TalkSeriesJHB volume 2

TalkSeries JHB held its second event this past wednesday (June 1st) at Roasted Coriander.

The second volume focussed on feminism, specifically questioning how we define and own feminism as women of colour.

Two things became very clear to me during the discussion:

a) although one can 'objectively' define what   feminism is....on a personal level, that is to say based on the lived experience, it means different things to different people.

b) we're are moving (or rather should be moving) towards a more intersectional feminism, one that contexualises intersecting social identities, systems of oppression and discrimination.

What I appreciated most about this volume of talk series is the varying opinions & views. On the one hand we had 'talkers' question the need for labelling & having movements and groupings such as feminist/womanists - do these labels exaggerate ingroups & outgroups thereby resulting in more division than unity? "......feminism should be a natural state...why is the person pushing for exclusion & inequality not the one to receive the label such as sexist, misogynistic and the shaming that often comes with those labels....." this is a paraphrase from one of the attendees.

On the other hand you also had 'talkers' of the view that a collective, forceful movement is definitely necessary in fighting the structures of patriarchy & misogyny.

The different feminist waves have had their success (& failures) in the past, but what we are interested in, is the relevance and inclusivity as we stand today. We're interested in understanding what the specific goals of feminism are today, what they should be tomorrow and how any of this affects lives.

One part of the conversation that resonated with me was the question of how women treat, relate and engage with other women. Often we're so busy fighting our own struggles in our respective lives that we forget the impact we have on other women. I don't often stop to consider how my 'feminism' can impact on other women from different backgrounds to my own. My personal view on the matter is that quotes such as " no one can make you feel inferior without your permission" are meant to oppress and play into victim blaming. Statements like these completely ignore the reactionary but very real aspect of emotions. It would be easy to say we're not responsible for how our power ( & use of that power ) makes other women feel but the reality is that we are responsible for what we put out into the world. I hope that this realization makes me more intentional about questioning my views about & reaction towards those who are different from me.

Nature vs nurture: Questioning where gendered behaviors and views on femininity and masculinity stem from.

The fact that from the moment they can form opinions and world views, boys and girls receive social cues of what is and isn't allowable. Boys play with legos and trucks and build things and get their hands dirty. They also don't cry, act like a girl or show emotions. Girls play with dolls and cook and nurture. They don't raise their voices, get their hands dirty and they aspire to be good mothers and wives. When the going gets tough girls are told to 'man up', 'take it like a man' or 'wear the pants'..... but of course only in instances where this suits society.

Culture:  

There are instances where aspects of culture are patriarchal & oppressive but there are also instances where feminism, the very thing that is meant to liberate women, oppresses women of different cultural backgrounds by prescribing what in those cultures is and isn't oppressive....the problem here is that often the 'informed voice' is driven by the western gaze and western standards.

Black men: 

Black women really have it tough in this world. When they stand up to fight for their dignity and human rights as black women, it is often suggested that their struggle for gender equality detracts from the more important debate on race. "Let's first tackle the evils of racism.....because this struggle is more real, more painful, more pervasive.....and then we can start to think about gender issues". But then of course they'll keep waiting, won't they? And these arguments aren't only used to deter black women, they are also used against other groups of marginalized human beings.

As with the previous volume, the intention of the talk series is never to "get to the bottom of issues" and provide solutions, but rather to get a group of engaged minds in one room and tackle issues with the hopes of inspiring action and change....however small.