Every movement has growing pains. Every leader has moments where they must confront their shortcomings. In a society steeped in a history of oppression, every individual and every movement must work to unlearn hate and create equity. If we are going to build a new world, we must first build new selves. That time has been long overdue for the Women’s March. It has been coming and it has been coming and it is here.
Actress and feminist icon Alyssa Milano, one of the #MeToo movement leaders, made it clear recently that she has had enough. “Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed. I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately,” Milano said in an interview with The Advocate when she was asked about the march leader’s relationship to the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan. Milano said she would decline to attend the next Women’s March.
Milano has had enough. I have had enough. We all should have had enough. The Women’s March has consistently, repeatedly failed to address ingrained institutional anti-Semitism. It must be confronted before the next March in January. We will not wait any longer. Our resistance to hatred will only grow.
Hate makes us weak. Hate is the province of our enemies who use it to divide us and conquer us. The feminist movement is slowly learning about it’s past blindness to racism. Just as we fight feminism that privileges white women we must reform all forms of feminism that marginalize, otherize and attack women who face multiple kinds of oppression.
While American Jewish Women have been screaming themselves hoarse about the dangers of growing anti-Semitism, the Women’s March has been asleep. It has been ensconced in its biases. It has enabled hate against us by refusing to hear our pain. Embracing hate groups is not coalition building. Ignoring our voices and the reality of the threat to our community—especially now, after the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh— is a byproduct of that hate.
Hate cannot build, it can only destroy. It is like water pooling in the foundation of a home. It is only droplets at first. Then, suddenly, it is breaking down the concrete and seeping through the walls and bringing down the house. This is a lesson progressives must learn—hate cannot be allowed to fester in the corners of a movement. It cannot be allowed to exist alongside our promise of justice. It will slowly break us all and we cannot afford to lose. Not now when there is so much at stake.
Yesterday the Women’s March tweeted these words: “There needs to be accountability and an honest reckoning. There’s a lot of work to do, white women. A lot of learning. A lot of growing. We want to do it with you. Stay tuned.”
Linda, Tamika, Carmen, Bob. Let me repeat it back to you. There needs to be accountability and an honest reckoning. You have betrayed American Jewish women. You have betrayed gay women. You have betrayed trans women. You have just lost a powerful partner. She has seen the way you tolerate hatred and decided to take off her sneakers and stay home. You will lose more. Hate has already seeped into the cracks and corners. It is eating at the foundation and eventually, it will flood your house or bring the whole thing down. It will break everything you have built and leave you standing in the rubble.
Here are steps you can take right now to stop the corrosive hate and create change within the Women’s March movement.
1. Add opposing anti-Semitism to the Women’s March Unity Principles
2. Add a Jewish leader to a co-director role and add Jewish members to the board
3. Cease partnering, promoting, or meeting with SPLC-designated hate-group leadership
You should see Alyssa Milano’s step away from you as a canary in a coal mine and embrace your own call for justice. Take responsibility, listen, learn, grow. Do the work. I promise to help. I promise a lot of American Jewish women will show up to help. We have always wanted to stand with you with our whole heart. That’s why we keep fighting—we are fighting for you, for the soul of American feminism. “We want to do it with you. Stay tuned”
I am not going anywhere. I will not allow you to take feminism from me, from the women I love, from my young daughter. We can rebuild together. We can partner. We can learn. We can make the strongest feminist movement in history. We can rip the patriarchy down. We can burn white supremacy. We can do anything if we do it together. The only thing stopping us is the hate. You must confront it within you before we can confront it in America.
Carly Pildis is the Director of Grassroots Organizing for the Jewish Democratic Council of America, and an advocacy professional based in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter feed is @carlypildis, and her website is www.carlypildis.com.