Photo courtesy of: “16 cosas de mí…” by El mundo de Laura licensed under CC BY 2.0

What to Do about White Women

written together with Atlas Charles

Social media is awash right now with calls for White women to get other White women in check after the majority of them did not vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. We understand this call for action not to be tongue-in-cheek and offer some practical next steps.

First, generally, White people do not show strong solidarity with one another, unless it is potentially about religion or ethnicity, and then, those are not the White people who voted for Joe and Kamala. Marginalized or intersectionally oppressed White people also rarely talk about their Whiteness, because in the United States, Whiteness is the fundamental reference point. It has been constructed as the de facto norm, thus White people generally spend little to no time discussing or thinking about their Whiteness, unless, that is, they plan to actively weaponize it.

Once upon a time solidarity across identity lines was achieved under the heading of “working class politics.” That era is gone and we must find a way to restore dignity and hope to places and peoples who have lost it.

We find validity in the call to check White women. While White women are oppressed because of gender, more often than not, they align themselves with White men. White women, consciously or unconsciously, do this for many reasons but the chief result remains that White women believe or assert a better chance of maintaining or attaining personal or political power in this alliance and allegiance. In this, White women suffer loss of rights (like those to bodily autonomy), but remain master actors, too, in society.

Thus, we offer some other practical means, in a list, to make the United States a more humane, just, livable, breathable place for all, and this list focuses on what to do about White women, specifically. Not that we don’t also believe these can apply to White men, and maybe we will write something more about them separately.

  1. Focus on flipping White women in other ways, and maybe you’ll get lucky with voting. Years ago, one of the co-authors of this canvassed door to door for progressive policy. The first thing she was taught was to ask the person that answered the door if they supported this policy, and, if they did not, then to leave. Waste ZERO time trying to talk anyone in and out of anything. You are not going to change anyone’s mind with argument.
  • Healthcare including wellness care

The burden of care is placed on all women. Women are oppressed by traditional roles of caregiver to children and elders that place them out of the workforce; in lower-paying, lower-prestige fields; and in vulnerable spaces that lead to depression and anxiety. All this to not even mention the burden of violence that disproportionately affects women, White women included. Policies that affect people’s lives, especially the lives of those who are most vulnerable, hold the potential to catch real traction with even White women as they are benefited by these policies, too.

4. The new Green economy must reach into rural America. It must leave no one behind, especially not the rural folk as they feel abandoned already. It must focus on decentralization and be decentralized to keep single sector economies from dictating people’s lives again in places like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina.

5. We have to take the threat of automating jobs away seriously. Economic development, reskilling, and sector investment must find a path to work for everyone and/or produce stability for everyone, including people not in large metropolitan areas. The COVID crisis likely has accelerated the push by large corporations to automate to eliminate even further the “inconveniences” of a human workforce and to satisfy shareholder profit demand.

The policies we list here are not exhaustive nor a panacea; however, they are the kinds of social safety net issues that Western European nations focused on after World War II, toward healing what may have seemed irreparable social and political rifts and toward ensuring domestic tranquility.

The shift of formerly blue areas to red (like West Virginia) did not happen overnight. Yes, if you did not know, West Virginia was solidly blue until 2000 — and one of the most heavily unionized states.

The shift happened as communities were eroded from the 1970s — 2000s by the exit of single sector factory and other large corporate industries and the federal Neoliberal economic policies that focused on shareholder wealth rather than community jobs and gains.

The shift happened when unions were busted in the 1980s and no other physically-present institution rose up to have people’s backs.

It happened as schools were consolidated and the community markers people used to identify with shifted or disappeared altogether.

It happened when national policy and attention focused on technology, not on the raw materials and their extraction — of the stuff that makes all of our lives possible.

Our call is to end the national federal policies that reduce our lives to economic transactions (which is the definition of Neoliberalism) and that focus instead on strengthening resilience, both for people personally and for their communities.

Then we may begin to see a shift away from looking toward a “strong” macho White leader to swoop in because he alone can save us, make America great. At best, we may begin to find connection in community across the lines that currently divide, and, at worst, at least a defanging that at least leads to less venomous behavior toward others.

The reality is that Black and Indigenous women do the work for all of us. They saved our asses in this election, not unlike many elections before. Black and Indigenous liberation is tied to everyone else’s liberation. To paraphrase Indigeneous scholars — White people first had to self-colonize before they could colonize others. They first had to step away from their own humanity. Transactional politics, whether Neoliberal or leftist, that reduces humans to their monetary or the value only of their “production” brutalize and dehumanize us all.

We end up with this tug between White men and the rest of us to position White women as the group of “tie-breakers” — as bridges to reattain or attain for the first time policies of dignity and community.

But, in terms of the 55% of White women on board for continued brutality, policies of containment to prevent the damage they are able to do is probably the best move we have. These policies above make everyone, not just them, more resilient and safer.

Farmer, writer, STS researcher, social entrepreneur, systems rethinker

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