No Pink Wooly Caps for Me

As I looked at the photos of women’s marches in Washington DC, San Francisco and all over the world on January 21, I was struck by one thing. Whiteness. The marchers were predominantly white – even in places like Nairobi. Not only were they white, they looked like they were upper middle class – able to afford the finest warm clothes and designer outfits, down jackets, sporting iPhones to record themselves. When interviewed they appeared to be educated and articulate. All of this raised alarm bells in me. Even before the march I had reservations. Why, I wondered, did the organizers change the date from the day of the inauguration to the day after the inauguration? Why did they quickly back off from their acknowledged protest against Trump to a vague “support for rights”? Why was there suddenly no mention of Trump anywhere in their materials and postings – only a vague reference to “the new government? In fact, I read an interview with one of the organizers who specifically said, “This is not an anti-Trump march”. In reality, it seemed to be exactly that. So why did they not want to admit that?

What is their goal?

What is their demand? Do they sincerely think Donald Trump and his followers are going to watch them and say – “wow – this is serious – I guess we had better change our ways”? That’s a little like a meme I saw recently on Facebook that said “Your political FB status updates totally changed my opinions. Said no one. Ever.” Their march was indecisive – all over the place. All of the issues they were raising are part of what is called “identity politics”.

Is it a feel-good day so they can go home and congratulate themselves on having “made history”? Then they can go back to their comfortable lives and do nothing more to organize or fight in any systematic way except to call their congresspersons – whose phone lines are down and can’t take more calls and who have systematically proven they pay no attention to these calls. Knitting pink caps, making signs and going out in the streets with others just like them gave them a feeling of catharsis.

Since the march I’ve watched many of the same people rush to the airports to defend immigrants being banned from the U.S. by Trump’s anti-Muslim edict. Does this mean that if immigrants are allowed in everything ok?

Whose march was this?

This was not a “women’s march”. This was an “upper middle-class women’s march”. This was a Democratic Party directed march. These were women – and men – who were upset that their candidate didn’t win. They wanted Hillary in the White House no matter what – partly because she is a woman. They paid no attention to her war mongering, Wall Street loving, elitist past, capitalist actions. And, rather than blaming her or the Democratic Party, they raged – and are still raging – at anyone who didn’t vote for her. They are all over Facebook pointing the finger at anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary and claiming they are the ones to blame for Trumps’ election. They are particularly raging against the 42% of the population who didn’t vote over – 90 million people – because they saw no point in it. Voter turnout was at the lowest point in two decades. Because they understand that, not matter who they vote for, their lives are not going to change for the better. The upper middle class has no investment or interest in actually talking to these folks to find out why they didn’t vote – and then working towards helping them.

And where was the middle and upper middle class while all of this was happening? Nowhere to be found. The middle class was not even aware that it was shrinking to the lower middle and working classes, and all the while the upper middle class was growing. Now the upper middle class is a whopping 9% of the population. So it’s not accurate to talk about the 1%, because it’s really the top 10%. And none of the concerns that the working class and the poor have been fighting for are concerns of the 10%.

I have to ask – where were these women throughout the 8 years of war during the Obama administration. What exactly did Obama do for women? Where were they on all the marches so many of us were on against police violence against blacks, illegal wars for control of oil, outrageous student debt, low wages, poor working conditions, lack of benefits, Wall Street, Goldman Sachs? They were nowhere to be found. Or they might be found at Starbucks, the gym, having brunch. It doesn’t matter. Obama was charming, articulate, smooth and tall and now is being deified.

Not everyone participating in the march was a Clinton zombie. The Democratic Party has more or lesser control based on the city in which the march was held. But without making a clear distinction of their issues on the signs they were carrying, these marchers are being used by them.

Who supported the march?

