Harsha Walia: Reimagining feminism on International Women’s Day

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Reimagining feminism on International Women’s Day
Harsha Walia, rabble.ca, March 4, 2015

Every morning I read my one-year-old daughter a fabulous children’s alphabet book. When we get to the letter F, it goes “F is for Feminist, Fairness in our Pay.” Of course a children’s book is limited in its ability to express nuanced layers of analysis, but I often wonder about how relevant this articulation of a particular version of feminism will be for her.

Dominant liberal feminism has typically sought equal and fair rights for women. Even subsequent waves that brought greater representation of diverse women and trans people within these same frameworks of feminism have rarely altered the premise of “equality” as the primary organizing force of feminism, thus leaving the relationship of heteropatriarchy to other social, economic and political structures of power largely unquestioned. Patriarchy is not secondary to capitalism and imperialism; the very foundations of capitalism, colonialism and state violence are structured in conjunction with and through patriarchy. Marginalized women, therefore, not only endure gendered violence at higher rates, we also experience it qualitatively differently.

Feminism: Friend or foe of the state?

The past decade has seen a surge of debate on feminist anti-violence strategies that rely on the state. Anti-violence strategies, such as tougher sentencing laws and increased policing, have been criticized for emboldening criminalization that already disproportionately targets communities of colour, poor communities, and trans folks.

It is clear that the state is not interested in protecting women who defend themselves against heteropatriarchal and transphobic violence, as evidenced most recently in the cases of Marissa Alexander and CeCe McDonald, both Black women who were incarcerated for defending themselves against partner violence and transphobic violence, respectively. A fact sheet on battered women in U.S. prisons details that as many as 90 per cent of the women in jail today for killing men were battered by those men.

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