August 21, 2008
And now some actual concrete points…
1) Campaigns that address oppression intersectionally; that tackle sexism, racism, capitalism, homophobia, etc. as they exist, which is to say, interconnected and interdependent.
2) Clear-cut campaigns, with defined goals, as part of a larger plan to change society. Too often these days, it seems like we go on a protest here, or an action there, but it’s all rather incoherent. There’s no sense that we’re positively working towards anything.
3) An “in it to win it” mentality. I think activists in general are often far too quick to decided that we’ve “fought the good fight”, and that’s good enough. It’s not good enough – smug self-righteousness will not actually get people out of immigration detention centres.
4) Accountability. Brownfemipower’s post on the subject is fantastic, but I also found it really disturbing, because in a lot of my activism I have no idea who I’m accountable too. I want to write a longer post on this, but suffice to say that I agree with her wholeheartedly regarding the pitfalls into which Oprah fell, despite the latter’s best intentions. How do we avoid this?
5) A commitment to self-education and a rejection of anti-intellectualism. There are many good reasons to be critical of academia (and I say this as someone who’s desperate to get back). But I find that this often spills over into a rejection of any theory whatsoever (or at least any not anti-porn theory). Whenever I’ve defended trans people, or advocated for anti-racist feminism, I’ve been told that I’m “too academic.” What’s really elitist, I think, is deciding that some information is “not necessary” to working-class people, and therefore, can be dismissed as the purview of middle-class academics. How can our activism be effective if we don’t understand how the systems against which we’re fighting work? If we don’t have the analytical tools to figure out what aspects of our activism are successful and which are not? There’s a long and proud tradition of self-education in radical movements in the UK, and this tradition needs to live on.
6) A recognition that theory and practice should be linked. Like I said in an earlier post, it’s not enough to read Audre Lorde. You actually have to integrate what you’ve learned into what you do.
7) Flexibility. Maybe your new activist group does not do everything the same way your old activist group does. If there are issues of internal democracy, or you feel excluded, you should definitely speak out. But I’ve seen at least one person quit an activist group (not a feminist group, actually, in this case) because the group was not run exactly the way she felt it should be.
8) Listen to each other.
April 6, 2008
Hello out there!!
A bit about me: I’m a 27-year-old Canadian who has been living in the UK for the past 3 years. I originally came to do an MA in Gender Studies, met The Composer, got married and stayed. I’m a feminist activist who firmly believes that all forms of oppression are intersecting, and I do my best to ensure my activism reflects that.
That last sentence also serves as a statement of purpose for this blog. I’m a very privileged woman – white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied. This privilege is sometimes – maybe often – invisible to me. Yet, I’ve been convinced by the books and articles I’ve read, and my own experience of activism, that it is absolutely crucial that I decentre whiteness and privilege from my feminist politics.
It is impossible to sort out sexist oppression from racism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, abelism, or any other form of oppression. Modern ideas about gender roles, for example, the idea that women should stay at home while men go out and work, are racialised and classed. Working-class women and women of colour were expected to work, not only because the capitalist system demanded their labour (wouldn’t want to have to pay a man enough to support a family), but because the ideal of “domestic motherhood” for middle-class white women could only exist in opposition to a constructed “other”. If every woman stayed at home, then domestic motherhood would not longer be a marker of class and race privilege , and as such, would no longer be so highly valued.
Therefore, sexism cannot be fought effectively if we are not simultaneously fighting racism, capitalism and other forms of oppression. There is no such thing as a “women’s issue” separate from “race issues” and “class issues”.
Furthermore, it should be obvious to any who is paying attention that in the UK, at least, our basic liberties are increasingly under threat. Women (and men) who experience multiple oppressions are at particular risk – look at the way in which it’s become completely acceptable to lock up asylum seekers. But, once it has been decided that, for example, someone’s national origin can deprive them of their basic human rights, what other groups may find themselves in a similar situation? Feminism must fight against all forms of oppression today, because if privileged women such as myself remain silent while asylum-seekers are persecuted, we may one day find ourselves arbitrarily deprived of our liberties.
I hope that my blog will reflect this statement. I’m sure I won’t always get it right (privilege works by being invisible), but I pledge to do my best.