Let’s look at a list of the people who spoke at or participated in the Women’s March:

  • Gloria Steinem
  • Michael Moore
  • John Kerry – and his dog
  • Van Jones – a total sell-out
  • Kamala Harris – Debbie Wasserman Schultz grinning next to her
  • Madonna
  • Cher
  • Billy Joel
  • Lady Gaga
  • Jennifer Lopez

All of these people are strong, vocal supporters of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Hillary, herself, tweeted her support. Michael Moore fought hard against the Greens to ensure we had no hope of having a third party in this country. He did the same thing to Ralph Nader when he ran as a Green 8 years ago. Gloria Steinem told women they must vote for Hillary because it’s time for a woman to be in the White House. Most are celebrities – whose single claim to fame is that they are famous. And they are rich – very, very rich. Where have they been on the ground fighting for the rights of the working class and poor? They may be very good at what they do – acting, singing – but what bestows on them the wisdom to lead us in our voting decisions? These people should not be our role models. They are the upper 9% supporting the ruling 1%.

Who funded the march?

These are some of the primary funders:

  • George Soros – a billionaire and long-standing supporter of the Democratic Party who was one of the initial donors to Moveon.org
  • org – formed in 1998 to oppose the impeachment of Bill Clinton and has spent millions supporting the Democratic Party
  • org – the Rockefellers gave billions to their campaign
  • Planned Parenthood – supported by the Democratic Party
  • Sierra Club – supported by the Democratic Party and members of the 1%
  • Amnesty International – supported by the Democratic party and partially funded by George Soros

It’s important to understand that, while we may support the above organizations, we need to know where their funding comes from. Where there is funding, there is influence. This was clearly a march to support the Democratic Party and see them reinstalled.

The cops are NOT our friends

Seeing the photos posted of women shaking hands with the police, giving them pink pussy hats to wear – and seeing them plop them on their heads for photo-ops – made me sick. Yes, the cops are nice to them – they pose no threat. They are “good people”. Non-violent, not really rocking the boat. They also are from the upper middle class – the folks whose property is protected by the police – the very class the police are paid to protect. They are not paid to protect the middle, lower middle and working classes. The police state came about in the 19th century to protect the capitalists from the workers who were striking and demanding fair pay and treatment. And they are still protecting the capitalists. It was disgusting to see these upper middle class whites talking about how wonderful the police were, and posting thanks to them on FB. Other protestors who were not part of this group were attacked and arrested. Most of the protest marches I’ve been on we’ve watched the cops in their riot gear and helmets watching us.

A friend of mine who was going to the Women’s March told me she was worried there would be “some of those anarchists who want to cause trouble”. OK – I get it – it’s only a good march if everybody is orderly, peaceful and exactly like you. Sometimes the only way to get attention is to stop business as usual by breaking things. The police presence, in itself, IS violence. It’s a threat – but not to the upper middle class.

Qualification

Before I get accused of being a Trump supporter, I want to make clear that I think he is a megalomaniac, idiot of a bully but a very dangerous bully. And he is not alone. The real brains behind the throne is Steve Bannon, who is a much more dangerous threat because he actually reads books (mostly about war) and is capable of crafting a long-term plan to push through the strategies of the far right and neo-nationalism.

Why not name the system?

All of these issues raised during the march and airport protests are important but, they didn’t start with Trump. They all existed during previous administrations – Democratic or Republican. The difference now seems to be that there is no hiding those attacks – they are out in the open. The difference also is that the front man for them is a bellicose, obnoxious misogynist with a complete lack of charm or intellect. These very same issues did not bring people out on the streets while they continued to go unaddressed by the Obama regime.

Where were all the identity politics people during the Obama administration’s failure to secure a minimum wage above poverty level, build low cost housing or deal with the worst police force in the entire industrial capitalist world? Under Obama’s reign the U.S. continued the illegal wars begun under Bush, pushed for the Dakota Access Pipeline, did close to nothing to punish the banks and Wall Street or demand a cap on emissions to slow global warming.

Whether its the neo-nationalist new-money faction of Trump-Bannon or it’s the old-money Clinton, Bush, Koch Brothers, Kissinger faction, we know that the capitalists give all of them their marching orders. The primary goal of both parties is to protect capitalism and undermine any attempts to regulate, let alone change, the economic system that is driving the majority of us into the ground.

