War in Ukraine
Re “Putin’s Invasion,” by Katrina vanden Heuvel [March 21/28]: At multiple decision points, the United States had the opportunity to stop this march toward war. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, besides the original sin of NATO expansion, despite being warned at the time of the possible consequences, the US began working toward regime change in Ukraine, once again sticking its nose in the affairs of another country. Then, in the Euromaidan uprising in 2013-14, Victoria Nuland, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, openly supported the ouster of a democratically elected president—a coup—making it clear that the State Department’s ultimate goal was to bring Ukraine into NATO. Since then, the Ukraine government has shown that it has no intent to follow the protocols of the Minsk II agreement and provide autonomy for the Russian-speaking Donbas. It continued to pressure the Donbas with the ultimate goal of folding it into the central Kyiv government, which would pave the way for NATO.
The US could have put pressure on Ukraine to adhere to Minsk II, but it did not, another failure to avert this crisis. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has essentially ruled out concessions on NATO in any talks with Russia. How do you avert a war when you will not even consider your adversary’s concerns as possibly legitimate?
What about encouraging and supporting the bold anti-war movement evolving in Russia? It could also play a role in helping to bring about an end to the war in Ukraine.
Ellen Willis on Desire
In her review of Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex, Maggie Doherty (like Srinivasan, I infer) mischaracterizes Ellen Willis as the exemplar of a simpleminded “pro-sex” feminism that asked only whether sex is wanted or unwanted, without exploring the political and social roots of desire [“The Contours of Desire,” March 21/28]. In fact, Willis rejected the “pro-sex”/”anti-porn” dichotomy; in “Lust Horizons: Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?” (1981), she asked why sexual tastes, unlike everything else, should be immune to influence by cultures of masculine domination and the punitive nuclear family, or exempt from politics or critique. Willis interrogated desire with her usual subtlety and depth—and in precisely the way Doherty praises Srinivasan as doing.
The Other Existential Threat
Michael T. Klare’s sensible editorial “A New March of Folly in Europe” [Feb. 21/28] omits one thing the United States should do immediately regarding the crisis in Ukraine: Declare a “no first use” policy on all nuclear weapons. This overdue action would cost us nothing and would reduce the possibility of the ultimate disaster—a major nuclear war.
Suffrage and Struggle
As the executive director of Women’s March for over two years, I have to disagree with Meredith Tax’s characteristic of our organization (and the modern women’s movement as a whole) in her article “Where Is the Women’s Movement?” [online, April 5]. While, in our opinion, she gets a lot wrong—including her assertion that the suffrage movement in the early 20th century consisted of a “united front of women,” when we know first-wave feminism was almost explicitly in service of white women—her suggestion that young women today have traded in movement activism for social media momentum may be the most egregious. In fact, our organization directly contradicts her hypothesis. Born on the Internet, the first Women’s March is an example of online activism transforming itself into activism in the streets, on the ground, where and when it was needed most. And the subsequent Women’s Marches—nearly one a year since the original, and, while not as large, all close to record-setting in size—disprove her thesis just the same. As for Tax’s claim about our organization’s leadership, she needed only to reach out to us if she wanted to know why we believe the hierarchical, top-down feminism of years past is actually antithetical to our movement and its goals.
Carmona seems to think the entire early 20th-century feminist movement consisted of mainstream suffrage organizations. Had she read even the jacket copy for my book, she would know that, by a “united front of women,” I referred to the relationship between working women, labor, middle-class feminists, and the left. The mainstream suffrage organizations were indeed so racist and anti-immigrant that only white middle-class women were usually welcome, but factory workers and Black women had their own suffrage groups and managed to push their way into the big suffrage marches.
My piece was not about the Women’s March, which I discussed in only two sentences. I argued that it is time for a new wave of organization in the US women’s movement. I suggested that we need to go beyond online networks and donor-dependent NGOs and build a national organization whose leadership is accountable to its members. The Women’s March has adopted a classic NGO structure, with staff, board, advisors; using online organizing techniques, it is now trying to develop local groups. I hope this works and that its “Women2Women Circles” become not only “inclusive structures” but chapters that elect their own steering committees and national officers. That kind of democracy, within a broad united front, is what we will need to effectively fight the right.
new york city
The writer is the author of The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880–1917 (Verso, 2022), from which her article was adapted.