Awarded 2nd Place Opinion by California Women’s Associated Press
The two most important aspects of my identity are feminism and Judaism. Feminism is a main pillar of my everyday life which dictates my actions. My strong belief that all women and men should live in an equitable society guides the decisions I make. Judaism has impacted my life in various ways through family traditions, values, and wisdom which have been taught through both my temple and my family. The teachings of Judaism have inspired me to pursue social justice and advocate for what I believe.
In the past, I’ve attended the Women’s March and found it to be a profoundly moving experience. I have never felt as much joy as I did marching down the streets of Oakland with thousands of people who have ideals similar to my own—that all people should be afforded the same opportunities and rights. Walking with so many others who envision the world as I do provided me with a sense of empowerment and motivation to advocate for change. After the first Women’s March in 2017, I planned to attend for many years to come.
This year, however, I had to make a choice between the two most important aspects of my identity—feminism and Judaism—and decide what felt right.
Vanessa Wruble, a Jew from Brooklyn, is one of the co-founders of Women’s March. According to the New York Times, Wruble felt pushed out of the group due to many factors including her Jewish identity.
The larger issue, however, lies within the people and organizations with whom the leaders of the Women’s March associate.
Tamika Mallory, co-president of the group, has both attended rallies and publicly supported Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who is widely recognized as anti-semitic and criticized for his backlash towards Jewish people. One of Farrakhan’s various remarks is, “Satanic Jews who have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.”
Mallory, however, has referred to Farrakhan as “The G.O.A.T..”—typically used to indicate “the greatest of all time” on social media. Although her comments about Farrakhan were not specifically in reference to his anti-semitic comments, her support for him as a person relay to his views about Jewish people.
It is not fair for leaders of the Women’s March to treat Jews as typical, privileged white Americans. Jews have been persecuted throughout history and it’s obvious Jews are not treated the same as typical white Europeans. Although many Jews may have light skin, it does not tie them to the privilege white Christian Europeans have been historically afforded. Although prejudice against Jewish people is not the most prevalent in contemporary America, it is still significant and needs to be dealt with. The purpose of the Women’s March is to support all women to come together advocate for change, however, leaving Jewish women out of the conversation defeats the entire of the March as a whole.
Tamika Mallory’s neglect, whether accidental or not, for hatred against Jewish people demonstrates her ignorance to the troubles faced by the Jewish community, and more specifically Jewish women. By allegedly supporting hateful rhetoric against Jews, Mallory and by association the Women’s March organization is contributing to the problem of anti-semitism and is not staying true to their goal of equality for all women, which aided my decision not to attend.
It is no secret that American anti-semitism has been on the rise in the United States. According to the Anti Defamation League, anti-semitic incidents increased 57 percent in the United States in 2017 compared to the previous year which saw cases reported in every single state for the first time since 2010. None of this violence and hate characterizes the jews as a typical example of the “privileged white (Christian) American”.
Being a true feminist is supporting women of every ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and empowering every woman to do as she pleases. However, when one group is excluded from the discussion, it is a slippery slope. Any other group of women can be excluded from the movement.
As a young woman involved in the contemporary feminism movement, I find that the most important quality in protest or in advocacy is the inclusion of every woman. That is what I find to be the best quality in contemporary intersectional feminism. In the past, feminism has not always been inclusive, which is why it is so important that now, in 2019, everyone is included in the conversation. Inclusion and equity are hallmarks of today’s feminism. The leaders of the Women’s March have not demonstrated these values, therefore I decided not to participate.
If the Women’s March does not support every kind of woman, it is not a truly feminist organization. I hope that in the coming years, there will be a more inclusive organization to organize protests and activism for people encompassing all backgrounds. The leaders of the Women’s March shouldn’t support anti-semitic things given they lead an organization which promotes inclusivity. I will continue to advocate for ALL women–even if that means sitting out of important events like the Women’s March–and hope that every other feminist will do the same.