Seeing Red on Women’s Day
It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. And anti-Trump protest organizers are calling all women to go on strike. They’ve entitled the event as, “A Day without a Woman.” They’re encouraging us to:
- Not show up for work (and not do any unpaid work)
- Not shop (although they may make an exception for small, woman or minority-owned businesses.)
- Wear RED, the color of energy and action.
The idea is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle – a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.[i]
Anti-Trump and Politically Correct
The strike—in large part—is an extension of January’s protest of Donald Trump’s election. And although it calls for the participation of all women for the sake of all women, it’s important for you to understand that organizers are promoting a very specific political ideology. They wish to “herald a new international feminist movement with an expanded agenda: at once anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-heterosexist and anti-neoliberal” . . . and decidedly pro-abortion.[ii]
The ideas of women who are pro-life, socially conservative, and who support capitalism rather than socialism, are viewed as anti-woman, politically incorrect—and unwelcome.[iii] Such women have obviously not had their consciousness raised to the core tenets of the feminist movement. . . and to what the Women’s Strike organizers believe will bring about the equality and happiness of women.
The Story of Consciousness Raising
Speak bitterness to recall bitterness. Speak pain to recall pain. – Mao Tse-tung
It’s significant that the organizers of the Women’s Strike are encouraging women to wear red. For not only is red the “color of energy and action,” it’s also the color of anger. Arousing the collective anger and action of women has long been a key strategy of feminist activists. The movement has adopted a political technique used in the late 1940s by the revolutionary Red army of Mao Tse-tung in its invasion of North China. This technique is called “consciousness raising.”
To assist in purging the villages of Japanese and Kuomintang control, Mao’s political revolutionaries called the townswomen to gather in the town squares to recite the crimes their men had committed against them. The women were encouraged to “speak bitterness and pain.” Initial reluctance gave way to collective anger as woman after woman recounted stories of rape by landlords, of being sold as concubines, and of physical abuse by husbands and fathers-in-law. As the women vented their bitterness, they experienced a newfound strength and resolve that empowered them to corporate action. Local political women’s associations were formed to provide support for women who acted against the oppression they now felt they shared.
A Gender-Driven Political Revolution
In a nutshell, here’s how Consciousness Raising helped Mao Tse-Tung achieve his Communist Revolution:
- Mao’s revolutionaries gathered peasant women together in villages to share their grievances against men.
- As woman after woman shared her pain, the group began to view itself as an oppressed class, and became increasingly angry.
- Organizers upheld Mao’s communism as the solution to gender oppression. Mao claimed that the emancipation of women could only be accomplished through the emancipation of the working class through a socialist revolution.
- Women were encouraged to turn their personal pain into political action. They began to question the status quo, and demanded a radical restructuring of gender relationships in their homes.
- The anger and solidarity of women working for Mao’s cause aroused the masses to join in the revolutionary socialist struggle, and eventually led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
In the late 1960’s, feminist activist Kathi Sarachild launched a North American version of the Chinese women’s “speak bitterness” meetings. Convinced that she had struck upon something extraordinary, she organized a guide and manifesto to consciousness-raising (CR) and presented it to the first Women’s Liberation Conference, held in Chicago in November of 1968. The paper, titled “A Program for Feminist Consciousness-Raising,” was reprinted in many feminist anthologies and spurred the establishment of CR groups all over the United States. By 1970 it was hard to find a feminist group anywhere in North America that did not engage in this practice. While Sarachild’s rules and directives for CR were modified, and methodologies among groups varied, feminists agreed that consciousness-raising, or “speaking bitterness,” was the most potent, effective tool in the mobilization of the feminist movement.
The recent election of Donald Trump has been a catalyst for the feminist movement to tap into its consciousness raising roots, and again arouse the collective anger and action of women. As was the case in China, a connection is being made between the emancipation of women and a specific political agenda.
But will getting rid of Donald Trump truly improve the status of women? And will anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-heterosexist, anti-neoliberal, and pro-abortion policies improve their lot? My father lived under the thumb of Stalin’s regime, which supposedly legislated women’s equality. Mao’s Red China was also touted as the answer. But did these political systems actually promote women’s well being and enable them to flourish? I think not.
I care deeply about the plight of oppressed women. But on this International Women’s Day, I’m not wearing red. I’m showing up for work. . . and I’ll try to get out shopping too. Because I don’t think that getting rid of Trump, imposing socialist legislation, and speaking bitterness will improve women’s lives. (Though I must admit I can’t speak with much insight about Trump, as I’m Canadian).
To address issues such as abuse, the sex trade, child brides, female genital mutilation, poverty, Sharia law, and the multitude of other issues facing women around the world, I think we need to approach the problem from a different angle. We must understand that:
1. Men are ultimately not the problem.
We can’t provide the correct treatment without an accurate diagnosis of the disease. Men are not the problem. Sin is the problem. And it’s a malady that infects women too.
2. Politics is ultimately not the solution.
Some political systems are inherently more oppressive toward women than others. Good legislation can provide a protective element for those who are vulnerable and at risk. Nevertheless, there is no political system or legislation that can change a sinful heart. Where sin exists, oppression exists. And not just for women and children. For men, too. Ultimately, the answer is not political. The answer is Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to change sinful human hearts.
3. True freedom is gained by embracing (and not rejecting) God’s design.
Our society proposes an equality that levels distinctions between the sexes, and leaves the meaning of gender, sex, and marriage up to the individual. But God created the male-female binary and the covenant of marriage. Male and female were created by Him. And the meaning of gender is defined by Him. We do people a disservice, and fail to love them, when we don’t uphold and point them to the beauty of God’s Design.
Don’t See Red
I hope that an awareness of the history of feminist political conscious raising will help you avoid getting caught up in “speaking bitterness” this International Women’s Day. For “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Your political convictions may motivate you to wear red . . . but I pray that you’ll examine your heart, and make sure that you’re not “seeing red” too.
[i] Women of America We’re Going on Strike. Join us so Trump will See our Power.
[ii] Women of America We’re Going on Strike. Join us so Trump will See our Power.
[iii] Pro Life Feminist Group Removed from Women’s March