Making demands is for those who accept their subservience

It would not be fair for me to only comment on the women’s part of the march because their were other groups there as well. The problem with all these “demands” is that they are demands. There is no promise to take power. The implication of demands is that there is someone in power that is in a position of granting or refusing the demands. It accepts the capitalist rulers and complains they are not fair and just rulers. Demands are the plea to make ones in power be better leaders.

I’ll march for a socialist transition program

Bernie Sanders influenced 12 million people and used the word “socialism” in his speeches. Most of his followers did not cringe under the bed and say “McCarthy will come after us.” Neither did they seem to worry that “the masses are not ready for socialism”. The Green party had a golden opportunity to throw down the gauntlet to Sanders and say to his followers “hey folks, he’s not a socialist, we’re the real thing.” Instead they offer him their nomination if he would join them. Socialist Alternative seems to have stopped using the word socialism in its rallying cries and has dissolved their identity into an “Anti-Trump” movement. Many of the organizers of all these current marches are not liberals but socialists. They don’t have the nerve to tell ethnic and religious minorities that “we are socialists and we will help you as part of our socialist transition program”. Neither do they have the nerve to reach out to the working class people who voted for Trump because he offered them jobs. Most of all, this cringing left does not use its collective imagination and provide a clear down-to-earth vision of socialism for all poor, working class and middle class people to see and craft a transition program. Whether you like Trotsky or not, he was on the right track. We need a socialist transition program publicly presented at any future public encounters.

So, no, I won’t be marching with a pink, wooly cap. I’ve been through with New Left single-issue identity politics for many years. Why would I want to march with them? I will be marching with a broom, a shovel and a hammer when a socialist organization steps up with a socialist transition program.

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Barbara MacLean has worked as an academic and career counselor at California State University, East Bay, and as a career counselor and manager of the downtown Oakland One Stop Career Center, a public career and jobs center in partnership with EDD. She is a socialist feminist. She is a founder and organizer for Planning Beyond Capitalism. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter Email her at mailto:barbaramaclean8@gmail.com

About Barbara MacLean

Barbara MacLean has worked as an academic and career counselor at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB), Merritt and West Valley Colleges and as a career counselor and manager of the Oakland One Stop Career Center, a public career and jobs center in partnership with EDD. She is a co-founder and editor of Planning Beyond Capitalism.

View all posts by Barbara MacLean →

9 Comments on “No Pink Wooly Caps for Me”

  1. From a reader in West Des Moines, Iowa:
    Dear Ms. MaClean: Bravo on “No Pink Wooly Caps for Me.” I have always been liberal, but Barack Obama’s exposure as a Wall Street Trojan Horse pushed me farther left. I am now a socialist and will vote accordingly. The more I read (Howard Zinn, Marx, World Socialist Web Site), the clearer it gets: capitalism is the root of all our troubles.
    Keep writing!

  2. Sent by email from a strong woman reader in Indiana who prefers to remain anonymous:

    Ms Maclean – THANK YOU! I am a working class, unemployed, older woman, daughter of a union member who was a socialist (never member of official party). No Pink Hats for me either. You articulated many of my concerns about that march, and in general, about many of the Democratic Party protests (in Congresspersons’ offices, town halls, etc.) since Trump’s inauguration. I voted for Sanders in the primary last year for many years, not the least of which was in memory of my father and husband, who would have been stunned to see anyone who openly claimed to be a socialist on the ballot for President.

    I don’t exactly support socialist economics, because I don’t believe in state control of the economy – I would like to see a more robust economic system that was not captured by the 10% (and thank you for that, also – I’ve seen that for years!) – one that broke up the power of the monopolies and began shifting control back to ordinary people. We SHOULD NOT HAVE 400 billionaires in the U.S., and governors should not begin the State of the Union address for their state with an invitation to “foreign investors to come here and make your fortune,” as our new governor, Eric Holcomb, did after he was elected to replace Mike Pence. He should be serving THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF INDIANA, NOT FOREIGN INVESTORS!

