My Woman Problem

Please folks, talk to me. Is this reasonable? Does anyone else feel this way? Help me clarify here. This Blog is now open for immediate comments, without my mediation.   Do it.  Also, below is another site that seems to contradict much of what I am saying here.  But if it is after the conventions, and Hillary is the nominee, I guess these thoughts will allow me to keep going.

My Woman Problem

I just read two fine books, Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South and Ella Baker: Community Organizer of the Civil Rights Movement. Both women inspire me and remind me of autobiographies of other radical women who do the same: Bertha Capen Reynolds, An Uncharted Journey, Gerda Lerner, Fireweed: A Political Autobiography, Emma Goldman, Living My Life, Heda Margolius Kovaly, Under a Cruel Star, and Maya Angelou, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I admire strong, brave women wherever they are: — whether they are the “Mother Heroes” of welfare rights, women trade unionists, or other strong radical women activists around the world and through history. This is real, at the heart of who I am and hope to be.

Likewise, U.Mass.Boston women students from many backgrounds whom I worked with always inhabited a “judgment free zone” in my heart. They wanted to learn with me, a self identified white radical atheist socialist feminist troublemaker. It was enough for me to love them from the beginning. without denying or trading on any privileges. These undeniable social facts about me simply needed to be acknowledged, challenged and used collectively to support students’ learning and life goals.

But in my political work away from U.Mass I held back from many white women, especially middle class suburban Christian women, including mainstream white feminists. I tried, but didn’t give them much wiggle room to meet the unstated but rigorous standards of acceptability required to become eligible as “potential comrades” — a cohort I so proudly claimed to seek.

I was not so tough on white men. After all, what could I expect? If they tried to be good guys I was open to working with them, in spite of themselves. Sometimes it didn’t work, but then I never minded an open conflict.

But I was not interested in trying to do political work with well meaning, seemingly comfortable white women who hadn’t been victimized by abuse or violence or something else, or who weren’t angry about it if they had suffered. At best, they were in denial. I wasn’t rude but I wasn’t interested. With N.O.W. types, or social workers, or other helping professionals trying to do good, I was especially bored. I simply wrote them off.

In 1970’s feminist criticism-self-criticism sessions I had owned up to this problem. Later, women in other settings criticized me for it. One League of Women Voters member even said she was afraid of me. I said I was sorry, and tried harder not to let my disinterest show. But it remained.

After all, I got class and economic injustice. There is a ruling class who steal and rule with no constraints — it takes a movement of all to fight them. And I always try to name and fight white racism as the toxic “disease of the public mind” that has infected white people in the US, It has killed, harmed and disregarded people of color, thereby fatally undermining whatever exceptional “greatness” this country could ever claim. I could be forceful, funny, moving and even humble when opposing such things.

Of course, I knew how unfairly and disrespectfully this men’s world treats all women, not only the poor and dark skinned women with whom I sought solidarity. But somehow my feelings about feminism remained a guilty problematic. Was it because I never really felt the same uncomplicated commitment to the cause? Why did I support the Equal Rights Amendment but without the passion it deserved? I wanted women’s leadership but why was I not as forceful in demanding it as I was in fighting cutbacks? Or, especially, why didn’t I try harder to support women, as women, when they got power at U.Mass. or locally? How could this be?

The answer, I guess, once again comes back to the personal. In 1970, I went with a friend to an organizing meeting of Bread and Roses, the radical women’s collective which launched Socialist Feminism in Boston. I left impressed by the women, the movement and the language. But still, my first response was, “I guess I can be a feminist — so long as I don’t have to love my Mother.”

After years of therapy I thought I understood. But now, for all my feminist talk and writing, why do I still allow this justifiable fear of the one mean woman who so un-lovingly raised me to block relationships with so many individual feminists, and even to the feminist movement as whole? I too easily find fault with bourgeois white professional women colleagues who earnestly “try to make a difference.” I once wrote a review where I called Eleanor Roosevelt a “sheltered pickle.” I distrust their words and deeds in ways that I never hold back from white leftists or African American and other non-white activists.

