“What does feminism, or sexism, mean in a vacuum?”

Another amazingly articulate, thoughtful, critical analysis of "feminism" by Jess Hoffmann... Here's a snippet, but please please go read the rest.  

I see a lot of people who say they believe in "intersectionality" talk about it kind of like this: Since some women are people of color, and some women are poor, and some women are queer, it's important for feminism to take an intersectional approach that recognizes the way some women experience sexism and racism, or sexism and economic exploitation, or sexism and homophobia, or other such combinations. And then maybe they'll go a step further, and say something about how, for women of color, sexism and racism aren't just two separate forms of oppression experienced simultaneously, but are intertwined in really complicated ways. So, a lot of self-identified supporters of intersectionality will say, if feminism is going to be a movement by and for all women, it needs to look at how all forms of oppression, not just sexism, play out in different women's lives. And I think that's all true and good.

But I think a feminist politic of intersectionality goes deeper than that. To me, the really key thing about intersectionality is connecting the above analysis around individuals' lived experiences to the insight that all systems of power are interconnected. So it's not just that some individual people experience multiple forms of oppression, or even that all people have some kind of personal relationship with all systems of oppression (for instance, as a white woman, I experience sexism on the oppressed side, and white supremacy on the side of privilege), but also that the systems of power themselves—racism, economic hierarchy, sexism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.—are working together.

Take, for instance, violence against women. While self-identified feminists earnestly question whether this or that is or should be or isn't really a feminist issue, I don't think anyone would really question that violence against women is properly, unequivocally, a feminist concern. I also don't know how we could even try to understand, let alone resist and transform, a culture of widespread violence against women without looking at a culture of general violence, a culture that uses violence to maintain hierarchies of all forms. How could we think about, let alone challenge and offer alternatives to, violence of any kind without looking at how violence (of all forms and against women specifically) is connected to militarism and colonialism, which are connected to the spread and global imposition of both white supremacy and neoliberal capitalism, which …  I could go in a slew of different directions with this.

Which is why I believe we must simultaneously challenge all forms of unjust power to achieve any kind of liberation. Which is why I'd like to believe pro-capitalist feminism is an oxymoron.

Capitalism is a huge part of how/why the world has been colonized. Antiracist feminism must be anticolonial feminism must be a feminism that resists capitalism — not just because the effects of capitalism are damaging to individual women, but because capitalism, as a system of power, is connected to sexism, to racism, to …

Go here to read the rest.  


by Debbie Rasmussen
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4 Comments Have Been Posted

Either or?

I am going to play devil's advocate here for a moment so please, forgive me.

Why is it that in the seven years I have studied feminism (which I understand, does NOT make me an expert) do I find that when it comes to various issues feminists often see themselves in an either or predicament. Either feminists are "pro" sex or "anti" sex, they are "pro" pornography or "anti" poronography, "pro" capitalism or "anti" capitalism. Forgive me, but wasn't what the feminist movement supposed to erase some of the lines drawn in the sand and not draw more.

Take the issue of violence against women, as was used above...OF COURSE this is a feminist issue, and should be without any question. And yes, the roots of violence in our culture do play a significant role in several social problems, including those that effect feminists. But how do we resist capitalism? Really? How do we earn our salaries, purchase internet connections (because if you think capitalism is bad in the real world.....), buy groceries, etc. Short of becoming a martyr for the cause, it is unequivocally impossible to defeat capitalism. At least in this day and age. And it's a bit antithetical as well, since what the feminist movement translates into for the laywoman is the means to a career, or at least the choice.

So back to the either or question. While "learning" feminism, the rejection of things (i.e. the establishment, the heterosexual normative identity etc) was paramount. I found myself questioning if I was a bad feminist because I wanted a relationship with a man, I wanted a career, I wanted the liberty to express the full power of my sexuality. All of these things I was told to reject.

Why have feminist's not attempted to REDEFINE the systems that are problematic (I know that this doesn't really apply to racism, but it certainly does to capitalism, sex, etc) in terms of what makes sense for women (and men, or else we're just creating the same problem at 180 degrees)? Why is capitalism the enemy and not a tool?

Don't get me wrong, I think that capitalism IS the root of all evil, but it is so institutionalized that to attempt to reject it would simply further marginalize the women participating, rather than bringing them closer to a comfortable and safe mainstream.

I don't have the answers to the problem, I am simply suggesting that we rethink the problem.

there's a difference

nobody is expected to single-handedly defeat capitolism, but it is totally possible for us each to resist it in whatever ways we are capable of. i don't think this translates to "martyring" yourself for the cause. it's not an all or nothing situation, and nobody is perfect. it's definately reasonable to feel overwhelmed, but i think declaring it too big a problem, and therefore not worth resisting, is just a copout.

it's also a distinctly white and privileged definition of feminism that reads: the means to a career, or at least the choice, as this ignores the fact that women of color and poor women have always worked. another thing: who falls under the category of "laywoman," in this context?

also, please read jessica hoffman's article "On Prisons, Borders, Safety and Privilege: An Open Letter to White Feminists" it's a great starting point for this discussion. you can find it at www.makeshiftmag.com

But it's still and either or.

So does that mean that my struggle as a woman and a feminist less valid because I am white? Is it uptopian to think that women could unite on one front, that is being women! I was not raised to see the differences in people immediately, rather the similarities. Am I automatically going to be categorized as privileged and therefore the enemy, even though when I argue for "women's rights" I don't mean black women or white women, I mean WOMEN? Is my opinion forever tainted? How do I truly rectify this without becoming one of Hoffman's white feminists who misguidedly "include" women of color? And how am I to truly understand the plight of someone else, when I am not them, and therefore their experience is subjective, regardless of whatever "group" they belong to. See, there we go with the groups again.

I have the best intentions here, but I truly feel that continuing to marginalize and categorize only furthers the problem. I don't mean to diminish the experiences of women of color, but I realize that as a white woman I can never truly feel what she feels. But I can identify with her on our commonalities.

What I meant by laywoman was not in the slightest way meant to be derogatory or elitist, although I am sure that's how it was perceived. It was simply a figure of speech used to describe a woman who has not taken upon herself or had the opportunity to engage in feminism.

I mean, at the end of the day, in the vacuum we all are WOMEN aren't we?

I don't think that my body,

I don't think that my body, my labour and my thoughts should be utilised for the greater good. I'm sure that it is not in human nature to stop searching for improvement, I mean, why do you think that no alternative system will ever come along? Why do you think that no other system has ever worked?

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