White Women in the 45%: the 55% Are Our Responsibility

More of us voted for pussygrabber in chief in 2020 than we did in 2016

Image for post
Image for post

I held out hope that a significant number of white women would break with our past and vote with Black women in 2020. The Women’s March in 2017 was the largest single day protest in US history. Women expressed their frustration with Trump online in groups like Pantsuit Nation and offline in groups like Indivisible and Swing Left. In 2018 women protested family separation and the Kavanaugh confirmation. In the midterm 2018 election, significant numbers of white women who had voted for Trump in 2016 voted for Democrats, leading to the Democrats taking back the House. Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming inspired millions. Suburban women in Ohio self-organized to influence their peers to vote Democrat. Supermajority led women-to-women voter outreach.

This summer, in the midst of a pandemic and economic downturn that has disproportionally harmed Black and Brown people and impacted women, many white women heard George Floyd’s cry for his mama a few days after Amy Cooper called the cops on Christian Cooper in Central Park.

Finally, what Black women have been telling us for centuries became apparent: racism is a problem and white women are part of the problem. Multiracial protesters marched in all fifty states and around the world. Antiracism books became bestsellers.

Black women, including Stacey Abrams, Aimee Allison, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Jessica Byrd, Leslie Mac, Nse Ufot, LaTosha Brown, Bree Newsome, Michelle Obama organized ceaselessly to ensure Black people could vote, their votes would be counted, there would be good candidates for them, their priorities were clear, and the Democratic ticket would be accountable to them. Latinx, Muslim, Asian American, and Native American organizers did the same.

In August, Madam Vice President elect Kamala Harris, daughter of immigrants, Howard University alumna, became the first woman, the first Black woman, and the first Asian American woman on a major party’s Presidential ticket.

Image for post
Image for post

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris secured more votes than any other Presidential candidate in US History, and more voters of color turned out than in any previous national election.

As for white women, exit polls reveal MORE of us voted for pussygrabber in chief in 2020 than we did in 2016, when 47% of us voted for him.

In November 2020 election:

Image for post
Image for post
NYT Exit Poll from November 3, 2020

In November 2016 election:

Image for post
Image for post
An examination of the 2016 electorate, based on validated voters, Pew Research

In the words of Dr. Brittney Cooper:

“The harder truth is that Black women voters did what white women voters refused to do. Honestly, white women could not do this. Their racial mandate to protect the power of their husbands and sons always muddies the waters of any feminist solidarity they might offer. Black women, who are fighting to protect themselves and their children from the power white men wield, have a different mandate. Elections like this are where those differences show up.”

White women’s racial mandate goes back 401 years, to 1619, when white men imported white women to Jamestown as “tobacco brides” to make plantations an intergenerational enterprise. Jamestown settlers needed white heirs so it was clear on sight who was in charge of the racial hierarchy. They imported white women to produce white heirs and educate them how to reproduce the system. White wives were an extra set of eyes and ears to police the plantation and run the household so white men could participate in public life.

In exchange for our submission and policing the racial hierarchy, white women got to live in material comfort, the essential American white household contract, now extended to the workplace.

Image for post
Image for post
An 1882 illustration depicting the arrival of the first women to the Jamestown colony BETTMANN / GETTY

From 1619 to the 1850s, despite proclaiming “All Men Are Created Equal” the only men who held decision making power were white landowning Protestant men, many of whom owned enslaved people.

Image for post
Image for post

To justify this system, and keep all the people harmed by it from threatening their power, white men created and popularized gendered racist beliefs, narratives central to popular culture ever since:

White men are natural leaders, should be in charge, have the right to bear arms to protect property and white women.

White women are good, right, moral, honest, just, beautiful, the only good mothers, well-mannered, and weak and defenseless, and need protection by white men.

Black and Native American men are less than human, bad, wrong, immoral, dishonest, ugly, lazy, without manners, unjust, likely to attack defenseless white women, and therefore deserving of harm.

Black and Native American women are prostitutes, promiscuous, ugly, lazy, wanton, strong, unfeeling, subhuman, bad mothers, and therefore deserving of rape.

Image for post
Image for post
Birth of a Nation, 1915

It took women 70 years of organizing to get white men to let us vote, and in the end, white women won the vote by telling Southern white male politicians “keep Jim Crow in place, let white women vote and you’ll double the white vote.” White women used their newfound political power to uphold white supremacy.

Image for post
Image for post
Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy

Since 1952, there’s only been two Presidential elections where the majority of white women voted for a Democrat:

Image for post
Image for post
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: WHITE WOMEN VOTE REPUBLICAN by Jane Junn, Professor at UCLA

How has our loyalty worked out for us? These statistics are from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.2
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.” 1
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.1
  • 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.1
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.1
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.9
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.10
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.2
  • Women between the ages of 18–24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.2
  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.2

The United States is the only Western nation among the 10 most dangerous countries for women.

Image for post
Image for post
Audre Lorde Black Feminist Lesbian Poet Revolutionary

Audre Lorde warned white women about our “dangerous fantasy” -that the patriarchy will keep us safe in exchange for our loyalty- back in 1980:

“Today, with the defeat of ERA, the tightening economy, and increased conservatism, it is easier once again for white women to believe the dangerous fantasy that if you are good enough, pretty enough, sweet enough, quiet enough, teach the children to behave, hate the right people, and marry the right men, then you will be allowed to co-exist with patriarchy in relative peace, at least until a man needs your job or the neighborhood rapist happens along. And true, unless one lives and loves in the trenches it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.”

White women: it’s time to rouse ourselves out of our dangerous fantasy and see our country and ourselves as we truly are. Black people are not a threat to us, white men are.

Do we want to be safe and free? Do we want our children to be safe and free?

Then listen to Saira Rao

“Stop with the yard signs, T-shirts and posters. Stop posting picture after picture of you and your kids at social justice rallies. Stop tweeting about all your good deeds. Stop performing White Woman Savior, The Broadway Musical and start voting for folks who do not want to kill us.

Also, if you have husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, colleagues, neighbors ― not letting them vote for a white nationalist and fascist.”

Outreach to white women in the 55% is even more urgent now. Republicans are sure to run Trumpist candidates in 2022 and 2024. White women who want better for ourselves and our children must turn towards white women we know and win them over by listening to them, not waiting until election time. We must become “white women whisperers.”

Trust me, I would so much rather write blog posts like this one, go to protests, and hang out with Black women.

But what we must do is what Black women have been asking us to do all along:

Organize our own family and acquaintances who voted for Trump or who didn’t vote at all.

Image for post
Image for post

Karen Fleshman Esq. she/her is a single soccer mom, mentor, activist, entrepreneur, attorney, author, educator, and proud San Franciscan. She is the founder of Racy Conversations, a workplace workshop facilitation company, with a mission to inspire the antiracist generation. She is seeking a publisher for her first book White Women We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism.

Founder, Racy Conversations Inspiring the antiracist generation.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store