President Donald Trump has been a boon for angry women. He excites their troops and animates their causes, no matter how diffuse. In turn, they have turned him into a pinata, a uuuuge target for thwacking. With his coarse verbal machismo, he has become a greater-than-lifesize quarry for blaming “the man.”
This made it easy for feminists and certain other women to focus their fury on the president on International Women’s Day. But even Donald Trump being Donald Trump wasn’t a big enough a target for some of them on the global stage. They want to use the energy of despising the Donald to organize a “new wave of militant feminist struggle.”
Some politically unsavory women attempted to influence the direction of A Day Without a Woman here and across the world to expand the day to make war against the president’s “aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies,” as they explained to the London Guardian, and move it to a more inclusive agenda that is “at once anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-heterosexist and anti-neoliberal.” Have they left anybody out?
They might have added “anti-Israel,” since one of the authors of this manifesto is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian convicted of terrorism in Israel in 1970 for participating in two bombings, one of which killed two Israeli students who were innocently shopping for groceries in a Jerusalem market. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, but she served only 10 years and was released as part of a prisoner swap. She came to the United States and became an American citizen in 2004, which says a lot about the quality of vetting prospective immigrants. It’s part of “herstory,” we suppose.
Flourishing in the American democracy, Odeh was not discovered as having lied about her past for a decade. She was subsequently convicted of immigration fraud, but she won a new trial, set for later this year, with the explanation that the trial court did not consider that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. This disorder is commonly invoked by combat veterans suffering memories of horrors on the battlefield. (We can’t make this stuff up.)
Odeh joins others with notorious resumes to attempt to infuse new energy into the feminist movement. Her sister-signers of the International Women’s Day manifesto include Angela Davis, the Stalinist queen of the Black Panthers who was tried in 1972 for buying the guns that were used in a courtroom shootout that ended in the death of the judge. After she was acquitted, she ran twice as the vice presidential candidate of the Communist Party USA. She was cheered at the Women’s March on Washington against Donald Trump the day after his inauguration, along with Madonna and Gloria Steinem, calling for “resistance on the ground, resistance in the classroom (and) resistance on the job.”
Perhaps the most radical recommendation for celebrating International Women’s Day was proposed by Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of the Canadian prime minister, who dared adding “the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are.” She created an avalanche of criticism on social media.
The American contingent calling for A Day Without a Woman demonstrations urges women to play hooky from their jobs to draw attention to women in the workplace. But it actually reflects the class divisions that have always divided the women’s movement in the United States. Playing hooky from the job demonstrates the widening gap between college-educated women and women working at lower-paying jobs, between those who “lean in” with an assertive pose of authority and those who “lean in” with an aching back.
Staying home from the job naturally falls hardest on women dependent on a regular paycheck who cannot risk opting out. Three school districts in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina shut down on A Day Without a Woman because there weren’t enough teachers and support staff. Working mothers could not depend on the schools to occupy their children for part of the day, while their affluent “lean in” sisters enjoyed a day off. A day care worker in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where classes were cancelled, said, “If I don’t work, they don’t work, and if they can’t work, they don’t get paid.”
The organizers of A Day Without a Woman urged women taking the day off to avoid shopping with kind, thoughtful exceptions shopping at “small, women-and minority-owned business.” This sets apart — segregates, you might say — the owner of that little shop around the corner. So much for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of judging “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Organizers mock not only King’s dream but also the American dream. It was just this out-of-touch elitism that got Donald Trump elected, with millions of working women’s votes. He didn’t have to feel the pain of an Election Day without a woman.