Virtually every issue has become a partisan football in America’s politicized age of anti-Trump hysteria.
The debate that has bucked this trend is the #MeToo campaign, which has successfully cut across party lines, wealth divides, race and religion. This powerful campaign has focused on taking down anyone who has exploited power and fame for sex, not just stereotypical members of the patriarchy in the form of rich, white males.
We’ve seen Bill Cosby, John Conyers, R. Kelly, Tavis Smiley, Tony Mendoza and Tariq Ramadan publicly shamed along with bastions of liberal values like Eric Schneiderman.
The #MeToo campaign has shown that sexual exploitation is not the purview of only some ethnicities or political parties.
Unfortunately, liberal feminists pick and choose which types of violence against women are worthy of this studiously nonpartisan approach. For example, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honor violence seem not to be considered egregious enough to be taken up by the broader women’s movement. Instead, these barbaric violations of human rights don’t make it onto progressives’ radar. Rather, they’re excused or ignored by feminists because the perpetrators inflicting the violence tend to have brown skin.
If it were a tradition among white men to remove the genitals of girls and sew their vaginas shut, we can assume the women’s movement would suddenly take an interest. FGM is intended to make sex less pleasurable for women and to impose patriarchal norms about purity and virginity on their bodies. If we can call out the patriarchy in the influential, high-paid, glamorous world of media and entertainment, why on earth aren’t we calling it out when it is being violently imposed between the legs of little girls?
The right of women and girls to be free of abuse has been sacrificed at the altar of political correctness.
Analysis done by my organization, the AHA Foundation, shows that legislators in 24 states hesitate to ban FGM despite evidence of girls at risk in their state. Just recently bills to outlaw FGM and child marriage in Massachusetts were thwarted despite support from both parties. Legislators feared appearing anti-immigrant in a policy debate overshadowed by President Trump’s ham-fisted “Muslim ban.” Despite being one of the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts failed to put the rights of women and girls before political sensitivities.
Similarly, partisan politics turned FGM into a political bargaining chip in Maine and the state still has no protections for girls. Whereas Michigan, where legislators were focused on putting women’s rights above political expediency, ushered in comprehensive anti-FGM legislation at lightning speed.
We do a disservice to women by hijacking their voices to score political points. The campaign for women’s rights has morphed into an anti-Trump crusade. This year the Women’s March is focused on enrolling voters in swing states and promoting progressive candidates. The majority of its anointed candidates are in the Democratic Party and a few are independents. The movement doesn’t bother to give a nod to women’s issues requiring bipartisan support or representation.
If it were serious about advancing women’s rights, the Women’s March movement would work to put those who can deliver for women into office, not just those that tick identity-politics boxes. As a woman of color in politics, I was used as an icon for the issues that matched my gender and skin color. The same will happen to the “identity politicians” being pushed into office today.
Ironically, the women’s movement’s preoccupation with intersectionality will see core women’s issues pushed further down the list of priorities. This cruel ideology asks women of color to remain subjected and abused until we achieve some mythical moment of equality on every score.
Intersectionality entrenches victimhood and prevents men of color from being held accountable for patriarchal attitudes and behaviors, laying the blame entirely on white men.
We must depoliticize women’s rights. We don’t have to agree with each other’s political views but protecting individual human rights must be a given. In a world where half of American women are marginalized, we all lose.