Not NOW. Don’t tell me that the National Organization for Women has become yet another regressive establishment institution. Apparently, speaking at NOW about the inclusion of minority women triggers the white ladies in the audience.
That’s how Weeks found herself in front of a sea of older white women at the Colors Lounge in Melbourne, Florida, in June 2017, addressing the Brevard County NOW chapter. Her voice broke as she spoke about what motivated her to run, and the conversations she’d had with her mother about the importance of fighting for both women and people of color.
“It’s important because we need to give a voice to those most oppressed in order to make everybody better,” Weeks told the audience, many of whom were around her mother’s age. “That’s women of color, that’s disabled people, that’s LGBTQ people.”
She was about to move on to the most relevant part of her stump speech—how NOW could help do all this—when she was interrupted by a white woman in the audience.
“White women, too!” the woman yelled.
“And then yeah, don’t forget the white women,” Weeks replied evenly.
“Just the women with the pussies!” another woman called out, in what seemed to be a reference to trans women. In video obtained by The Daily Beast, you can hear an audience member groan.
“It’s OK,” Weeks said, attempting to press on. “It is important to include all women.”
The rot doesn’t stop at the rank-and-file level. The Daily Beast investigation found a racism and transphobia epidemic everywhere in management of the organization.
In interviews with The Daily Beast, nearly a dozen members, employees, and visitors recalled women of color being heckled, silenced, or openly disparaged at NOW meetings and offices. The behavior culminated at the 2017 conference where, witnesses say, members dismissed Fortson-Washington, a black woman, as “angry” and entitled, and accused Weeks of being a “hot-headed Latina.” On the last day of the conference, more than a dozen women marched around a conference room to protest racism inside the organization.
But the problem didn’t stop there. Internal emails, documents and interviews obtained by the Daily Beast reveal that allegations of racism reached the highest levels of the organization after Weeks and Fortson-Washington’s loss. More than a dozen employees at the national headquarters signed onto a letter accusing President Toni Van Pelt of sidelining and disparaging women of color, and the previous vice president has filed a federal racial discrimination suit.
It seems to be rampant among white women of a certain age, my age. Is this the National Organization for Women, or the National Organization for Karens? I didn’t think they’d need a professional association to represent them.
Speaking of older women behaving badly, there’s been a J.K. Rowling flare-up.
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
That’s one of her milder tweets. She’s madly digging to defend her implication that somehow you undermine sex when you recognize that menstruation isn’t the defining property of womanhood you are erasing sex and the reality of women. She says that “my life has been shaped by being female”, which is certainly true, but she’s unable to appreciate that many factors affect everyone’s life experience, and that trans men and women can share many aspects of their identity — even with cis men and women.
But then, she’s old, she’s rich, she’s got some terrible new books to promote (while I appreciate that Harry Potter motivated a lot of kids to read, including my own, I have to state that they were derivative and repetitive and contained a lot of problematic attitudes), so she’s got to keep jabbering and all the plates spinning, exposing her own inner Karen.
Harry Potter: a story about a criminally incurious boy who had everything handed to him, was credited with his mother’s accomplishments, peaked in high school, and became a cop.
Andreas Avester says
Hmm, then every woman who stops menstruating due to getting old also stops being a woman? And what about cis women who do not experience menstruation due to using hormonal birth control, having had a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation or due to being malnourished? What about women with PCOS? And what about AFAB people who have never experienced menstruation in their lives due to various genetic health conditions?
I guess that I’ll have to get a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation after all so that TERFs would finally recognize me as male. /sarcasm tag
Even TERFs do not seriously believe that menstruation (or absence of it) is what defines womanhood.
Bruce Fuentes says
Not surprised. I know enough people involved in “liberal” social organizations that can tell horror stories about, sexism, racism and homophobia.
Lot’s of white and male privilege in those groups.
Here is my take on it. Many of these white “liberals” fell like they are assuaging their personal and societal guilt by helping the less fortunate. My wife, classic midwestern white woman, works at a community health clinic. A number of her colleagues work their to help “the less fortunate”. They tend to come from affluent or almost affluent backgrounds. My wife comes from a classic middle class public servant(teacher, state worker) background. Comfortable, but not affluent. She works at the clinic to provide care for the people she grew up with. Our friends and neighbors.
Do we have privilege? Yes an extreme amount.
The privileged whites in this groups still fell they have a dominance over POC and less privileged groups. They still want to and do maintain their pecking order.
