Letters From the November 1/8, 2021, Issue

Letters From the November 1/8, 2021, Issue

Letters From the November 1/8, 2021, Issue

Our carbon bootprint… The forgotten forever war… Fuzzy math… Feminism: left and white? (web only)…

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Our Carbon Bootprint

Re “20 Years of Bloodshed and Delusion” [Special issue, September 20/27]: I am puzzled and increasingly alarmed by the absence of a robust and widespread public debate about the intimate connections between climate change and the military-industrial complex, along with corporate capitalism and the foundations of imperialism, racism, and patriarchy that feed and are fed by it.

The recent US military “withdrawal” from Afghanistan and the torrent of mostly obfuscating finger-pointing and responsibility-dodging it has triggered presents the perfect opportunity to tackle this subject.

Sharry Lapp
pittsburgh

The Forgotten Forever War

Danny Sjursen and Lawrence Wilkerson’s “Repeal the AUMF Now” [September 20/27] does a fine job of arguing that the United States should end its “forever wars” in Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, Sjursen and Wilkerson forgot to mention our nation’s “foreverest” war: Korea.

Seventy years after the hostilities began, we are still technically at war with North Korea. The US relentlessly torments the North Koreans for seeking to defend themselves from the threat of 28,000 American troops in South Korea and US nuclear weapons that have been deployed in the region. North Korea’s “nuclear threat” almost certainly would end after the US signed a peace agreement, lifted its cruel and unjustified sanctions on that country, and brought home its troops.

Lawrence Beck
elkhorn, neb.

Fuzzy Math

In “Party of the Rich?” [September 6/13], David Bromwich uses statistics in ways that do not enlighten. He tells us that 65 percent of households earning more than $500,000 a year are in Democratic districts and that 74 percent of households in Republican districts earn less than $100,000 a year.

Those numbers are not comparable in any way, nor do they show, as he wants us to believe, that the Democratic Party is the party of the rich. There is a lot to criticize in Democratic politicians’ attitudes toward money, but Bromwich’s misuse of statistics vitiates his argument. The first says nothing about the income of Democratic voters but vaguely suggests that rich people tend to live in large metropolitan areas where Democrats tend to be concentrated. It might mean something else, but you would need more information to learn anything useful from it. The second by itself also says nothing. It needs a contrast. What percentage of households in Democratic districts, or in the country as a whole, earn less than $100,000 a year? And why make the cutoff $100,000? For most Americans, that is a dream income.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
baltimore

Correction

Chain of Command,” by Zoë Carpenter [August 9/16], incorrectly stated that US Senator Joni Ernst is the only female combat veteran in the Senate. Two female combat veterans serve in the Senate, Ernst and Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Feminism: Left and White?

The article “White Feminists Wanted to Invade,” by Rafia Zakaria [August 17, 2021, online], while accurate, does not tell the entire story of feminism and feminists, white women, war, peace, and imperialism. I do not challenge her definition of white feminism, which “refuses to consider the role that whiteness and racial privilege play in universalizing white feminist concerns, agendas, and beliefs as those of all feminism and all feminists. Of course, not all feminists who are white are white feminists. No matter the person’s skin color and gender, advocating for an anti-racist, anti-capitalist feminism is a threat to white feminism.”

My issue is more with The Nation than with Zakaria. Why not write an article about the left feminists who opposed the invasion, occupation, and bombing of Afghanistan, protested the Taliban’s brutal misogyny, long before 9/11, as well as the invasion and war against Iraq. While we can critique/ attack mainstream feminism until the cows (troops?) come home, why not show your readers that there has been a long-standing tradition of left feminism opposing US imperialism, racism and capitalism. Why not write about this tradition, giving your readers an alternative to the Laura Bushes, Hillary Clintons, and the like?

Most of us who became active in the 1960s and ’70s not only opposed the war in Vietnam but also actively opposed US imperialism, helped organize anti-war and anti-draft GIs, supported anti-imperialist and national liberation struggles from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Furthermore, we challenged the white and male leadership of the anti-war movement, not only demanding women’s full participation but creating a racial and gendered analysis of war, peace, and imperialism. And we didn’t stop in 1975, either. Many of my comrade/sisters continued to be active organizing and bringing feminist analyses and energies into anti-racist, anti-imperialist movements, including US meddling in Iran, Nicaragua, Haiti—you name it. I can’t count the number of times we picketed Hillary’s office because of her vote on the Iraq War. My sister/comrades and I opposed the Taliban long before 9/11. We lobbied elected officials, wrote op-eds and letters to the editor, protested embassies—and were ignored by the mainstream media, and yes, even you, The Nation. Only after the Taliban blew up Buddha statues did mainstream media and politicians begin to write about the Taliban’s danger.

