Usually the people speaking out against anti-Semitism are, well, Jews. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear actress and activist Alyssa Milano call out anti-Semitism in the Women’s March movement.
[Read our primer on anti-Semitism in the Women’s March]
Milano, who is widely credited with popularizing the #MeToo movement (she did not start it, that credit lays with activist Tarana Burke), has become a prominent activist in the past few years. She was even parodied on SNL for her presence at Kavanaugh’s hearing.
But why we’re writing about her today is not that amazing photo, or her tireless activism on behalf of women, but because of an interview with the Advocate published last week. In the interview, Milano said she wound not participate in the next Women’s March unless its leaders condemn anti-Semitism.
Let’s back up.
At a #TimesUp event earlier in October, conservative conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer confronted Alyssa Milano, asking, “You are friends with Linda Sarsour, and both of you ladies have positioned yourselves as speakers and representatives of the #MeToo movement, I want to ask you right now to disavow Linda Sarsour because she is a supporter of Sharia law. And under Sharia law, women are oppressed, women are forced to wear a hijab. My question is, will you please disavow her because she is advocating for Sharia law?”
Milano, calmly, responded, “She’s not.” (As journalist Yair Rosenberg tweeted, “Note how Milano calmly refuted the claim that Sarsour ‘is a supporter of Sharia law’ before saying she would not speak alongside Sarsour until she repudiated Farrakhan. It’s actually not hard to reasonably criticize Sarsour without being Islamophobic. More people should try it.”)
In the Advocate interview, Milano explains she is not disavowing Sarsour for the Sharia law conspiracy, but for her support of Louis Farrakhan.
Farrakhan, as we’ve previously outlined, is a notorious anti-Semite. Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, two of the four leaders of the Women’s March movement, have refused to denounce him. Thus: anti-Semitism controversy.
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.” She’s noticed the silence around anti-Semitism, so if she were asked to speak at the next Women’s March, Milano says, “I would say no at this point. Unfortunate that none of them have come forward against him at this point. Or even given a really good reason why to support them.”
[Read: 3 Ways for Intersectional Feminism to Include Jewish Women]
This is a big deal — Milano’s comments have brought renewed attention to anti-Semitism in the Women’s March movement, and their failures to Jews (particularly Jews of Color). As journalist Carly Pildis tweeted, “I have been writing about anti-semitism in Women’s March leadership for 2 years. This the first time a major feminist figure who isn’t Jewish has spoken up and called Women’s March leadership behavior towards Jewish Americans unacceptable. Thank you Alyssa Milano.”
So: thank you, Alyssa. Let’s hope actual change comes.