On the morning of Jan. 20, some guy friends at my gym in New York City ask me why I’m not at the Women’s March.
“Well… the march doesn’t speak for me,” I begin.
“What do you mean — aren’t you for women’s rights?”
“Yes, of course, but it depends what you mean by rights.”
Blank stares. This is clearly not a gym conversation.
“I am a woman, yes,” I continue. “But I don’t agree with the leaders of the march on many issues.”
More blank stares.
“Let’s just say, before I’m a woman, I’m an individual. I don’t need to be told what to think or who to vote for. The leaders of this march believe they have the right to tell me what to think. That is the opposite of feminism.”
Oh, cool, they nod. In their heads, I have moved into the category of “interesting woman at the gym who says things we don’t understand.”
Sadly, so many women who marched last weekend don’t understand this critical point, either. They don’t understand that you can’t call something a Women’s March and then attach to it a particular set of politics. Would men attending a Men’s March be expected to think exactly the same thoughts on every issue?
This was a Progressive Women’s March, as was last year’s. So why don’t they call it that? Because, like it or not, the leaders of these marches don’t think women are very smart. Maybe “smart” isn’t the right word. Obedient — the leaders of these marches believe women should be obedient. You just tell women what to do and think, and they will follow suit. Just as Michelle Obama thought she could tell women that they had to vote for Hillary, these leaders believe they just need to tell women what to chant, who to hate, etc., and they will willingly fall in line.
And for Progressive women, they are quite right. In fact, a defining feature of today’s Progressivism/leftism is its fundamentalist approach to life. In diametric opposition to true liberalism, Progressives question nothing. They follow orders, and they’re very good at it.
But even if I were a woman who shared a Progressive view of life, I wouldn’t march. Why? Well, why would I want to be even remotely involved with something led by Linda Sarsour? Leaving aside everything else, Sarsour has never denied her desire to see Israel disappear. In fact, it is a core tenet of her belief system. And she is brilliant at convincing Progressives that they should hate Israel too.
I understand the goal of the Zioness Movement, for instance, is to force Progressives to give Zionist women a seat at their table. But I think there’s a flaw in this: Progressivism is now, by definition, proudly anti-Zionist. It’s part of the “intersectionality” they toss around. Why would you want to be part of a group of people whose core belief is hatred of you?
Wouldn’t a better tactic be to strengthen real liberalism? Zionism is by definition a subset of liberalism — you literally cannot be liberal and anti-Zionist.
During last year’s march, I had to shield my son’s eyes from the signs and attire of many participants. I remember trying to explain to him one particular sign held by a male: “Kill the patriarchy.”
This year, now 8 years old, he was conveniently in synagogue all morning. Later in the day, we were on a crowded train, going to a tennis tournament. Two white women with pink knit hats were occupying a third seat with a sign that said: “Trust Women.” Meanwhile, a bunch of minority women were standing with me, rolling their eyes. Not once did the pink hats even notice us standing there, let alone remove the sign.
My son was looking at them as well. What message is his generation learning from all of this? Progressive men want to kill themselves because they are so riddled with patriarchic guilt? Progressive women are so self-involved they can’t be bothered to give up their sign’s seat for another human?
The next day, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, we watched men and women in wheelchairs play tennis. My son was mesmerized. “One day, I’d like to help them,” said the boy whose empathy comes in fits and starts.
“You will,” I said, knowing that this moment was more important for humanity than hundreds of women around the country wearing pussy hats. That’s why I didn’t march.
Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author living in New York.