggles, not many folks are speaking up for them any more. This is how Trump happened.
Pilger calls out today’s writers for not speaking out against the mechanisms of power. He lambasts journalists for not taking risks, not challenging the status quo, not stepping back and calling out the awkward truths. In particular, he accuses journalists of using identity politics to relieve themselves of the burden of speaking up for somebody, and failing to dig down into the things that are actually uncomfortable: namely, the effects of corporate transnationalism, and the gap between rich and poor in America. In other words, the inequality that the educated liberal ‘elites’ – and often the journalists themselves – benefit from.
The idea that ‘we’ are using identity politics to obscure the issues of class and inequality that we are a part of – that needs to be more widely heard. There is a certain comfort that ‘we’ are taking in reassuring each other that we think it is all quite terrible and shocking and that something must be done. It keeps the focus on Trump and his misogyny. It enables us to avoid asking ourselves awkward questions.
I didn’t go to that particular women’s march because I felt that its politics were ‘misorientated’; they focused too heavily on one (admittedly powerful) misogynist and thereby wilfully obscured part of the issue. I feel that this is a time for a unified approach to liberation. The ‘other’ disenfranchised, those who voted for Trump, would have seen it as a march against them. But what we need is for the disenfranchised to come together and recognise each other’s oppression. This is unlikely to happen because that requires each side to recognise that they are also an oppressor.