I hid my disregard for mainstream feminists behind solid class and anti-racist arguments. After all, so many feminists were so white, so privileged, so clueless that it was easy to withhold full support. Didn’t it makes sense to avoid working with white, middle class, straight Christian feminists given how their unacknowledged investment in their own privilege deliberately marginalized the voices of women of color, poor and working class women, and lesbian/bisexual/transgender women? Besides, women in power do not necessarily further any women’s interests and fact can be instrumental to women’s subjugation

But I do know that’s not the whole story. Somehow I just keep finding it hard to fully engage, to see women who present themselves first as feminists to be natural allies.

I now recognize my attitudes as an understandable over-reaction to my own Southern Baptist Mommy Dearest, yet it hurts to watch myself holding back. Must I still believe that dressing up for a non-radical women’s fundraiser to nicely celebrate “women’s progress” means joining Mother’s team, becoming a “good girl”?

I don’t feel that about other mainstream events to promote Healthy Boston or Community Arts, for example . I pick and choose, rationally knowing that there are lots of reasons to join with decent people, even if they don’t agree with all my politics, and aren’t comfortable being radical. It’s ok

After all, what’s the harm in voting for Bernie, while contemplating actually supporting Hillary as the Democratic nominee exactly because she would be the first woman President? She is, of course, the archetypal flawed, white neoliberal. She’s so proud of herself, so sure she knows better.. She still defends welfare reform; she thinks America is great, but can be greater. And I know I will be not-so-secretly proud when she wipes the floor in a debate with the Donald.

There, I’ve said it. It worries me that I even think this way about Hillary and the whole mainstream feminist project. I don’t have to like her, but, somehow I’m not proud of myself anymore for putting her down because she and her proud feminist supporters just assume I will, because she will be the first woman President of this this messed up country of ours. Oh dear……



Being Scared is Not as Bad as Being Unaware


Being Scared is Not as Scary as Being Unaware

March 12, 2016

I’m not usually scared. After all, what can somebody do to me that would be worse than growing up with a Mother who hated me just for being me? Except for a few miraculous teachers, I couldn’t expect much from anyone I knew. Instead I chose to love the abolitionists, and those others in history who stood up to the Nazis, and the white racists, and what Bob Coles called “the privileged ones.” I probably afflicted the comfortable with more passion than I was able to comfort the afflicted. Even though I tried.

I spent my life learning about, and exposing, what’s wrong with the world.   I tried to force others to see how bad things really were. I sought examples of other misfits who could be brave exactly because they never expected to be loved.

“The world is what it is,” I reasoned from my experience. “We can and must try to change it, but we can only do that when we face how bad things are, how cruel and unjust the world is, not when we fool ourselves.” I praised the power of social movements and admired them for serving the people.

I studied American racism, and European fascism, the US right, and all kinds of evil doers — in order never to be surprised by liars and dangerous people. I so hoped that another me would have exposed the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan. I dreamed of organizing with the abolitionists, standing up to McCarthy and Nixon, and, at least, never to have denied what was wrong, even as others were busily pretending “everything happens for a reason.”

Sure, I could be fooled. I wanted so much to believe that my Gregory Peck handsome father really understood and loved me that I forgot the ways he hurt me: that wasn’t him, really. He was weakened by the alcohol, betrayed by bad bosses who fired him, or undermined by Mother’s lack of love for him. I was angry for him, not mad at him.

Only when I was 66, with both Mother and he dead, and with me retired from the job that had saved me, could I face that Daddy used me, damaged me in the name of love. It still hurts so much to face — to admit that I too could deny the bad things that happened to me — me, the Radical Truth Sayer. How could I have fooled myself so?

Since slowly coming to understand this new narrative, I have tried harder to be less hard on others when they avoid rather than confront hard things. I have sought to understand how people whose ideas and behaviors seem so wrong, or dumb, or clueless can be that way. I have struggled to be kinder, to forgive others, and myself, for being unable to cope with how bad things are, I’ve tried to understand more, to be less sure. On my good days it seems to be working.

But now there is the archetypal angry White male Donald Trump, with all his vainglorious, bullying, name calling meanness. He enjoys his own outrageousness, relishes making fun of everyone, and being politically un-correct about race, gender and “losers.” I know men like him far too well. A true Neo-Fascist, he brings out the worst in everyone around him, rousing others to build walls, to hate immigrants and Muslims, even to ask his followers to raise their right hands and pledge themselves to Donald Trump. The pictures are chilling

Donald Trump makes members of his crowds raise their right hands and swear to vote in the primary.   “Thank you. Now I know. Don’t forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did,” Trump said before continuing with his speech.“Who likes me in this room?” Trump often asks.

