Most of the following is based from a long phone call with BFP who asked the heaviest of questions,
"Is There a Movement?"
For a long time, I have quoted warrior Helen Zia who said, "There is not a women's movement, capital W, capital M. There are women's movements, plural."
In an interview with Ms. Magazine, she states:
I've been thinking about feminism, its "movement," and recent events of the past several weeks.
I believe there is feminism. I don't believe there is a movement. US Feminism was born out of suffragists who wanted the right to vote. Was it an inspiring and worthy historical event? Of course. Was it grossly racist and ignored the needs and rights of womyn of color? Of course. But, nonetheless, it was deemed and documented as a movement. It was a movement that stirred the 70s and 80s with new language and terms to describe sexual harassment, patriarchy, and equality in the workplace. Were these important events that took place? Of course. Was it, once again, infuriatingly ignorant of the works and voices of womyn of color?
Did the US women's "movement" break the backs and hearts of marginalized womyn?
Does it continue to do so?
But it is being deemed and documented as a movement.
So, here I am, a Brown womyn, born and raised in the US declaring from my seat in this arena that there is no movement for me. If I had been born in the roaring 20s or grew into adulthood during the 2nd wave, as a Brown womyn, I would still be saying the same thing: There is no movement for me.
What is the "movement?" Where is the movement? Is it a constellation of values and agenda? As inspiring as it is to think as bell hooks, "feminism is for everyone," what happens when "everyone" receives an invitation to the situation room? What happens on a very human level of conferences, conversations, blogging, and community formation when the movement shows no clear mission, no consistency, organization, or clarity? Such celebrated ambiguity leaves perfect target practice holes for lethal mistakes, a slip of the knife, expensive missteps.
I used to argue that feminism is the movement that embraces the human development of each individual and each person could find an empowering home in the scaffolds of feminism, but now I'm not so sure when it seems like more and more womyn of color are either being elbowed off the scaffold or willingly jumping off to walk on solid ground. When I think of past social movements there was a distinct, tangible understanding among its walkers. There was some agreement of accountability to keep people in check. If a non-violence group member pulled a gun, she's no longer non-violent. However, if a feminist is racist or classist, "Oh, s/he's trying..."
There is feminism yes, but how that transpires in the action of each "feminist" ultimately defines the movement as a whole. For US feminists, the access to feminism opens most easily for privileged womyn whose minds and lives have been formatted to privileges of comfort, entitlement, and therefore ignorance. The "movement," of feminism is drowning in a pathology of privilege, a forgetfulness of its use and potential, a permanent amnesia of truly liberating the oppressed. By simple biology, feminism will take a different face in womyn because of race and privilege. It's as if our priorities are completely different. These days, I feel like we don't even speak the same language and we are hurt by completely different things.
The question of liberation for privileged feminists will always remain unanswered because they are not equipped, they never learned to self-analyze beyond their own profit and gains. Privileged feminists will remain, I believe, fumbling in the dark with nothing but their oversized dry hands, their desire to be a good ally but inability to acutely challenge their darkest shadows of moral responsibility and fragile egos. In the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken.
This division in feminism breathes in my generation, my feminism. It has filled me with an anger I cannot explain, a frustration beyond my reach. Each day my anger is different and I can't say it in more simple terms than this: I expect more.
And so, if I am a feminist, like Zia, I will expect those who do not confront racism and issues of marginalization to change. I expect better. Feminism - the social, political, and economic belief that womyn are equal - still has me pinching its fanny. Cross my name off the "movement" though.
Observing the feminist blogosphere in the aftermath of (W)AM AND A SEAL is enough evidence that history will continue to deem and document these times as a "movement,"
even though it has...well, you know the rest.