Hard to avoid what’s happening in Charlottesville

Ms. Foundation’s event takes aim at sexism, and adds racism in, too.

From left, board member Cathie Harnett, president and CEO Teresa C. Younger, and Carol Jenkins at the Ms. Foundation Summer Gathering. — Sophia McCarron

The Charlottesville protests colored Ms. Foundation’s discussion on its new report, “Justice Doesn’t Trickle Down: How Radicalized and Gendered Rules are Holding Women Back.”

“It’s an interesting time,” said Carol Jenkins, Emmy awardwinning TV journalist and women’s rights advocate. “I thought we would be stretching our conversation and not talk about much.” The protests took care of that, and Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Foundation CEO and president Teresa C. Younger opened the discussion by addressing the recent developments.

The discussion, held on Tuesday night at the Grange Hall, centered around the premise that identity politics promote equality. The report, published in partnership with the Roosevelt Institute, brought forth the idea that “to abandon all other identity markers to focus exclusively on class is to perpetuate structural racism and sexism.”

The violence in Charlottesville illustrates the lingering racism in America. “To some of us this is a wake-up call,” said Ms. Younger, “but there are people whose lives are in danger every day.” She mentioned that employees of Ms. Foundation working in the field face violence regularly, as do the women they are working with. “We knew that this day was coming, but we know there are better days out there,” Ms. Younger said.

Ms. Younger continued on, not mincing her words in regards to the administration’s response to Charlottesville. “I’m not going to pretend that this administration is not sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic,” she said.

Mr. Trump has emphasized that both sides in the conflict are to blame, coining the phrase “alt-left” to describe the counterprotesters who clashed with white supremacists.

Ms. Younger called for a “doubling down” in support of women’s rights, especially for women of color, in the wake of the violence. “It is time for those of us who are good to not sit back,” she said. “We have to double down and truly trust women. We have to engage in conversations and not back away.”

After the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton faced criticism for sticking too closely to identity politics. The Washington Post’s opinion writer John B. Judis wrote that the Democratic campaign overestimated the strength of a coalition based on identity politics. This has raised the possibility of pushing toward a more economic message in 2020.

“If we just had economic justice, we would all be OK — not true,” said Ms. Younger. The report argued that narrowing the focus to wage and workplace issues — like the statistic that Latina women make 54 cents to the white man’s dollar — do not address the systemic issues that create inequality. “We have to look at the breadth and depth of the laws that have held us down,” said Ms. Younger.

The report called for a holistic takedown of economic, race, and gender inequalities. It operated under the premise of a need for intersectionality. “It’s not an ‘either-or,’” said Ms. Younger. “It’s a ‘both-and.’ We want to make room for all of our identities to do our work.”