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What can feminists do now?


On its website, n+1 has published a series of reactions to the US presidential election written by its editors and contributors. Among them is a piece by Dayna Tortorici which asks “What Can Feminists Do?” in the aftermath of Trump’s victory. Here’s an excerpt:

Racism, nationalism, and patriarchy belong to a common project. All nationalist programs reduce women to breeders for the nation, expelling, degrading, or killing those they don’t want. Nationalism is not kind to gays, lesbians, or gender nonconformists, either. At best, women can hope to be exceptions—honorary men granted the privilege of oppressing other women. The respect, pride, and affection benevolent patriarchs have for women is similar to the sort they have for their dogs. The difference is not in degree but kind: the love of masters for their pets can be deep, but it’s not the love of equals.

Paradoxically, the front lines of feminism tend to look like its tail end. If progress resembles the movement of a train—the cab chugging steadily toward a horizon of possibility, one that challenges even those who stepped aboard long ago—reaction attacks the station, the point of entry where people linger, hesitate, and imagine getting on board. If you lose the station, you risk losing everything, the ground you’ve gained and the chance to gain it again. The imperative, when reaction takes the station, is to expect the most even as you expect nothing: to recognize that the task at hand is much more rudimentary than you hoped, but still aim high.

What can feminists do? Use the resources at our disposal to safeguard the institutions that protect the rights of women—cis, trans, everyone—and gender nonconformists. Join the vanguard in the task at hand, the struggle against racism, fascism, and apartheid in America. “Mainstream communication does not want women, particularly white women, responding to racism,” Audre Lorde said in 1981. Too bad, because we will. It’s our only choice.

Image: Audre Lorde.