Excerpted by Latoya Peterson
After college and I entered the real world and got a job (in a feminist office) and starting volunteering off-campus with feminist groups, that’s when the racism shit started to fly. So I’ve been there. Been the token who works her ass off and gets shafted in the end. Was accused to stealing a speaking engagement when the group specifically asked for me. La-de-da, Ms. JD.
So what keeps me coming back to feminism?
It’s my home. Despite its flaws, calling myself a feminist is the truth. Each movement has its own devils to wrestle with – but that is an individual thing. Feminism the philosophy, transcends the bullshit and comforts me. And I refuse to let racism define feminism for me.
I refuse to be run out of the movement.
I refuse to let racists have total access to the soapbox, even if their soapboxes are larger, cooler, and get more ears.
I refuse to be silenced.
My feminism initially aimed to tackle issues like the gender gap in health and education. But since then, my feminism has branched out, to include concepts like colonialism and globalization. I learned much by listening to women like Zenaida Soriano and Teresita Vistro of AMIHAN (the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines), who explain here why globalization is a feminist issue:
We comprise the majority of the landless poor, 51% of the total female population in the region are employed in agriculture and we produce 60% of the food for the Asian region, yet our right to land continue to be denied.
As our right to land is continuously denied, so is our right to decent lives. As our rights are denied, so is our children’s right to a healthy lives and therefore of the lives of future generations.
Globalization is a social justice issue, it’s a feminist issue. To be a feminist in the Philippines means that one also has to take part in the struggle against export-oriented economic policies that deny peasant women their land.
We can’t confuse race with culture. It isn’t the same thing. A person’s culture is what he or she absorbs from the community/communities around him/her. A race can be a culture, but a culture can’t be a race. Take for example a married upper middle class Chinese woman from Hong Kong who has two kids. We will call her Liz. Her definition of feminism will likely be very different from an upper middle class Chinese woman (also a mom with two kids) in the United States or Canada (which we’ll call Anne), even though they’re both of Chinese descent. Why? Race/ethnicity aside, it’s much easier for Liz to move up career-wise. Most women in Liz’s situation have hired help at home, as nannies and housekeepers are much more affordable than in the west. Liz is therefore free to stay late at work so she can get things done and move up. Childcare in Anne’s situation, however, costs more. If she uses a daycare center, she has to pick her children up after a certain time, as the place closes (there are some places with extended hours, but how long are they open? Very few are 24/7). Anne may have a nanny, but nannies cost more in this part of the world. She likely has one person who does both the childcare and the cooking/cleaning. I wouldn’t say that both Liz and Anne would have the same views on feminism, would you? They are of the same race, but definitely not of the same culture. Similar cultures in terms of socio-economic class though.
One of my favorite students ran into my office today and dramatically collapsed on my couch. Before I even asked what was on her mind, she sat up and shared her wisdom, “Do you know what my acting coach told me today? She said, ‘Listening means having your life changed.'”
She went on, “It’s true, don’t you see? When you listen, I mean really listen, you are changing yourself in response to what another person is offering you. Listening is really about opening your mind to change and the difference of another human being. Do you know how many times I haven’t listened? I spend so much time in theater pretending that I am listening, all the while, I am just waiting for MY cue for MY line, MY turn, MY minute to talk. I realized today: I don’t listen. ” She paused.
I paused with her.
Listening means having your life changed.
Are there theater lessons available for feminists?