If you’re trying to get some clout, political or otherwise, alienating big chunks of your potential membership seems like the wrong way of going about it. Given some of the quotes and background provided above, it would be ironic (and just a tiny bit appropriate) if NOW reduced itself to a pure white, yet smallish organisation that ended up being dismissed as a minority of angry white women. The trajectory certainly seems familiar somehow… strange, why did the phrase “deep rifts” just pop into my head?
As for JK Rowling, I’d suggest reading up on Venn diagrams. To demonstrate understanding (of the diagrams, not the issues – low expectations), all she’d have to do is delete her tweet. Actually, some NOW members might also benefit from a reminder about overlapping groups and interests.
Rowling is getting on in her years, and I expect she’ll be hitting menopause soon. Does that mean she’ll stop being a woman? By her own standards, apparently so.
Iris Vander Pluym says
As any womanist will tell you, White feminism has a long and vile history of racism. We Whitey McWhitepersons should never forget that Donald “grab-em-by-the-pussy” Trump won 53% of white women voters.
That statistic doesn’t apply to me, of course. Not because I didn’t vote for Trump, but because I had a hysterectomy and therefore I am not a woman. OBVIOUSLY.
Susan Montgomery says
Ugh, this shit again.
What Rowling and others always fail to understand is that transwomen are keenly aware of biological differences. We’re also aware of cultural pressures to conform to certain stereotypes and expectations are applied from the very beginning (and before, as anyone who’s seen a Gender Reveal party gone wrong can attest) that has a profound impact on how cis-women relate to the world. And no one (at least, no one who matters) says anything else.
None of that changes the reality of trans identities. Not one bit.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll see a common trait across many groups. Often groups like that form because they want more power. As they gain power, the group dynamics change and people struggle internally for positioning, the same struggle for pecking order. That’s a universal human problem.
How do we deal with that other than by individual shamings? The shaming doesn’t seem to solve the problems but does remind already helpless, oppressed people of their positions.
We were getting the band together for a high school reunion. During a break our singer went on a racist rant which led to him saying, “If black people don’t want to get killed they should stop breaking the law.” I turned my back and took a lap around the rehearsal space. We have a history. I still consider him a friend.
I told this story to my mother and my sister on the day of the performance. I tried to express my disappointment in my friend and their response to what he had said was, “Oh, but that’s true!” I said something about white privilege and they laughed.
I still love my mother and my sister, but the world seemed a little more empty that day.
Marcus Ranum says
Shirley Chisolm was one of the co-founders of NOW. So, they didn’t start out bad, they went astray.
We’re all “getting on in years” (as opposed to not), but J. K. Rowling is only 54. Not exactly old by the standards of a 72-year-old, so I won’t give her a pass if she’s saying stupid things about trans-gender people.
If I recall correctly, she chose her name to sound “male” because of the stigma of women writing books for boys.
And now she is saying her life if defined by being female?
Graeme Adamson says
NOW sounds a lot like the ANC women’s League in South Africa. When our last president was accused of rape, they stood by women by jumping to his defence.
Autobot Silverwynde says
I’m done with JK. If I want a Potter fix, it’s fanfic or nothing. There is some really good stuff out there, even better than her books.
As for the privileged white women, as a white woman, I will say this: STFU. You’re not helping. Seriously.
TERF and racist infiltrators are solved the same way the punk scene solved Nazi infiltrators, aggressively pushing back and making them as unwelcome as humanly possible. Otherwise the rot sets in, accepting folk leave, and the balance slowly shifts to the filth
I completely agree. I think though that punk originated with a strong anti-authoritarian streak, so when neo-Nazis started moving in they were already motivated to push back and without concerns about social niceties (i.e. punks don’t tend to do tone trolling). Groups like NOW flourished on the back of supporting their in-group, which was necessary, but they didn’t build in any cultural tools to deal with bigotry within their own.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Not even disappointed at her now, just fucking resigned to the fact that FARTs are gonna stink up all the spaces.
I would ask y’all not to write off NOW too easily, at least as far as trans rights goes.
In 2016 they were a signatory to a “National Consensus Statement of Anti-Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access for the Transgender Community“.
In 2019, they added their name to a statement in “Support of Full and Equal Access to Participation in Athletics for Transgender People“.
I’m sure the organization has some dinosaurs – they were founded in 1966 – but they officially support trans rights. And fuck knows we need more of that these days.
@5: At 54, there’s a very good chance that Rowling has already gone through menopause. How she justifies calling herself a woman if woman=person who menstruates, I don’t know. Perhaps she’s lobbying for a Gilead style “unwoman” designation.