    If Steve Bannon really was an “economic nationalist,” and not the well-read puppet of billionaires and Heritage Foundation and other Right-wing think tanks, he might craft some policies for Trump to officially sign that might help the working class – but he’s not. He’s a faux populist, who only uses his language to capture and fool some working class people in order to exploit them – exactly like the “elite” against whom he has railed for the past decade or so. If he were an economic nationalist, he couldn’t take Bekah and Robert Mercer’s money, or any other billionaires. He’s just another Goldman Sachs alumnus.

    Thanks for all your principled protests as well! My deceased husband and I stood with others protesting the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan in southwest Ohio from 2002-2008, when he got disgusted by our fellow protestors, who had turned it into a similar version of the “pink hat march,” where they mostly grinned & visited with supportive fellow villagers, rather than illustrate for people the costs of war in countries that were in no way involved in the attacks on 9/11. (I kept going for another year, then we had to move because I lost my job.)

    I have waited 30 years to read and hear academics and bloggers confirm what I knew intuitively since the mid-1980s, that neoliberal economics only works for that top 10%. So – thanks for articulating all this for those of us who don’t write, don’t take a public stance (where I live now, I wouldn’t dare stand alone on a corner against the U.S. wars – I just did not vote for Hillary or Trump – I voted for Stein, and wasn’t entirely happy with that either.)

  3. Dear Barbara Maclean
    I write to thank you for this Feb.9 article, appearing in Counterpunch here in China on Feb.10 our one day “ahead” of you. I am an older Canadian ex-pat teaching in Hangzhou for the 12th consecutive year. Here we are in the very long Spring Festival vacation and I am on the internet all day reading all the stuff and following what is going on from different points of view.
    . Your analysis of the Women’s March is nothing short of brilliant. When I saw the police wearing the Pink hats, it hit me hard. You are the only commentator I have read who noted this. To me, that picture says it all and is at the centre of the meaning of the March.
    Also you noted the March was not about women’s issues at all, but merely an anti-Trump, upper middle class, white demonstration against a president who, at that time, had actually done nothing. I saw nothing about peace, real violence against women in society at home and abroad, exploitation of children, child care, food quality and food safety, homelessness, unemployment, advertising targeting women and girls, body image, horrible examples for women manufactured in the fake pop culture, drug abuse prescription or otherwise, military police violence, rape, removal of children for fake, trivial reasons, lack of educational opportunities. They should not have excluded pro-life women. To me diversity and debate are good. I think pro-choice includes the choice to be a mother and the choice to be a homemaker.
    Of course, none of this is possible without some kind of a real socialist democratic system and culture. That is the real kicker in your article for me. Women, especially single mothers are being pushed into wage slavery, poverty, hunger, welfare trap by failed capitalism, in reality a neoliberal global tyranny.
    The distraction, misdirection, triviality of identity politics has reached absurdity. Women’s issues cover the whole spectrum of life, from cradle to grave, in all social and political systems, in all ethnic and national groups, globally.
    Peace – Myles, Hangzhou

  4. You rave against the march, but you don’t support Trump. OR, you think you don’t.

    But just to take important instance from that rave, I would ask you prove these points, without quoting Trump or a book with no proof itself
    For Hillary Clinton
    • warmongering — prove it
    • Wall Street loving — prove it
    • elitist past — prove it
    • capitalist actions — prove it
    I look forward to your proof?

  5. I enjoyed reading this article. Until people realize
    The democrats and republicans are two wings of the same bird of prey we won’t accomplish anything. Most people don’t realize who the enemy is. Thank you Barbara.

  6. Thank you so much for this writing this article. I went to the Womens’ March in San Francisco, but I simply couldn’t stay. I found those little pick hats so off-putting. To me, they represented everything that so many women fought to change – the color pink being associated with little girls, for example, and the stereotype of women sitting home knitting while their husbands were at work. (I have never so much as picked up a knitting needle but, suddenly, I’m supposed to sit home and knit a cap?) Additionally, so many women gushed over how “cute” the hats were – another quality associated with little girls in their little pink dresses. And, just like little girls, these pink-hatted women felt so proud, and giggly (some went so far as to feel “naughty”) that they got the joke. They were wearing a “pussy” on their heads, tee-hee-hee.

