Today is the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. A friend of mine shared the Audre Lorde quote below in honor of the day; it’s a timely reminder that feminist activism that doesn’t embrace and center the diversity of women’s voices and experiences can never truly advance the causes of justice and equality. Today is a good day for celebrating the progress that has been made in the past century in defending women’s rights, but also a good day to think about how failure to acknowledge the realities of power and privilege have allowed mainstream feminism to focus disproportionately on the needs and experiences of certain women while neglecting and excluding others – such as women of color, trans women, disabled women, and poor women – and a good day to commit to work for a feminism that fights for all women.
“Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.
Within the interdependence of mutual (nondominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring that future into being. Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.
As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.
Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
–Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” 1984
Please share any good IWD posts in the comments. A few worth checking out:
TransGriot: International Women’s Day 2001: Where do Transwomen Fit In? [*note – “transwomen” is the TransGriot’s usage.]
The centennial IWD 2011 theme is ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women’
We definitely need that in the trans community Access to education and training in science and technology would go a long way toward providing that decent pathway to meaningful work for transwomen.
But at the same time we need laws on the books to protect our human rights so that we can get that education without being harassed. We need legislation with enforcement teeth in our various nations so that we can confidently enter the workforce and compete for, get and hold whatever job we acquire without interference from the transbigots who would seek to impede our social and economic progress.
And yes, we need more transwomen willing to fight for our human rights as spelled out in the Yogyakarta Principles and the UN Charter. . We need transwomen tough minded enough to run for public office in our various nations to help craft those laws that will help our transsisters get that employment to improve their lives..
And where do we transwomen fit in on this International Womens Day 2011? Alongside our cissisters as allies ready, willing and able to do our share to help them out, and we hope they feel the same way about us as well..
The Hathor Legacy: International Women’s Day and Trans Women
In any case, we as women – whether we’re organizing marches or thinking about marching in them – need to make it clear where we stand. We may have all sorts of questions and opinions about what really makes a person a woman or man, or indeed if those assignations even mean anything. But all we’re talking about here is simply who is welcome where. If you consider and represent yourself as a woman, you should be welcome wherever women are welcome.
[W]e’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism” so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a woman based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, and not your own. We are not equal when initatives to support gender equality have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become it’s own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it? […]
[I’]ve lost count the amount of times I’ve been asked by others and asked the question myself, what is now the main title of this book, “But what is feminism, for real?”
The responses I received when putting this very question out there to create the book demonstrated resoundingly that people did want to talk about this notion of “the academic industrial complex of feminism” – the conflicts between what feminism means at school as opposed to at homer, the frustrations of trying to relate to definitions of feminism that will never fit no matter how much you try to change yourself to fit them, and the anger and frustration of changing a system while being in the system yourself.