I was disappointed by a recent article in the Upper East Side’s own Our Town titled, “Parsing Patel’s Political Posts.” While I wasn’t a strong Suraj Patel supporter prior to reading the article, it felt like a hit piece, hand-fed from the Carolyn Maloney campaign. Writer Douglas Feiden is a treasure to the Upper East Side with an ear to the ground, but this piece felt like it was ready to crucify Patel for being a roving millennial. Allow me to introduce you to our generation.
We’re itinerant because of job instability. Many of us stay on our parents’ health insurance as long as we can. Many people keep their voter registration at their parents’ house because they’re from a more conservative place and perhaps don’t realize the value of voting in primaries in gerrymandered NYC.
While only the last element applies to Mr. Patel, the piece in general seemed to take a couple of tweets from a political novice as gospel of far more value than the actions of our incumbent elected official. Where we’re so used to politicians who take no positions at all, Patel, who was perhaps thinking of mounting a challenge to a Long Island Republican, took a shot at Lee Zeldin online. You’ll find me and plenty of other millennials doing this to racists, bigots, and the electeds who enable them all over the internet.
We call out the ways that their supposed progressive values are hypocritical or when they say they’re fighting for the underserved but their donor list and their own words don’t back that up.
Patel’s opponent, incumbent Carolyn Maloney tries to wear a badge of progressivism that just doesn’t fit the bill. I hear people in her district, where I live, saying she’s done positive things for women or that we need her as feminists. With only a few minor pieces of legislation but no strong, impactful, and bold progressive actions in nearly 25 years I can’t help but ask: who is included in Carolyn Maloney’s feminism?
My mother, who worked 60 hours a week to make ends barely meet when we lived upstate in the 90s, wouldn’t have been included.
Carolyn Maloney wasn’t our representative back then but she was in office. Over the last 25 years, she hasn’t done anything to increase the amount of affordable housing that single parents, like my mother, have access to. In order to pay for a two-bedroom apartment in this state, you need to make $26 an hour working 40 hours a week. With minimum wage being about half that, that means mothers like mine, who had no college degree and a whole lot of pride about accepting the meager public assistance offerings she was entitled to, would work 80 hours a week to not share a bedroom with their kids.
My mother couldn’t do that. She slept in the living room and I got my own bedroom. This was a depressing fact of life and a sacrifice that many mothers are still forced to make 25 years later. I don’t have to tell you how detrimental this is to women’s mental health and their physical well-being. I won’t go into how she’s no longer alive because of our deeply flawed healthcare system.
American women who choose to wear burqas wouldn’t be included.
When Carolyn Maloney was asked in a NY1 debate about her repeated disrespect of women who willingly choose to follow their faith and wear a head covering, she said “I don’t know why anyone would.”
She wore one on the floor of Congress once and said it was hard to see and it was hard to breathe. She talked about a traditional garment, from a culture that she didn’t understand and a religion that she didn’t practice, with the same disrespect we’ve come to expect from the degenerate right-wing. The disconnected and dehumanized way that she regarded head coverings, worn by many American women, who vote as Democrats, who hold advanced degrees and contribute to the economy, came from a deeply ignorant place.
Women in Afghanistan certainly weren’t part of this.
The reason for the burqa wearing was to talk about how the Taliban were oppressing women. It was a ham-fisted attack that smacks of what we now call “white feminism”. Her argument for bombing civilians in a reactionary and hawkish call to war was that often thinly veiled argument for “liberation”. She argued for the bombing of a relatively poor country in order to free women.
Sex workers wouldn’t be included.
And if our feminism doesn’t include sex workers of all stripes, it’s no good at all. Sex workers need rights, not rescue. Unless we’re in the market of replacing the fair-paying jobs that sex workers are able to make for themselves, we should be more careful about supporting legislation like SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act). Carolyn Maloney touted the importance of this legislation, based on poorly gathered data, by clamoring for children who were being sold into slavery. However, all the legislation has done is to shut down a few sites that sex workers used to more safely screen clients. The owners of backpage.com, one of the sites, went on trial. For what? Facilitating prostitution, not trafficking. In fact, sex workers from all around are reminding us that poorly considered legislation like this, which is founded on faulty logic — sex trafficking happens on secure and barely traceable servers, using browsers you can’t find in the App Store — will only serve to make sex work more unsafe. Carolyn Maloney might know this if she was listening to these women.
So who is Carolyn Maloney’s feminism for? Is it for a select few elites whose families fund her campaign? Is it for wealthy people who already have privileges far beyond the working class? If it’s not for low-income families, immigrants, or sex workers, then it’s not for us.
Carolyn Maloney has amassed a net worth of $30 million dollars while working in for the non-profit US government for the last 25 years. For perspective, Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been working in politics for just as long and holds a higher position as maybe one of the top 5 jobs on the planet, is worth about $800,000.
Representation matters. When a table of 25 white men stand over a piece of legislation that determines who gets access to reproductive healthcare, we rightfully blow the whistle. When a millionaire has presided over a district in NYC where we’ve seen only a precipitous drop in the amount of HUD funding and affordable housing, who will be the one to blow the whistle for our low-income seniors, women, and children?