    But what really put me over the top was when I saw the photos of the cops donning those silly pink hats with their arms around white women for the perfect “not all cops are bad” photo-op. As has been pointed out numerous times, cops wear riot gear to Black Lives Matter protests, not tee-shirts that proclaim as much.

    When I tell people I left the march because something just didn’t set right with me, I have a difficult time articulating what it was. Thank you for giving words to my thoughts.

  7. My sentiments exactly! Just where were all these women the last 16 (and especially 8) years? I did not see them at the anti war demonstrations during Bush, at the occupy wall street demonstrations during Obama, or even at the nominal socialist gatherings of the Bernie Sanders campaign. I’ve put that question to a few women who went to Washington and all I got was blank stares.
    Thank you for this article.

  8. Thank you for the article, Barbara. Absolutely spot on. I read, before the “March” that one of the
    state (oregon? washington?) NAACP women were not attending this event because “we are not
    going to sit around and sing kumbayah with a bunch of white women” (a bit of a paraphrase, but
    that was the gist).

    Middle and upper-middle class white women want credit for running around smiling and “protesting” and feeling good about the fact that they are “good” people (identity politics) and then go back, resume
    their elite lifestyles while watching cooking shows on tv – as they were doing in past government administrations.

    The observations you are bringing I am starting to see elsewhere in the internet dialogue, not 3 months
    after the “traumatizing” Trump win. My best hope when that happened was that the liberal/progressives would start having a more adult conversation and move into mature reflection as to why the Democratic party ended out as a fail in the end (that’s because the neocons/neoliberals have become one and the same). See your post and others starting to emerge gives me hope that we can begin to see how the “left-wing” lost it’s way, sold out the common American people, and forge a new ideological platform for
    our future.

    Like you, I found the whole “pink pussy privileged white girl posing and posturing” thing a huge disappointment – one in which I would not participate. I am NOT a trump supporter either. I belong to the party of adults who refused to participate/vote in the puppet show of identity politics the media has turned the whole mess into.

    I am hoping for a true opportunity for change and I think the trump victory is the single most important “monkey wrench” thrown into a sordid system we have had in a long time. The sordid secrets of many
    decades have been brought to light around his election. I want to say, “Welcome to America, Americans –
    Trump is US.” Now let’s change that picture.

    And, by the way, I am a white woman. I don’t know what the future holds, but a radical re-examination
    of the “liberal/progressive/conservative/traditional” (again, one and the same at ideological levels) needs to be made.

    I am personally trying on new “orientations.” Right now, I am playing with the ideas of a “radical
    progressive libertarian” concept. I believe in radical acceptance of that which benefits humanity (NOT psychopathic disorders) and freedom and justice for all with much less “guvment” involvement (the libertarian idea).

    I truly believe natural humans are far more capable of “doing the right thing” for justice for everyone in any given situation than our interventionist government believes. And I support our natural humanity.

    Again, thank you so much for your piece. I feel a huge, pent-up exhalation happening in me to see those of you in media starting to write of our liberal/progressives failures in the past . . . and I am excited for our potential to “make it right” by owning those failures, as well as for our future possibilities as more of us do so and speak it out loud.

  9. Written by a good socialist who would have preferred Bernie and socialist fix. Well, sure. But since that didn’t happen, it’s time to simply throw our hands up?

    While she has observational claims about the people who marched – white, upper middle class – she frames her article in terms of questioning both its intent (the sore losers bit) and its funding. One is a matter of misinterpretation, while the other is on one hand, pointless, and on the other hand a familiar urban myth.

    First of all, of course she is accurate in noticing the lack of diversity and her complaint that these same people were missing from what should have been protested all along; police killings of blacks, etc.The conservative websites make similar claims; that those who marched had suspect intent because of the nature of their identities – not diverse, not specific, not focused – yet, had the march
    had more diversity, were more reflective of lower-income people – would that have changed the response? Probably not; it would be a different complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.
    So what is the problem with white, upper-middle class people marching and objecting? Are they somehow less legitimate because they can afford iPhones? Why? Protests only matter from the truly disenfranchised? It’s not okay that those who chose to march very well could afford not to? Isn’t that missing the entire point of civic engagement?

