I’m having a crisis of faith. In feminism. In people. In everything, really.
Aren’t we all.
Liberals can be such know-it-all jerks while conservatives can be angry, yet committed blowhards. Somehow, and I do not know how this happened, during the Democratic National Convention I was in the middle.
OK, I know exactly how this happened. I did not support Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I voted for Bernie Sanders.
If you were a Sanders supporter during the convention, you might as well have been a shit stain on a pair of undies at the bottom of the progressive laundry pile. No, they weren’t going to throw you out just yet, but if you didn’t clean up with a hot scalding then, yeah, out with the trash.
Never in my life have I ever felt like such an asshole. Is this the way I sound to conservatives? Do I sound this pompous? Do I sound like there is only One True Word and it’s whatever I say because, well, I’m Right. And you are Wrong. And also stupid. And sexist. And misguided. And probably racist. So, I’m going to hit you with 86,309,345 status updates about just how wrong you are.
I was treated like a republican for maybe three days and I couldn’t hack it. I was seriously like: FUCK THIS WORLD, BURN IT DOWN.
The response was typical progressive elitistism, disregarding the very real and thoughtful reasons why many Sanders supporters arrived at their decision.
Before my parents divorced they built a two-story house on a suburban street across from a married couple who happened to be doctors. My parents did not attend college, and here they were living on the same street as the educated class. What an amazing testament to hard work. We all had health insurance, there were two cars in the driveway and the future — not necessarily the relationship — looked pretty good.
Then came a divorce, Reagan busting the unions, and now I can’t tell you where a doctor lives in proximity to me. What I can tell you is my neighbor is not above sticking a rusted grill on his front porch along with a trash can and a dangling American flag.
Where I live now, folks are working class and deeply patriotic.
Before I turned twenty-one, I knew three kids who died of a heroin overdose, and at least two who turned to sex work as payment for their habits. Most of my friends have children, almost all of them are not married. Most of them didn’t attend college. I went to a Blue Ribbon high school, but it’s not reflected in the outcomes of many of the people I know and have known over the course of my life.
Progressives have failed these folks. Feminism has failed poor white women, and the Clintons have failed the white working class, too.
From welfare reform to trade deals to the deregulation of banks, to mass incarceration and the ballooning costs of higher education drowning students with debt; this is why I voted for Bernie Sanders.
White progressives do not write or speak enough about the differences between poor whites and white elites. Journalists, just like police, do not live within the communities they serve. The main function of journalism is to serve as not only as the voice of the voiceless, but also as de facto lawyers for the downtrodden; bringing humanity and justice to the folks who otherwise can not afford the publicity or the eloquence for themselves. What we have now are too many affluent buffoons full of ego and brunch reservations.
And to me, there is no further class full of more bullshit than white feminists. Call me cranky or just call me a poor white, but whatever you do, do not lump me in with these whack ass broads.
“Aspirational marketing” is a concept that presents lifestyle products for purchase above the income level one is marketing to. This, in a nutshell, is white feminism. Aspirational feminism is loaded not with policy per se but with presenting the micro-aggressions of elite white women as a kind-of trickle down equality theory — where if you focus on white, college educated women and their micro-problems then, by golly, everyone else rises.
It’s the kind of phenomena that allows for Lena Dunham to post a picture from her high school prom in a Chanel dress and somehow seem relatable because she’s chubby. Or for multimillionaire Sheryl Sandberg to burden women with her own idiosyncratic psychobabble and rise to the level of self-help messiah because some guy in a hoodie did her a solid so she’s now an everywoman. Or for Taylor Swift at the Grammys to give a cringe-inducing speech about success. Aspirational feminism always disregards the mighty leg up whiteness and access provide for these women to be so bold in their mediocrity.
And nobody loves Hillary Clinton more than white feminists.
I get it. I really do. I want a woman president as much as any other feminist except when I looked around and started to consider the overdoses, the college debt, the lack of journalists and doctors in my community; welfare reform, an epidemic of missing teeth, big banks, bad schools, sad lives and broken spirits; I just couldn’t do it. All of these issues do not fall on Hillary Clinton’s shoulders, but they certainly are endemic of a political system she participated in and profited from mightily.
There is a truth that poor whites do feel lost among white elites — like social and economic pariahs. However, whiteness will open doors. There’s no driving while white. There’s no talk with white boys at thirteen. While poor whites and people of color walk in close proximity, there is much that separates their experiences, and yet poor whites tend to have a factory setting of outward anger directed not up but laterally because, and this is an oversimplification, the upwardly mobile class and established blue bloods look just like them.
So they believe that a working class billionaire is a thing. Trump speaks to a class of people who have been not necessarily forgotten but definitely disregarded because there’s no nobility in poverty; and the journalists down to the white feminists can’t be bothered with the poors. You’ve won the luck of the racial draw and still didn’t come out ahead? As Trump would tweet: sad!
Elite progressives always want to know: what have you done for me lately? If you can’t come up with it, you’re useless. They’re moving on. You can either afford their mixed-used developments or you can’t. You can either talk like an academic or fuck off and educate yourself on your own time. Elite progressives love health like it’s their religion, love to wear their feminism like it’s an accessory and cash their checks right in the neighborhood you used to be able to afford until they moved in.
Why wouldn’t you want to grab a bullhorn and spew hateful shit at these smug assholes?
Democrats weren’t speaking for Hillary Clinton at their convention as much as they were making the case for democracy against tyranny; which sounds colonial and alarmist, but it’s true. Each speech was a persuasive essay of the highest order to convince you not that Hillary Clinton was without fault, but that she offered the best hope to starve off fire and brimstone. The stakes are high, the fruit is ripe, and if we didn’t come together, we were going spoil and rot from hate and division.
I decided it would be peak elite whiteness for me to fall on the sword of Bernie Sanders. No, Hillary Clinton is not my first choice but the history of social justice moves by inches not miles, and honestly who gives a damn about my first choice. I would be no better than the people I loathe conflating accessories as convictions if I chose purity over compromise. And I’m better than that — I have more to lose.
Sanders persuaded Clinton to adopt his college tuition platform and that signal, however small, I see as progress that she does, in fact, listen. Maybe it’s not bullshit. Maybe.
But how could I not get behind Clinton when the Obamas sleep in a house that slaves built, and the Khans gave the ultimate sacrifice of their son while Joe Biden became strong in all the broken parts? What kind of monster would I be if I didn’t allow myself to be emotionally manipulated by these stories of inequality, despair, war and loss?
Yes, it’s pollyanna to believe in anything anymore, but they got to me. I went from BURN IT DOWN to STRONGER TOGETHER in four days, and I don’t feel disgusted with myself. And why shouldn’t I after watching a Black president offer his support to the first woman to accept a major party nomination — two people who weren’t allowed to vote for a long portion of this country’s history.
But the discarding of the white working class and poor is a reckoning that’s been building for decades, now. Yes, it would make far more sense for poverty-stricken whites to band together with people of color and vote according to their interests instead of turning to rage and a demagogue. However, when I was treated like a conservative for a week I wanted to burn the place down, too.
I also don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that white feminists don’t speak for me and neither do elite progressives. The only hope I have is a white woman I barely believe in and it just has to be good enough for right now.