Why not write about the feminist anti-imperialist, anti-war tradition beginning in the 1960s? Have you forgotten Jane Fonda, white, a millionaire, brilliant actress and movie star, entrepreneur, and activist? She did not support US imperialism. Code Pink, overwhelmingly white, perhaps a tad too maternalistic (for my taste) in its anti-war and anti-imperialist approach, but nonetheless gobsmackingly gutsy, fierce, innovative, imaginative in-your-face confrontational and for over 20 years consistent in its opposition to going into Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, Nicaragua, anywhere the US government has troops. Who cheered Barbara Lee’s only vote against the Iraq war? We left feminists did. I remember Laura Flanders, a white left journalist exposing Laura Bush’s so-called “concern” about women and women’s rights in Afghanistan. So many of us tried to expose the hypocrisy of the bipartisan use of women’s rights terminology as a pretext for invasion, violence, and destruction of Afghanistan.

I get a bit tired of the “white feminist” trope. It’s not the white-bashing I mind. But don’t let it be a pretext for dismissing or demonizing feminism, especially left, anti-racist, anti-imperialist feminism. I hope the Nation includes our important work in its future articles.

Barbara Winslow
Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College
Founder and director emerita of the
Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism

Zakaria Replies

One way to advocate the erasure of certain perspectives, say, that of an immigrant, brown and Muslim woman, is to inquire why other legitimate and just causes are not given space. The ignored causes in Winslow’s view are “Left feminists who opposed the invasion” and “women who protested the Taliban’s brutal misogyny before 9/11.” This “question” is an example of the niceties deployed to cloak the otherwise racist demand for more attention for white perspective. It is one way to ask “Why did The Nation waste space on this brown, immigrant Muslim woman and her reading of feminist history?” without actually saying the words.

This sort of racial sleight of hand is just how voices like mine are erased from the public discourse on race, as even those on the anti-imperial left, like Winslow, imagine the stories of other white women as more deserving of attention and discussion. “Left feminists” who resisted imperialism may have been anti-racist in theory, but the anti-imperialist left itself remained white in practice, because white voices were always adjudged more worthy.

It may be true that and her comrades agonized against imperialism and protested the war in Vietnam, but their inability to expand their anti-imperial feminist movement in a way that welcomed those who were actually victimized by imperialism was and continues to be a fatal mistake. This lack of diversity is what makes arguments so unpalatable to the participants of these movements. Ms. Winslow mentions numerous times that she opposed the Taliban prior to 9/11; the article specifically mentions how many of those initially protesting feminists of the Feminist Majority decided to support the war initiative. Are we now to celebrate a mostly white anti-imperialist feminist movement that never managed to become racially diverse and that failed to convince its own cohort of the absurdity of feminists supporting an imperial invasion?

I also wonder why, given Winslow’s own anti-imperialist efforts and the struggles of her comrades, that she is not more pleased that someone who has suffered the consequences of imperial overtures can speak for herself on the pages of a magazine? Aren’t the efforts of anti-imperialists Jane Fonda and Laura Flanders (white feminist heroines she lists) directed in some small part to empower feminist who have suffered from the consequences of imperial overtures?

Toward the end of her complaint, Winslow declares that she is “a bit tired of the ‘white feminist’ trope” and suggests its purpose is to serve as “a pretext for dismissing or demonizing feminism.” For my part, I am tired of white feminist fear that imagines all discussions of race within the feminist movement or the development of a vocabulary that permits holding white women accountable as inherently divisive. I think feminists of all races are capable of handling more complexity than just singing in the service of a feminist solidarity that has only existed in the white imagination. Asking white women to cede some space—in this case, literal space in a magazine—is not “demonizing” them but merely the pulling back of privileges accrued as the result of white racial supremacy.

Rafia Zakaria

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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