    The problem is, though, that to criticize the marchers for not having shown up before is to miss the point of the march. Of course there have been injustices perpetuated for decades and endorsed by the Clinton machinery and then Obama. But to not have protested then is no reason to not protest now. I am wondering where, exactly, did anyone “back off” from claiming it was an anti-trump march? If anything, the focus of the march included and exceeded trump since his administration’s intents are globally harmful. If they did claim other reasons for marching, perhaps it was a wise move to focus on the actual issues rather than just on the man? Perhaps this could have been done to avoid the accusation of being just “sore losers” who should “get over it”.

    The fact that she complains that the focus of the march and the issues about which the marchers were upset demonstrates NOT that the marchers themselves were unfocused; this very fact actually demonstrates in fact the stunningly large infringments that this administration will impose upon both our citizens and global populations (a few days after the march, trump imposed that international gag order, preventing millions of women access to information about birth control and abortion). How, exactly, to focus on ONE issue when there are so many?

    The march was a general outcry against the corporate coup, not just the orange faced asshole in the Oval Office.Again, the nature and dimensions of the threats of this administration are far more overreaching. No one is denying social injustice is rampant and unchecked in a number of ways; however, the march drew upon these same populations not only here, but abroad, because this administration’s clear intent is harmful on so many levels; to the environment, to women’s rights/access to reproductive health care, attacks on immigrants and refugees, attacks on public education (Devos), the co opting of Wall Street (all those cabinet members from big banks now running the show), the corporate takeover of government (Exxon CEO as Secy of State), etc. etc. Yes, it was an anti-trump march – something she claims it wasn’t – and there were plenty of signs depicting this very thing. For example, she misses the pink pussy hat relevancy; the theme of which was in response to the Despicable Donald’s claim that grabbing women by their genitals was an entitlement of his star status; a representation of his reprehensible nature.

    As far as the claim goes that the march was simply and narrowly a pro-Hillary march (again, reiterating the favorite alt-right war cry of “sore losers”). NOT the point. Sure, plenty of marchers probably voted for Hillary, and would have preferred her over trump, but the rest of us – Bernie supporters/Stein supporters/those who opted out completley – marched in response to trump and the threats of his administration.

    As far as funding goes, is she implying nefarious intent by Soros, et al? Not only does the funding not matter in the long run, since there were 400 marches around the globe and whether they were equally funded by the same people is doubtful, but why does it matter? Aside from which, there is no evidence of Soros funding (see article here). She is reiterating what seems to be a favorite tag line of the alt-right. She then includes organizations like Planned Parenthood – whose funding is being attacked – and the Sierra Club – the EPA is on a slippery slope of climactic destruction – and Amnesty Int’l, as if that’s a bad thing? WHY? Yes, the Democratic Party was represented – sure, it is desperate for restructuring and refocusing – but to somehow attack the very foundation of protest and the driving force of social change that hopefully will reframe and rebuild the failing Party is to throw the baby out with the bath water. A pointless exercise.

    She even criticizes people for being friendly with the police along the route. Because…we should carry that anger of injustice over the horrible killings into every interaction with every police officer instead of attempting to establish actual community connection? Why?

    And finally, what is the point of her criticizing those who supported the march? What problem does she have against, say, Madonna, or Billy Joel, or Gloria Steinem? She is annoyed that those with a public platform – politicians, activists, and actors – are choosing to use their visibility to support people and oppose harmful policies? She says, “what bestows on them the wisdom to lead us in our voting decisions? These people should not be our role models”, but gives no reason for this. Why shouldn’t they be? Wasn’t Woody Guthrie a role model? Weren’t thousands of actors/singers/activists our role models for effecting social change? What, in her world, qualifies as a “role model” from whom we should take direction? She doesn’t say.

    And I find it interesting that she is a counselor at CSUEB, where thousands of students’ lives are being threatened by the policies and actions of this administration. Hopefully, as a good socialist, she will effect change and choose to support our students in spite of being a white middle class person herself. If she feels qualified to speak, that is.

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