Socialist Feminism & the Trump Regime

By Maria Svart

DSA has almost tripled in membership in the past several months and quadrupled in the number of organized local groups in red and blue states. Our growth alone shows that people want to be for something, not just against Donald Trump, and they want to have a voice. We have an ideological perspective that was missing from mainstream political debate until Bernie Sanders’s primary run, and it’s now on us to carry out a strategy to match. For this, we need a socialist feminist approach.

Building Bridges

What does it mean to bring a socialist feminist perspective to organizing? My own story may have some lessons in it. I grew up in a liberal but not left-wing household, watched my extended family win concessions from their bosses through participation in various unions, and became a feminist activist in college. My campus group promoted sex-positivity, abortion rights, and equal pay for women. But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t satisfied but didn’t know why. Then I attended a Young Democratic Socialists workshop, and the socialist feminist ideas I heard there were like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly I realized what was missing!

My epiphany about the interlocking systems of patriarchy and capitalism led me to bring our feminist group into new fights, such as demanding farmworker rights. I argued that immigrant women in the fields faced unique struggles and asked why the growers chose to hire these particular workers instead of white, male citizens. My feminist group helped kick Taco Bell off our campus; the school then pressured the corporation that owned the Taco Bell brand to pay their suppliers more, who then paid their Florida tomato pickers more.

A similar bridge might be built today by socialist feminists. For example, mainstream feminists can forge solidarity with immigrants around the issue of domestic violence. Undocumented women often don’t report domestic violence to police if they fear deportation. This is a real concern. As I write, a woman sits in a detention center after being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February at the El Paso County Courthouse shortly after she obtained a protective order to shield her from the man accused of abusing her.

The same expansive politics can expand the narrow fight for “choice” into one for reproductive justice. Some women now fear abortion will be made illegal, and many of us are contemplating mutual aid solutions, such as the underground abortion services provided by socialist feminists in the pre-Roe days. But poor and working class women already face often insurmountable economic barriers to getting a safe abortion. That’s why every spring DSA chapters across the country participate in the National Network of Abortion Funds Bowl-A-Thon fundraisers and use that opportunity to bring a class analysis to mainstream feminists (check this out on

Working-class and poor women face many other issues, including affordable, quality child care and access to food stamps, given that almost one in four children live in hunger. The ability to raise a healthy family is a reproductive justice issue. Living-wage jobs, elder care, clean water for the families of Flint, Michigan are all feminist issues.

Healthcare, which we consider a human right and a means to promote democracy, is another bridge issue. Through a socialist feminist lens, we see that women are the primary caretakers of the ill and infirm in our society. Women also suffer disproportionately from medical bankruptcies. Medicare, which saved countless families from bankruptcy and desegregated hospitals virtually overnight, is an example of what we in DSA call a transformative reform. As socialist feminists, we organize not just to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the GOP, we fight for Medicare for All.

Fighting for Our Lives

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan have both released healthcare reform plans that would harm millions of people. Unfortunately, one reason they have a political constituency for these attacks is that although the Affordable Care Act is lifesaving for many people, for others, the coverage is terrible. Centrist Democrats don’t have an answer for its problems because they are in thrall to the insurance industry.

This is why DSA fights for Medicare for All, which cuts out the insurance corporations. East Bay DSA is training hundreds of members to canvass for California single-payer legislation. NY DSAers, including in areas such as the Lower Hudson Valley and post-industrial cities such as Buffalo, are beginning to organize for the NY Health Act. Our members are asking tough questions in town halls and local media from coast to coast as they reach out to organize the working-class base we will need to win on this and all our issues. Denying healthcare to millions may be more difficult than the GOP hoped, and we have a shot at single-payer plans in at least a few blue states.

The healthcare fight is a clear example of the “simultaneous defensive and offensive and ideological” strategy DSA pursues, one that should be seen through a socialist feminist lens. It’s not going to be easy, which is why we need to think about “resistance fatigue.”

Training Long Distance Runners

In the capitalist patriarchy, women are socialized to bear the unpaid burden of sustaining families and communities. Capitalism pulls us apart, isolates us, and forces us to compete, breaking down the social bonds that hold us together. In this moment, when we are dealing with extreme fear in many communities and near-constant activism, women often do additional emotional labor to heal, or at least keep at bay, the pain and exhaustion many of us feel.

Being socialist feminists means recognizing the importance of that work and learning to share that burden. It means never forgetting that we’re in this fight to link arms with each other and stand together across the walls that capitalism puts between us. We’re in this to build democratic socialist community. We’re in it for the long haul, and we’re in it to win.

Maria120.jpg Maria Svart is the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 39 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel,
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt,, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz,
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt,, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 15 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.