Guyanese leg of the Life in Leggings Caribbean march which happened on March 11, 2017.
The best thing about being a writer is that I have documentation of everything I have written. The worst thing about being a writer is that I have documentation of everything I have written. It is useful in the sense that I am able to see growth from my previous work to now. But sometimes I would rather not have reminders of how misinformed and surface level a lot of my politics were.
Over the past year, I have done a lot of self-reflection regarding my beliefs on what I assumed to be critical feminist thought. I’ve come to accept my own previous ideations of feminism as vague and lacking of the intersectionality needed in a women’s movement. My ideas previously centered on the missive of “equality of the sexes” and concerns of equal pay. This sort of feminism does very little to reimagine women’s role in the world. It is more concerned about the privileged few that will be able to ascend while marginalized sub-groups such as colored and queer women are told that they just need to work harder to achieve the same things as privileged women.
This simplistic and singularity of thought is one that was challenged long ago by women of color, particularly black women. It was these radical thinkers that would galvanize a movement that did not believe that women should adjust themselves to the system, but rather- the entire system needed to be challenged, upturned and restructured. It was through women of color that we now have a feminism that resists not only the ideas that we are unequipped to stand on the same scale as men, but also combines and resists the struggles of class structures, racism and homo and transphobia, just to name a few. Why this was necessary was because, even though women were connected in their shared oppression, white and/or rich women were the ones who gained support from men. It was up to revolutionary colored women to reshape the way in which we discuss gender, class, sexuality and the interconnectedness of it all. This intersectional approach was in direct opposition to the ideals of the often-connected white, lite and neo-liberal feminism in which we are often fed sound bites of “empowerment” as if it is now a commodity. This sort of neo-liberal feminism is the belief that women in high positions will cause more women to achieve same- as if feminism thrives under a trickle down system rather than one that seeks to remove barriers for all women. At a quick glance, it seems as if all our problems as women will disappear if only we achieve equality with the men. If only we are allowed to ascend into positions of power. On closer inspection, most of these arguments remind me of a little sister begging her older brother and his friends for a chance to play on the big boys team.
Because of the relevance and popularity around women’s liberation and equality, many elements of feminism have been incorporated into popular culture and political movements. The women filling these roles however are often more concerned with their own ascendency, agendas and pledged political loyalties. Often, as we have seen both at home and abroad, they act in direct contradiction to the catch phrases they offer to the public. Just note how former Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence failed women and children by going to the defense of an accused sexual molester only last year and labelling the allegations as a “family matter.” Just recall how no big hoorah from women in leadership was made when – with no sense of irony – alleged child molester Kwame McKoy was appointed on the Rights of the Child Commission.
It would be too dismissive for me to label these women as just props of the establishment because this does a disservice to them. It assumes that they themselves are not capable of recognizing their role in the continued upholding of economic and social barriers for less privileged women. That idea just assumes that they are not making a conscious decision to encourage subjugation through silence, participation and timidity. To assume that of them would be relieving them of their role to not add to our collective struggles. We cannot call for the equality and protection of the sexes if we actively contribute to the culture of diminishing women’s experiences.
All of these concepts are intersected to our experiences as women.
There is the belief that we no longer need feminism; that women’s place in the world has been improved and there is no more to do. It is important that we recognize the failings of neoliberal ideas concerning equality of the sexes because it is these very same ideas that have been used in arguments to keep us content with our lot. It reminds me of how capitalists use religion and the virtue of “hard work for success,” to ensure that inequality of the class system remains the same. The competitive nature of capitalism always ensures that there is oppression.
These pseudo-feminist ideas however, are then mass produced and promoted aggressively in the media. There are many names for it: white feminism, faux feminism, and lite feminism. This is not done by mere coincidence. There is vested interest in ensuring that women’s movements never move past catchy sound bites.
To erase the concept of intersectionality is to erase the concept of protected humanistic freedoms and to disregard the need for solidarity amongst women. In a world that continuously tries to force us into little subsets of womanhood, it has never been a more important time to stand together.