Disagreements about how to end injustice, and specific injustices, are as old as injustice itself. Whether one is considering the injustices of colonialism, racist domination, oppression of women...in each and every one of these areas, those who can agree in broad general principle have often found themselves disagreeing over specifics, including some major ones. To make common cause does not magically bring about harmony.
When Gandhi fought to escape the injustices of British rule, he was opposed by people who resisted his ideas about throwing over caste distinctions. When Mandela picked up arms to fight apartheid, many withdrew their support from his movement. When King sought to expand his conception of civil rights to include equal access to economic opportunities, former and potential allies turned against him.
None of these examples of fights for justice achieved perfect justice, no more than the Civil War achieved a perfect Union. But I do believe that the U.S. Civil War achieved a more perfect union. Likewise, I believe the India of today is a far more equitable place than the India of one hundred years ago, that the South Africa of today, like the U.S. of today, has achieved within the past fifty years enormous strides toward racial justice.
My own dream is that within my lifetime, I see the progress toward the good of justice for women that Gandhi, Mandela, and King got to see the toward the goods of justice they pursued in their lifetimes. They managed to see results in their pursuits even though each had to learn when to resist pressures from people who genuinely shared their vision and when to resist the lure of becoming subservient to those who offered only short term funding and enrichment rather than truly shared commitment.
Now, even as I write this, millions of men and women are freshly galvanized to make it a reality that all the world comes to see women's rights as human rights, to see woman as just as much the paradigm representative of humanity as man, and therefore to see a woman's rights as indistinguishable from any human's rights. With all that energy comes passion and motivation. But with it comes too friction and infighting. With it too comes the willingness by some to give up the chance to speak truth to power, in order perhaps, to gain power, but nevertheless at the sacrifice of a chance to speak without fear of offending.
I believe that at the end of every day, and at the start of every morning, a person needs to be able to reflect upon herself or himself, and address these questions to herself or himself: if I am fighting for justice, am I making choices that do not compromise my integrity? What can I tolerate in allies even if I cannot join wholeheartedly in every step they take? Can I broaden my toleration without selling out my convictions?
Especially in the fight against the subjugation of women, men and women must ask themselves these questions, because one of the hardest obstacles to achieving progress toward the good of justice for women is the tendency toward infighting on the one hand and selling out on the other. Fighters for the empowerment of women tend to care about all sorts of injustice and obviously have some very basic differences, including differences in sex, race, and class. These differences can lead to fissures and cracks that can render the fight for justice for women, for justice for people, very tough going. But the common interest in justice for all must be used to resist the fissures and to repair them, when possible. What cannot be repaired is selling out. Certainly, one person's "sell-out" may be another person's "reasonable compromise". Personally, I believe in the necessity to question one's own choices in such matters very closely, because it is very tempting to see oneself as the reasonable compromiser, the unifier, the one who moves beyond "unnecessary" partisanship rather than to recognize in oneself the more natural tendency in human nature toward selling out.
For my own part, I prefer to err on the side of sticking to my convictions rather than losing them in a process of mollification and conciliation. If enough other people join me in those convictions, then they and I will not have to mollify and appease: we will ultimately have coming to us those who would now have us coming to them. We will be numerous enough and bonded together strongly enough in the fight for women's rights - the fight for human rights - to the point where will we have the upper hand, both ethically and tactically.
For my own part, I would rather take ten million baby steps toward the good without losing my footing in conscience than take a great leap and risk losing my moral compass. I will march with as wide a cohort as I can - even when we disagree on some things - in the name of reaching my goals. But I will not join ranks with those who are able to take heady leaps that gain them a seat at the local powerbroker's table or a grant of some of that powerbroker's money at the price of their integrity.
If ten million or twenty million or fifty-one million people choose to baby step along with me and I with them, we will, together, make the same rate of progress as those who choose to go it more or less alone. In the fight to beat misogyny and sexism, in the fight to achieve proper representation and empowerment for women, I expect great changes. I demand great changes. I will work toward great changes. But I know the greatest shifts toward justice take years to accomplish. To stick it out, every step forward must be appreciated and celebrated (e.g. Senator Clinton's name placed in nomination even at the admitted charade of a free and open Democratic Party convention) and every step backward must be condemned and resisted (e.g. the retention of a speechwriter for the President of the United States of America who participates in boorish, distasteful and sexist party shenanigans.) Time is on the side of those who fight for justice, so long as those who fight for justice do so with patience and tenacity, and resist the parallel temptations toward selling out or excessive infighting.