Donald Trump cheers when his supporters rough up brave young Black, Latino and White people, journalists, and anyone else unafraid enough to openly challenge him. He proudly threatens those who oppose him. He truly scares me. I can’t hide behind my awareness of the Right, nor any historical comparisons to past demagogues. Trump is here in my world, right now.

I’m afraid, I’m very afraid. If he wins the nomination I hope I will be unafraid enough to attend his rallies, to incur his wrath, and to do my part to expose the hostility of his followers. That’s a pledge I will keep.




Basic Income on International Womens Day

This was written by Liane Gale and me, and was published on March 8, 2006 in the Bien Newsletter.  But it was missing the quote from Emma Goldman we had originally led with

“Not by the ballot, but by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities, by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation, will woman be set free. Then will she be a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real love, for peace, for harmony; a force ofdivine fire, of life-giving; a creator of free men and women.”

Thinking about Basic Income on International Women’s Day                                                 March 8, 2016 Guest Contributor Opinion, Opinions & reviews

By Liane Gale and Ann Withorn
, for the Basic Income Woman Action Group (BIWAG)
Since 1909, International Women’s Day has been a day for recognizing women’s economic, political and social achievements. Yet over the past century, March 8 Women’s Day celebrations have revealed tensions between feminists, socialists and anarchists about the meaning of women’s roles in society. Feminists saw full equality through equal participation in the polity as the major way women would gain power. Socialists argued that full inclusion of women as workers within a self- aware proletariat was the way for women to achieve solidarity, and therefore power. Anarchists envisioned women’s liberation as based on learning new ways of living and loving, so that a new way organizing society would become possible.

Today, we view the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) as a means to transcend such historic differences. BIG offers a way for women to achieve basic economic security outside of the labor market. It firmly denies that only certain activities done outside the home and community should be rewarded, much less be the chief source of one’s respect and social value in society. With a meaningful basic income as a secure base for living, women everywhere should be more able to live a life without fear, and of their own design.

If basic income could fundamentally change the lives and fates of women and girls, and with it the fate of humanity, then why is this not widely discussed in the community? One case in point is the appeal by Martha Beéry to the national media agency in Switzerland to invoke bias towards male views in a panel on basic income on national television in 2012 that only included men. The decision was in her favor, but the inclusion of women’s points of view in regards to basic income has been slow both in mainstream and social media. Despite this, recently we have seen a welcome surge of contributions about the economic and social realities of women, that often offer basic income as a solution to some of the disadvantages women face.

These analyses include calls to elevate the value of care work and other contributions to society (such as community work), which are underpaid or not paid at all, and as a result do not elicit much respect by a society which largely equates money- making abilities with importance and status. Organizations, such as the Care Revolution Netzwerk, that is active in German- speaking countries, Mothers at Home Matter from the UK, and initiators and supporters of the “Leap Manifesto: A Call For a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another” are all grassroots efforts to change the current narrative. With the Basic Income Woman Action Group (BIWAG), we strive to contribute to this international effort. To that end, we are facilitating national and international conference calls with interested members and maintain a BIWAG Facebook Group.

The program of the 15th Annual North American Basic Income Congress in Winnipeg, Canada (May 12-15) is especially attentive to women’s concerns and to enhancing women’s roles in the movement. More than half of the planning committee members are women. Dr. Felicia Kornbluh, professor of Gender Studies, writer, welfare rights advocate and member of the Vermont Commission on Women, will give a keynote on “Two, Three, Many Precariats: Basic Income and the Fight for Gender, Class and Disability Justice”. Two other keynotes will also be given by women. At least sixteen panel presentations and speakers will be directly addressing links between basic income and women. In addition, three BIWAG sponsored round tables will allow serious time for discussion of “Women’s Roles within the Basic Income Movement”, “Basic Income and the Care- Centered Economy”, and “Basic Income’s Role in Ending Violence Against Women.” A panel on the Color of Poverty and speakers from the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg will also bring much immediacy to the event.

The 2016 theme of International Women’s Day includes the goals of ending all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls everywhere, and we believe that a basic income would be a firm step into the direction of a more humane world for all.

To learn more about BIWAG or to get involved, please join our Facebook group or contact us at or


Thinking about Basic Income on International Women’s Day