The past two weeks have not been good for the leaders of the Women’s March. Not one, but two, celebrities associated with the movement spoke out about the hateful beliefs espoused by leaders of the March.
Actress Alyssa Milano, one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement, earlier this month, questioned Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory for their ties to hate preacher Louis Farrakhan.
In an interview with the LGBTQ magazine, The Advocate, Milano said, “Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed. I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately.”
Though Milano had been one of the featured speakers at the initial Women’s March gathering in January 2017, she doubted that she would speak at the one in 2019.
“I would say no at this point,” she answered in response to a question whether she would feel comfortable speaking at the March. “Unfortunate that none of them have come forward against him at this point. Or even given a really good reason why to support them.”
Milano’s stand earned her the support of fellow actress and activist Debra Messing. Messing, last week, tweeted out a link to Milano’s Advocate interview with the message, “I stand with you @Alyssa_Milano.”
Opposition to the anti-Semitism of the Women’s March leaders even reached across the Atlantic, when a German think tank associated with Germany’s Social Democrat Party rescinded its award to Women’s March USA. The organization said they reached the decision because the March’s “organizers have repeatedly attracted attention through antisemitic statements, the trivialization of antisemitism and the exclusion of Zionists and Jews” since the group was established in 2017.
Milano and Messing are not the first liberals to speak out about the anti-Semitism expressed by the leaders of the Women’s March.
In August of last year, Bari Weiss, an editor of The New York Times, wrote a column arguing that the Women’s March needed to distance itself from the hateful views of its leaders.
The necessity of a protest movement was necessary, Weiss wrote, because there was a need to “build a broad coalition” to fight incivility in politics.
However, looking at the leaders of the March, Weiss had misgivings:
The leaders of the Women’s March, arguably the most prominent feminists in the country, have some chilling ideas and associations. Far from erecting the big tent so many had hoped for, the movement they lead has embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke.
A week later, Ann Lewis, a former adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and prominent Democratic consultant, wrote in the Washington Jewish Week, that while she was proud to have been part of the Women’s March and what it stood for, she was concerned about “attempts to highjack the Women’s March in support of a very different kind of politics.”
Specifically, she objected to the “hateful, divisive language that tries to expel Zionists like myself and my friends from the women’s movement by defining feminism as available only to those who deny Israel the right to exist.” Lewis also noted the hypocrisy in a movement that claimed to speak up for women, asking “why would leaders of the Women’s March aim their attacks only on Israel — a country in which women’s rights are written into law, and the only homeland for the Jewish people?”
Milano and Messing have used their celebrity to highlight the way the Women’s March’s message is compromised by its leaders.
How can a movement that claims to fight hate be led by haters? How can a movement that stands for women’s empowerment single out the one state in the Middle East that actually empowers women for ostracism? How can a movement that advocates for women’s freedom have a leader who celebrates societal restrictions placed on women?
In an essay published in The Tower last year, Julie Lenarz, a Senior Fellow at The Israel Project, summed up these problems and asked how Sarsour can act as a gatekeeper to the movement she leads.
“Sarsour recently stated that those who identify as Zionist can’t be feminist because they are the rights of Palestinian women. That seems rich coming from a supporter of the inescapably misogynistic Sharia law,” Lenarz wrote.
“Zionism is the belief that Jews, like any other people, deserve a homeland. In other words, acknowledging the state of Israel’s right to exist — the country with the best record, by far, on women’s rights in the entire region.”
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