This question, even though it seems basic and cliché, has been plaguing my mind of late.
There is a high level of intolerance in feminists spaces – it’s scary. We have polarized ourselves and formed cliques and ostracized those who don’t agree with us and made them villains. Mainly, this has been from a lack of understanding or empathy. We’ve not been able to marry our struggles and our various feminisms so as to come up with one unified aim and that is fighting patriarchy.
This rift is justifiable though.
As an African woman who is a radical feminist and a lesbian, I am still angry and in pain.
Our struggles have been erased and rewritten with time to fit the white feminism narrative. It has been whitewashed to an extent that we have left the middle class heterosexual white woman with two dogs and a stable job living in the suburbs to speak for us.
Wage gap! Free the nipple! Solidarity! Solidarity! Solidarity!
Yes. I know solidarity is important.
Solidarity helps bring on board other feminists who are often times excluded from the conversation and help each other create a collective feminist agenda.
Feminism is a social movement devoted to the liberation of women and girls from oppression. The oppressions we experience are result of systems that do not work in our favour. These systems cannot be neatly divided into separate entities when they constantly overlap in our everyday lives. Therefore, solidarity helps bring on board other feminists who are often times excluded from the conversation and help each other create a collective feminist agenda.
This in the end helps us to:
- Claim and secure rights and freedoms as women and girls.
- Transform institutions and structures of power.
- Challenge ideologies that justify young feminist exclusion:doing away with the “We started this movement way back so give us time to enjoy the benefits” type of thinking from older feminists.
- Disrupt Oppressive power systems.
- Have a sense of continuity over time.
As a young feminist, I have observed how every time an issue affects me, one that is directly related to my complex identities, other feminists are always ready to distance themselves and be silent in the face of my suffering. This can be seen in meetings and forums where older, more reserved feminists feel you are too much of a person because you are young and opinionated. I agree that one person’s experience cannot speak for the others but one added voice, on top of many others, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, can make a difference.
The power of speaking in one voice
We have forgotten the power of noise making. Look at what we did in 2017 when Adele Onyango, a popular radio host in Kenya had really disgusting comments aimed herway by one controversial, misogynistic blogger. Let’s talk about the pedophile who was arrestedafter a collective outrage on social media. Who made the loudest NOISE? Feminists. We stripped during my dress my choice campaign. We didn’t let the world rest until they knew that Sharon Oteino, like many other women who came before and after her had rights, their vaginas not being a justification of their deaths. We dressed up as schoolgirlsso as to stop the normalization of rape in boarding schools. We organized TotalShutDownKE in March 2019 under the theme Humanizing Black Bodies as a way of asking the Kenyan government to start taking the issue of women being killed seriously. We caused a stalemate and sparked genuine conversations on issues affecting women. It’s us feminist who are out here, guns blazing, shoving a big fat middle finger in patriarchy’s face and saying “We have rights!”
That’s the power of speaking in one voice. That is the strength of solidarity and conscious intersectionality. It’s never too late to reconcile and marry the many schools of black feminism so as to make one huge ass change. We have been hurt. Our experiences have been dismissed by other people who feel they can speak better for us. We are in pain. We are angry. We are drained. We are tired. We are demotivated. Most of us are burnt out and it’s okay. We can still heal and continue doing what we do.
We are African feminists. We never quit.