The Women’s March is taking some backlash for a tweet recognizing the death on Tuesday of late First Lady Barbara Bush. This is the second time in recent months that women have admonished the organization for aligning with leaders many deem problematic, highlighting the difficulty left-of-center grassroots organizations face of uniting under the same banner.
Textbook example of white [supremacist] feminism: the @womensmarch celebrates the legacy of a woman who was deeply implicated in violence against women of color both domestically & abroad. Once again throwing women of color under the bus/ignoring our experiences & lives. pic.twitter.com/Z8aOqbUJIv
— wikipedia "Killmonger, But Make It Feminist" brown (@eveewing) April 18, 2018
Several women took issue with Barbara Bush not only for deeply insensitive 2005 comments about evacuees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina but also for her rejection, in the mid-’90s, of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims against Clarence Thomas. Bush is also known for championing literacy for all and for fighting stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS.
Just last month, the Women’s March faced rebukes over national co-chair Tamika Mallory’s support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has long been criticized for making anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ remarks. The Nation of Islam has historically enjoyed significant support in many black communities in the U.S., and Mallory herself credits the organization for helping her after the death of her son’s father.
The Women’s March tries to represent a wide swath of people with many different agendas in the push for gender equality, and both incidents reflect how challenging that’s been in the year and a half since Trump won the presidency–a problem I noted in a piece earlier this year. Critics say the Women’s March has been quicker to call out bias and bigotry against black and Muslim communities than against other groups (particularly the Jewish community), making the Barbara Bush tweet especially odd.
Perhaps it’s time for the group to distance itself (rhetorically as well as strategically) from public figures of past decades, or at least to acknowledge their failings upfront. The less-than-two-year-old organization has that luxury, after all, and might find its credibility bolstered for fighting discrimination in 2018 and beyond. At a minimum, it might piss off fewer of its own constituents–which seems like a good first step.