It’s Time to Address the Complicity of White Women.
Why can’t we just do better?
I don’t think it was a shock to many that all the members of Alabama’s state senate who voted for their recent anti-abortion bill were conservative Christian white men. Images of the faces of these government officials have flooded our social media accounts, igniting the justified and furious conversation about white men’s continued efforts to suppress the rights of women in this country. Efforts that are as old and familiar as the country itself.
In the discussion surrounding the individuals who passed Alabama’s ban on abortions, we cannot forget the individual who signed it in to law.
Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey had the opportunity to protect the women in her state. She had the opportunity to stand up for the vulnerable, and ensure that no women in Alabama will ever find themselves in the desperate positions they will now find themselves in when seeking an abortion. She had the opportunity to stand up against the men who wrote this law, and keep her people safe.
She had the opportunity, and didn’t take it.
Instead Governor Kay Ivey signed in to law this draconian all out attack on women’s rights, that I’m sure she was all too aware will affect predominately poor women of color. She chose to side with the white Christian men, rather than preserve the rights of these women she is supposed to represent and serve. She sacrificed her own rights and the rights of the women and girls around her in order to uplift and strengthen the white, patriarchal status quo.
Of course, Governor Ivey is not alone.
Whether it’s slavery itself or the civil rights movement and the Jim Crow era, white women have a long history of either staying silent or actively participating in systems that hold down women and/or other people of color. Even when it came to women’s suffrage, white women were more than willing to leave other disenfranchised groups behind. Famed women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony famously said:
“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”
Still today, a significant number of white women are more interested in preserving the system of white supremacy than they are in protecting the rights to their own body autonomy. The 2016 election, in which 45% of white women voted for Trump, was a harsh reminder of how far white women will go to preserve their advantages at the expense of people of color.
The 2016 election is just another instance when white women have had the luxury of staying silent in instances where other women of color have not. Not only did that election mean women of color have the risk of losing the right to an abortion, but they also have the risk of seeing family members ripped away from them. Brown and black women merely walking down the street and daring to engage with each other and have a good time is an act of resistance this day in age, and that is something white women have never understood.
Whether it was when he said he’d grab women by their genitals, or when he said Megyn Kelly must have been on her period when she dared to challenge him, Trump has shown his clear disdain for women time and time again. At the same time, white women all across the country proved how little that mattered to them. In the end, the shares racist ideals with Trump when it comes to Muslims and immigrants prevailed.
That is an uncomfortable truth that even the most liberal of white women should not be allowed to write off and dismiss as something that does not apply to them. It’s the exact opposite. It is the responsibility of those white women to amplify the voices of the women of color, and educate their peers about the various obstacles that continue to stand in their way. We simply cannot be a part of an effective resistance and fight for our rights if we don’t acknowledge the other various obstacles that stand the way of other groups of people, and how many of us continue to work to keep those obstacles in place.