Part of my work is in voter behavior and there is a meaningful difference between the statement “53% of white women voted for the guy who got elected” and “53% of the white women who voted cast their vote for the guy who got elected”.[fn1] But in the grand scheme of the clusterfuck of this past election it is truly a minor point (The Guardian wrote it that way; the New York Time cited it properly as 53% of white women who voted”). But, honestly, never mind that: The white woman problem in American feminism and in the last election is very real.
So stop focusing on which white women, or on proving you’re not that white woman. Just keep not being that white woman. Stop thinking about why you need to prove you’re not her and just don’t be her, by letting go of your sense of importance, by rejecting the focus on you.
Listen and focus on the greater issues: the percentages of African-Americans and immigrants and Native Americans who are disenfranchised. Whether through the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Or through the New Jim Crow. Or through lies, intimidation and other bullshit.
And on the greater issue of the failure of our municipalities to accommodate voting for all people (but particularly the poor and marginalized and those without PTO or flexible work schedules or child care or the ability to travel to a polling place easily). Focus on how our election commissions fail to make ballots clear, to make all our votes count and equally. Fix how difficult it is for some people to register. Don’t absolve white women voters of complicity in racist structures, but fix the structures.
But don’t forget, there is a white woman problem in American feminism and we have failed to recognize its debt to women of color, as Feminista Jones says here at the Women’s March. Start acknowledging that “the path to liberation has been mapped out by the brilliance of the black Woman’s mind.”
[fn1] It appears that overall, more than 58 percent of eligible voters went to the polls during the 2016 election but I have not seen a breakdown of that by demographic, although the Atlantic shows that “A majority of women backed Clinton over Donald Trump, 54 percent to 42 percent. Exit-poll data indicates that 94 percent of black women and 68 percent of Hispanic women voted for Clinton.” (Note, they make the same semantic error that is driving me nuts. I assume they mean 94% of black women voters because they use the same white women who voted percentage, rather than the percentage of white women eligible to vote)
White women, on the whole, are, of course, the least likely women to be affected by voter suppression efforts. Where white women exist within another marginalized population, such as the poor, the barriers to voting become more relevant. The Atlantic’s statistic that Clinton won 51 percent of college-educated white women to GOP guy’s 45 percent (Romney won 52 percent; Obama won 46 percent) is interesting because I think it better highlights how modern white feminism focuses on elite power structures, rather than humanization. (That’s intersectionality 101, folks.)
So even when you start using the more accurate descriptors—”white women voters” rather than “white women”—you remain in the same position of white women voters who did not step up and do the right thing.
Generally, only around 50-60% of eligible voters go to the polls. The US Census data for the 2016 election is accessible here. Unfortunately, it breaks down by sex OR race, not both and shows the entire voting age population, not the voting population only. There were ?? women of voting age in the U.S. at the time of the last election. How many were registered? How many voted? That data is not available for 2016, although it is for 2014. 66% of the 124,237 women eligible to vote had registered and 43% had voted, slightly higher than the 61% percent of eligible white-only voters who registered and about on par with the number of those white-only voters who actually voted (43.4%).