My Facebook newsfeed is filled these days with subtle expressions of disappointment in Pantsuit Nation, the closed Facebook group formed in the final days of the Clinton campaign.
The veiled criticisms, sighs of frustration, and wrinkled noses are summed up by a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed that described Pantsuit Nation as a potentially powerful political movement that had degenerated into a “kaffeklatsch” for middle-class white women new to politics.
Talk about missing the whole point.
Yes, well-educated, highly diverse women in blue cities are absolutely appalled by the clueless ladies on Pantsuit Nation who are cheering each other on for trivial things like “inviting a Muslim mom to tell the class about Eid.” (a direct quote from the sneering L.A. Times article)
Well, blue-city ladies, I’m appalled by us and our unironic display of privilege.
Sure, in Seattle or San Jose or Brookline, Massachusetts, inviting a Muslim mom into the classroom is pretty unremarkable. Standing up for a woman of color being harassed by a racist asshole in a parking lot — what’s the big deal?
But how many of the eye-rolling, oh-so-disillusioned critics of the Pantsuit Nation live in a small town in a red state? Or send their kid to a public school where the principal is in the KKK? Or know that racist asshole in the parking lot—because he is the man they share a bed with at night, or their boss at the insurance company?
Yes, a lot of the women on Pantsuit Nation are clueless newbies. Yes, they missed out on those college seminars we took on gender identity, third wave feminism, and capitalist oppression. Yes, they are taking baby steps and, yes, they are talking in the language of Hallmark greeting cards. But some of them are taking those baby steps across a mine field.
And, as organizers like Saul Alinsky taught, community organizing takes place in the community — not in the classrooms of liberal universities.
“A good tactic,” he wrote in Rules for Radicals, “is one your people enjoy.” Like Pantsuit Nation.
If those of us on the blue coasts and in the blue cities are so deafened and blinded by our liberal and progressive privilege that we can’t be bothered to dialog with the liberal women in red states, how in hell do you think we’ll ever be able to communicate our causes to the conservative women in those states. You know — the ones whose votes put Trump in office?
I’m writing about this on my professional blog because it is, in many ways, a communications issue. Telling newbies that they aren’t talking in our dialect or acting the way we would in our (very different) neighborhoods, and refusing to listen unless they get hip to our trip, is not a recipe for building or strengthening our political movement. It’s a recipe for walling ourselves into our own elitist intellectual bunker. And a bunker is what we’ll need if we can’t open our ears and our hearts to our red-state sisters trying to figure out what they can do to cut short the Era of Trump.