I saw a tweet the other morning calling on white women to renounce their dependence on white men as a way to change the power structure in this country. The tweet thread that followed purported that it was impossible for the white supremacist male hierarchy to be turned on its head when so many white women are “entrenched” in it. I have to agree. We can see evidence of this in the fact that more white women than one would expect (the figure is around 53%) voted for Trump. They did so because it was in their own self-interest. They saw a Trump presidency as being good for their (white, upper middle-class) husbands and by the trickle-down economics of marriage, what’s good for their husbands would also be good for them and their children.
I saw another tweet, in this same vein, that put the onus squarely on white women to change their lives so they don’t have to be dependent on men. Encouraging white women to make this change is great in theory, but putting it into practice is the problem.
When I was pregnant, I was completely taken by surprise that my husband’s job didn’t offer parental leave. I had never imagined that I would be the sole parent tasked with the full-time job of caring for our premature twins, or that I would have to give up a life that I had been working so hard for. Because of the lack of laws governing how companies should treat new parents, and because I am a woman, I was forced to be 100% dependent on my husband. What what was I to do?
We could have hired a nanny (which we did). But let’s consider, who are the domestic workers? Men? I think not. They are always women. Women who are poorly paid, not offered health or other benefits. And if they are married, they have to be dependent on their husbands, because childcare doesn’t pay enough to afford someone a comfortable life. Is it sufficient to pass the dependency on to another woman?
My husband could have stayed home with the kids, and I could have worked. In my case, I was in medical school, so if my husband would have stayed home, we would have had no income whatsoever. In other cases, where both partners work outside the home, there is the gender pay gap. When a working couple has that discussion about who is going to stay home with the kids, how would that conversation go? Him: “Who’s going to quit their job?” Her: “Well, I make 75% of what you do for the exact same job.” Him: “Hmm, do we really need that extra 25%?” Her: “Nope. You stay home.” Him: “K.”
This gender-biased system is in place to keep more than one group of people in line. We can see the Republicans getting scared because different oppressed groups (who have been oppressed in different ways and to different extents) are starting to see what they have in common with each other. It is this growth of the awareness of intersectionality that’s important. It’s also important not to blame one group of oppressed people for the misfortunes of another. This only serves to foment division in a social movement.
We see this division fomented by outside forces, time and again in social movements—white women neglecting to include black women in their demand for suffrage, division in the power structure between men and women in the civil rights movement, division in the women’s movement of the ‘70s between straight and gay women, as well as in companies that give small pay raises or other concessions to their workers to prevent unionization.
This is a time for us to rise together. By working in concert, by seeing the problems first then coming up with solutions, that is the only way we can succeed at turning this country into one in which a majority of us want to live. If we can be divided, then the Republicans have succeeded in quelling the movement and they (the conservatives who are reigning terror on the people of this country and plan to do even more) have won.
The tweet thread referenced above, did the important task of awakening white women to a problem. So let’s think of some possible solutions:
- Women need to stop having babies. Before I became a mother, I was well-poised to live a life of independence. But I couldn’t ignore my biological clock. Further, what people of progressive, forward-thinking minds need to do is actually have more babies. More babies and children raised to be ethical and caring is what this country needs more than ever. (As an aside, I’ll have to write another article about the death threat my 8-year-old daughter received from a third grade boy in her class—the exercises in white male supremacy start young.)
- More white fathers need to stay home with their children, which frees up women to be independent of them. This solution, however, comes with a caveat: forward-thinking families would have to give up 25% of their income. This could translate to less money for a social movement, including candidates that would amplify the cause.
- Share the burden of childcare with a community of people. Unfortunately, childcare often falls on women, so while this solution would free up some white women from their dependence on white men, it would limit other’s ability to work outside the community. These women would need to be able to choose whether or not they want to be a care provider. And they would have to be compensated fairly.
- We, men and women, husbands and wives, need to make choices together that may not benefit us in the short term, but will improve society and, in turn, our children and our children’s children can reap the benefits.
I am truly acknowledging that a problem exists and I'm hoping to have a productive discussion about it.