Intersectional Feminism Must Include Jews
Antisemitism sees Jews as evil Christ killers. White supremacists march with swastikas alongside confederate flags. We are accused of being all-powerful and used as scapegoats controlling all banking and media. Hate crimes against Jews went up by 57% this year. Including drawing swastikas, hate crimes against Jews are the most common.
Yet antisemitism in other political areas manifests itself by denying our marginalization. Unfortunately, this came to a head this week in a controversy over Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory attending a Farrakhan speech and praising him publicly - you can read about the speech she attended in the link from the ADL below. Farrakhan has a long history of antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny, and yet Tamika Mallory and other national Women’s March organizers seem to be fine publicly supporting him. After a week of doubling down and confusing social media responses, Women’s March finally put out a general condemnation of antisemitism and Farrakhan. There was no apology, no self-reflection, no empathy or understanding of the women who felt hurt by this association.
When antisemitism among liberal leaders shows up, people always pivot to Israel, as if the actions of a country I’ve never been to justify oppression against me. As an American Jew without ties to Israel, I shouldn't have to speak for it but I know that I'll get asked anyway. Israel is always the justification for leaving Jewish women out of intersectional feminism.
It was the reason gay women carrying Pride flags with Jewish stars were asked to leave the Chicago Dyke March. Flags with stars of David, nothing to do with Israel, were deemed offensive. It was also the reason certain groups boycotted the LA Women’s March because Scarlett Johansson (a Zionist) was going to speak. As Sharon Nazarian of the ADL points out, to assume that zionism and feminism are incompatible de-contextualizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and misunderstands zionism. Zionism simply refers to the belief that Jews should have a Jewish nation. It does not mean a manifest destiny to take over all of Gaza. Unfortunately, some Jews use it that way, but many Jews who are Zionists also want a two-state solution.
I am not a blanket apologist for Israel. I think the settlements should be given back, I hate Netanyahu, I want Palestinian people taken care of, and we need a two-state solution. However, as a Jewish woman who has experienced antisemitism (sometimes violent), I want Israel to exist. I wish I could write this piece without mentioning any of my positions on Israel or explaining Zionism, but when Israel is always the justification for our exclusion how can I?
My Jewishness is relevant to my feminism. I am not religious but I was raised with a Jewish culture and spirituality that informs my social justice endeavors. Over 70% of my community voted for Hillary. I hold my community accountable when they are racist, anti-feminist, homophobic, and bigoted. I think Jews who can't be empathetic to immigrants and refugees insult our history.
So what do I do when one of the leading voices for contemporary feminism explicitly condones antisemitism? I believe intersectionality means supporting women of various backgrounds, religions, colors, abilities, sexualities, and gender representations even when we disagree. This group built a mantle and a voice on the work of many women they now leave out and refuse to represent. Many of us feel they are not treating their responsibility and visibility in the media as speaking for us with care. Too often women with disabilities, trans women, queer women, Jewish women, and more feel left out by the language and focus of the national organizers of the Women’s March.
The statement put out emphasized that true intersectional discussion is hard. As a co-founder of American Women’s Party, I agree. I believe the only way forward is listening and humility. We are going to make mistakes and we should be allowed those mistakes. However, if a group that we are claiming to speak for is hurt, we must listen and respond. I do not expect perfection from Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour or any of the other women stepping up to try and lead our political movements. What I want is simply to be heard.
Intersectional Feminism Must Include:
- Women of all religions or no religion
- Women of all colors
- Women of all sexual identities
- Women of all abilities
- Women of all gender representations
- Women of all incomes