Zillah Eisenstein
Mar 28, 2017 · 4 min read

#feminism4the99 — an open letter to Katha Pollitt

You wrote many of us on the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike and asked us why Palestine should be a feminist issue. We all wrote back and you obviously did not like what we wrote. You mention none of our responses to your queries in your recent piece, “Actually, Not Everything is a Feminist Issue”, and instead you just repeat your questions.

Your queries reflect the stance of a white imperial feminist, from a privileged site that does not need to demand full inclusion.

1. Can feminism be too inclusive? My answer, no. Our feminism of the 99 percent cannot be too inclusive, too democratic, or too big.

2. Once you widen the lens of feminism how do you know where to stop? My answer: “we” do not want to stop. For the past ½ century anti-imperial feminists in the heart of empire have been learning how to deepen, what you call widen, our gaze to see more and know more. “We” are hopefully catching up to our sisters of color across the globe.

3. Must women save the whole world? I wonder which women you mean. But “we” — #femnists4the99, are not saving the world, “we” are saving ourselves and with us, the world. Yes, “we” must save our communities, our families, our planet, and thus ourselves from a rapacious, militarized, corporate power structure. Palestine is one critical, but not singular piece of this. As long as Palestine is colonized by Israel and the support of the U.S. there can be no world peace. The apartheid conditions in Palestine have become the challenge of this century as South African apartheid once was. But I already said this to you in our correspondence.

4. What about other countries like Syria? or Iraq? or? Why does the International Women’s Strike (IWS) not name them? Because the question of Palestine lays embedded in these other sites and some of us do name these other conflicts. Each one of us may not be able to be present for each and every action. But “we” can support and sustain each other across differing commitments. The fact that there is so much to be done is not reason to recoil from it.

5. Is feminism at risk of diffusing itself within the left? No. Feminism is multiple at its root/route. Women — trans and gay and cis — are leading Black Lives Matter and they are anti-racist feminists. Women of all colors are leaders of the $15 movement; Native women lead the Standing Rock and DAPL resistance. You see dispersion where I see complex and overlapping coalition building. Feminists connect differing movements and different movements exist within a #feminism4the99.

6. Are feminists becoming “perfect ideologues” and looking for purity? No, #feminists4the99 are looking for solidarity, not unity; complexity, not purity. Differences are necessary and embraced. They enrich and extend us.

7. How do you make a mass feminist movement? By reaching deep and wide. By naming the specific struggles that must be addressed and by doing so actually destroying boundaries and borders that require wars. And, this mass movement may and can become revolutionary if it is opened widely enough.

Katha you are holding feminism back, by keeping it defined by liberal and neo-liberal agendas. In the last decades I hope I have grown in my understanding of the complexity of white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. This has meant a constant engagement with women of color across the globe, most especially my Black feminist sisters here at home. My/our commitments to liberation must remain expansive and creative. Closure is not a goal here.

I have always treasured your defense of women’s right to abortion. But it is time for you to recognize that this singular focus should be used to broaden and deepen feminism, so that our multiple identities are always at the heart of everything. Your fabulous devotion to women’s rights to their bodies — their right to abortion, always — needs to grow and make sure that the color, race, nation, sexual preference of these bodies build the coalitions that are needed for the liberation of all women, and thereby, all of humanity. “We” women must control our bodies, but our bodies are multiple, complex and radically plural across this globe. Drop your imperial gaze and you will see more.

“We” live in impossible times. Economic inequality is at obscene and unconscionable levels; white supremacy continues to be murderous to people of color, especially Blacks; Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies create impossible conditions. A #feminism4the99 has no choice but to embed itself in these crosshairs.

You get it wrong. When anti-imperial, anti-racist feminists specify Palestine, or world hunger, we do not divide, but rather open the gates to an inclusive humanity. How can you ever be too inclusive? That is like saying, as neo-liberals do, that you are too equal, or too free, or too democratic, or too feminist.

You have clarified the difference between white imperial neo-liberal feminism and the #feminism4the99. I hope you can see the difference/s. If you can, join us.

Zillah Eisenstein

Written by

Writer, Professor, Activist, white anti-racist feminist, http://zillaheisenstein.wordpress.com