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 "The signs of a new universalizing are tantalizing and hopeful, for it is only through solidarity and a “movement of movements” that we will create a new system ensuring equality for women themselves as well as all people."(Photo:reid.neureiter/flickr/cc)

"The signs of a new universalizing are tantalizing and hopeful, for it is only through solidarity and a “movement of movements” that we will create a new system ensuring equality for women themselves as well as all people."(Photo:reid.neureiter/flickr/cc) 

Women Are Universalizing

The problems of women, people of color, workers, and immigrants are all intertwined, all ruled by the same tiny concentration of wealthy people who run our militarized corporate system for their own benefit.  

Charles Derber

Hundreds of thousands of women once again took to the streets on January 20, 2018 to fire up the “resistance movement” that they helped ignite a year ago, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. But while the numbers were not as large as a year ago, this second Women’s March may prove to be more consequential. It is beginning to create a “universalizing resistance,” one that speaks not only to the needs of women but to universal human needs.

The US Left has been seriously weakened since the 1960s by turning to a fragmented or “siloed” politics in which each “identity community” organizes separately to fight for its own members. But the problems of women, people of color, workers, and immigrants are all intertwined, all ruled by the same tiny concentration of wealthy people who run our militarized corporate system for their own benefit.   

A year ago, the the Women’s March turned out in huge numbers to challenge Trump’s blatant sexism, symbolized by the pink pussy hats that came to define the movement. But while while some of the leading organizers spoke for women of color, immigrants and poor people, it was not clear that women were moving beyond a narrow identity politics to fight for rights of all people.

This new March was energized by the #Me Too explosion that may be a bridge to a broader feminist concern with what the actress Natalie Portman, in the LA March called “mutuality.” She rejected the puritanical side of #Me Too and said to all people “let’s find a space where we mutually, consensually, look out for each other’s pleasure,” hinting at a social change direction.

The 2018 Women’s March may be igniting a new politics of solidarity and a more robust phase of “universalizing resistance.” This is anti-systemic politics that sees the intertwined or “intersectional” nature of power and fights for a new system of mutuality and universal rights. Opinion polls have long shown that women are more supportive of social welfare and solidarity, one reason why feminist movements may universalize.

Here are a few clues pointing to a growing universalizing resistance:

  • Look at the protest signs. Colorful posters said  “protect the Dreamers,” “end mass incarceration,” “health care for all,”  “fund our schools,” “equality for all.” This solidarity with many struggles is the core of universalizing resistance.
  • Look at the marchers. The majority were women but they were women and men of all colors, all ages, and all incomes –and many countries. This coalition of diverse protestors and movements moves beyond silo politics into universalized resistance
  • Look at what marchers said. Marcher Ellen Bower said “we need to march for equality,  not just for women but for all.” Another marcher, who wore red to honor indigenous people, said “it’s really important to stand together…be intersectional.” Bob Bland, a co-organizer of the first march said this time we “centered women of color in leadership,” saying “the miracle this year” was broad inclusivity, a key to universalizing resistance.
  • Look at the protestors and the politicians. Progressive Democratic Party leaders and candidates – such as Elizabeth Warren and a Leftist Virginia state candidate for Congress Leslie Cockburn– spoke strongly for the March. Many protestors have dived into 2018 electoral campaigns to take political power locally and nationally. This rise of a “united front” linking “the streets” with electoral politics is essential to a universalizing resistance movement.

The Huffington Post noted that the new Women’s March was “an effort to work for inclusivity and intersectionality from Day 1.”

Women are just starting this revolution in the Resistance, and many may stay glued to narrower identity politics. The new Women’s March did not speak loudly enough about our corporate capitalism, global militarism, or climate change. Some women felt the second march had actually moved away from broader concerns about racism and social justice. But the signs of a new universalizing are tantalizing and hopeful, for it is only through solidarity and a “movement of movements” that we will create a new system ensuring equality for women themselves as well as all people.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Charles Derber

Charles Derber, Professor of Sociology at Boston College and author of twenty books, most recently Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times.

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