MY IMPERFECT FEMISNIM
I didn’t realize when I learned feminism that I was committing to a life of learning. I imagined there was one ultimate piece of knowledge I needed to make the world a better place. But I was wrong. My commitment to feminism has been made of a collection of realizations that not only am I not always right, but almost half the time I have things to learn and unlearn. There is a lot to be said about taking the feminism off the screen and into the universe and the importance of taking a step back to acknowledge obvious privileges that hinder us from fully practicing what we preach. Bell Hooks discusses the beginning of the feminist movement and the model that was created for sisterhood, which continues to fail to date. The reasoning being that if women can band together then the power of us together can truly eliminate gender equality. In Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women, Hooks describes the sisterhood as different splinter groups sharing common identities (white feminists, working women, stay at home mothers) where participants support, support and protect one another while demonstrating hostility towards women outside the chosen sphere. Whose ties are often strengthened through exclusion and devaluing other women. My reasoning dictates that exclusion is not always deliberate and feminists do not need to sit around slut shaming or applying fundamental rights selectively to be a part of a harmful practice. The simple differentiation between myself and a woman with lesser or from a completely background, against a comparison that makes me out to be the superior constitutes exclusion.
Oppression starts in the mind of the oppressor and the prejudice that follows is just a manifestation of perfectly rationalized notions of why others are less.
I wouldn’t take it as far as alleging that failures of feminism should be attributed to sisterhood, because patriarchy, capitalism and long standing social constructs can easily be named as equality’s biggest antagonist. But the failure of women across spectrum to see each other as equal operates against the movement. It takes almost only academic intelligence to advocate for rights through social platforms and behind the keyboards of our computers safe in our homes, and as useful as that ability to see beyond the privilege and draw awareness is, it is ornamental if we cannot respect the lived experiences of women whose lives are so far removed from our own. Sisterhood among women even without class and racial boundaries seems impossible because we have only ever been led to believe there are just too many differences between us, more involved with the intricacies of human interaction and aggressive personality differences. Workplace frictions and romantic clashes have been misplaced and thrown in an unfitting arena.
In my personal experiences, patriarchy is not just something that I see from others, it’s something I feel in myself. When I have taken up the emotional burden of reminding allies of basic injustices, when I sacrifice myself in a male dominated environment, when I judge the decisions of other women without immediate appreciation of personal autonomy. It is almost urgent that my feminism be ever evolving and receptive to unlearning. Put simply, there is a lot to be said about women’s personal battles individually and different experiences mold different ideologies. We are more useful understanding different types of feminism and why they might not work rather than discrediting one woman in her entirety.
The personal is always political so we need to politicize the progressive side of it. Politicize that we rally for the legalization of abortion but once it is legalized make it financially and physically accessible to the rural population that is kept out of sustainable mainstream decisions. Politicize that domestic workers are overworked, underpaid, overlooked in labour rights, often sexually harassed and terminated without pay. Politicize rural minor girls brought to the city under the guise of being given decent work and education only to be trafficked into free labor and coerced into sex work. We have many different individual battles but ultimately one fight. And it is all of ours.