12 November 2016

Beyond Pantsuit Solidarity

This, my first explicitly political post, is directed very locally: to economically comfortable liberal white women, like me, living in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. If what I say applies to other liberal white women living in blue bubble communities, counties, states: good.

We can do better in 2018 and 2020. We need to keep a hanger handy for the pantsuits, though.

Yes, misogyny is real, and yes, pantsuit solidarity is needed. Girls shouldn't have to be informed on national television that they can do anything (if you click on the link, watch to the end)--we all should know it so deeply that it doesn't have to be said. Also, powerful women should not be more vulnerable than powerful men because they have the same careerist, domineering, opportunistic, manipulative, underhanded, disciplined, and unlikeable tendencies. Also, women should be helping each other, along and across every line of race, class, wealth, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, and citizenship status there is.

So what I'm talking about here is just one of those lines: the rural-urban divide. Yes, that's a Cracked article. Read it anyway. Definitely read it if you've already read, "I'm a Coastal Elite from the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America."

Is the rural-urban divide the whole story of what went wrong with this election? Of course not. We have months of figuring that out ahead of us. But it's a big enough piece to be worth addressing as we go forward, particularly those of us who live in "blue islands in an ocean of red" ("Champaign-Urbana Big Outlier in Area Results").

It's not a piece that pantsuit solidarity is equipped to confront. What about women who can't afford the dry cleaning and don't have anywhere to wear a pantsuit anyway?  Who don't want to wear pantsuits? Who don't aspire for their daughters to wear pantsuits? Who have been screwed over by women wearing pantsuits? Who have good reason to believe that anyone in a pantsuit will look down on them? Who find it hard to believe that anything good ever comes of talking to someone in a pantsuit?

It was no more inevitable that the vast low-population tracts of rural America would turn out to be zones of economic depression, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and Oxycontin abuse than it was that chunks of inner cities would turn out to be zones of economic depression, violence, teen pregnancy, and crack addiction. Trying to understand the environment that breeds racism, sexism, and xenophobia with the hope that it can be made less hospitable to those diseases is not a capitulation to them. Laying aside judgment to learn about the risk factors that promote those diseases is not capitulating to them.

Yes, it's complicated, and yes--racism is a cause as well as a symptom of the complex history that has made rural America a source of prosperity for large multinational companies but not for the people who inhabit it.

New York Times
Of the many, many tasks ahead of us, it's on educated, comfortable, left-leaning white women to start this process. To reach out to the women on the geographical and ideological margins of their blue communities. To seek out opportunities for community that aren't centered on institutions of higher learning, left-leaning white congregations, or social activist groups dominated by people like them. To risk discomfort and awkwardness across class lines as well as racial and ethnic lines. To recognize that not everyone regards educational status and book-learning as markers of personal worth and to start genuinely valuing themselves and other people on other terms. To have real conversations that aren't premised on the assumption that we already have the answers. To find the stalwarts who voted blue in red communities and find out what kinds of action they think are needed. I'm sure there's more. That's just a start.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for this. While I'm in a much more urbanized/suburbanized part of the country,I've been thinking a lot about the chicken-and-egg nature of economic despair and racism, xenophobia, et al. I think your wording is just right: such thinking is, indeed, a kind of disease (a communicable one),and certain conditions make people more susceptible to it.