Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Am A Womanist Because…

One of the things that I am very adamant about in my role as an activist is realizing that most, if not all issues connect with one another.  This is a lesson that is hard for many to realize because they are too consumed with privileging their experiences.  I may not always correctly articulate my position but in all things my goal is to recognize our shared humanity. All people matter.

This means that each of the following are my issues: class, gender, trans rights, gay rights, disability rights, ageism etc and etc.  Each one of these isms has the same foundation and they all work to ensure that a hierarchy of beings is alive and well in our society.  When we refuse to speak out about the suffering of another, we  degrade our own hope of achieving equality.

Feminism continues to bother me because of the obvious race and class bias that exist inside of the movement.  Now that much of feminism is housed within academia, it has become inaccessible to the masses, even as it ignores poor women that could most be helped by a concerted effort.  Education is essential however, it is necessary to note that  daily living your feminism is just as important as the dissertation that leads to a degree.  Theory is a way of organizing thoughts and principles but spilt blood, tears and sweat is its own form of real life accreditation.  A high school drop out struggling to make a living has just as much right to speak for feminism as the Phd.

As a WOC I find that I must struggle to find a space within feminism.  What I have to say is regularly challenged or met with great hostility.  Obviously I am not expert on all subjects however, the continual demand that I supply academic papers to legitimate my work has become tiresome.  Why must my work be validated by another, while white feminist bloggers are not held to the same standard?  My work is often based in theory however, blogging is not an academic format and it is for this reason that I believe that the repeated request that I provide citations for my work is a sign of elitists trying to control a format that should be equally open to all. Just as academia discounts the voices of women of colour;  the blogosphere renders our positions illegitimate and without value.

Intersectionality is a word that falls easily from our lips and yet is so seldom practiced.  As bloggers when we chose to advocate feminism, we take on a responsibility to ensure that we are doing so in good faith.  What does it say about our movement when groups are regularly silenced or ignored?  What does it say that we do not actively attempt to make changes?  Time and time again women complain that they cannot see themselves reflected in feminism and yet we do nothing to make this movement more inclusive.  Feminism should be more than a pulpit upon which you stand to preach to others about.  It should be a place where we all come together because in so many ways our issues intersect. It should be a safe environment because have we all been hurt and damaged in someway by all of the isms in a specifically genderized way.

My feminism/womanism is about more than me; it is about the woman across town and the woman an ocean away.  Though there are differences across race, class, gender, and ethnicity, we are all women and not a single one of us lives in privilege in comparison to patriarchy.  My sisters pain is my pain because I realize that sexism is systemic, racism is systemic, classism is systemic, every damn ism is systemic.  This means that none of us, regardless of what other privileges we have been blessed with can escape being marginalized in some way.

When I opened up Womanist Musings to guest posts, it was because I was seeking ways to have larger conversations.  We talk at each other and never listen.  It is nothing but arrogance to assume that only your view is relevant despite the fact that so many operate with unacknowledged privilege.  I cannot know the pain that a trans woman feels when she is wrongfully rejected and stigmatized but I can listen and I can empathize and I can ask how can I help.  I will never know what it is to work in the sex trade and have a john become violent, but I can say I support you and actively work to end violence against women and support the rights of sex trade workers.  The key is to put yourself in the shoes of another and realize that pain is universal.  We all feel it and some of us never recover from it.

The unhusband often tells me that I have an unrealistic view of human nature because I deeply believe that all people at their base are good.  We all exist with the potential for change and positive action.  Feminism/Womanism appeals to me because it is about the best in all of us.  If we can simply see beyond our differences long enough to listen with an active heart and open mind, so much positive change could occur.  I am a womanist/feminist because I believe in goodness, why are you?

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