By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Bitch Magazine
A lot of us working/breathing/organizing in feminist/humanist/womanist communities were running from event to event last week during International Women’s Day (IWD) week, and I thought I’d share some of the deconstructing thoughts I’ve been having aloud about what I witnessed and participated in.
There’s been debate over whether it’s the 99th or 100th year anniversary of IWD, and whatever the case, I find myself perplexed and widely critical once again of how the day and week gets celebrated.
Many of you already know all too well the tokenization that happens when we Indigenous and racialized women get invited to things our own communities are not putting together, the envelopes we sometimes have to push, the chastising we get from both white people and people in our own communities who don’t like that we’re calling ourselves feminists/womanists/humanists, so on and so forth.
During IWD last week I talked a lot about the academic industrial complex that mainstream feminism still lies in (which is, btw, part of the working title of a new book I’m working on this year – more about that later) but I fully knew where I was going and who my audience was going to be during these “official” type events – which was, incidentally, white women who were “professionals” mostly having attended post-secondary education.
My biggest musings to myself weren’t the typical “there they go getting upset at me for asking why the women’s rights movement today doesn’t appear to care about all the Indigenous women who are being murdered and going missing” or “now you care ALL OF A SUDDEN since it’s making the mainstream news headlines for some apparent reason when our women have had systemic violence by the thousands for 500+ years”. I’m BEYOND used to that in and outside of the academy and organizational settings, and I already know the many reasons why this happens and why I still get invited to speak so they can “check-mark box” my “inclusion”.
My biggest musing to myself was “why do I, myself, still do this?” Why do I go to this kind of stuff, expend the energy, and waste the time deconstructing it in my mind afterward? Truth be told I’m not really of the “we’re all one” thinking because I actually don’t believe that it’s safe to organize a movement that way – and I’m not ready to be “one” with a lot of folks yet. I heed the wise words of Loretta Ross of SisterSong that our organization, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, is a proud member of who says, “SisterSong is not everyone singing the same song in the same way because then we’d be like a cult. SisterSong is where people are singing different songs, but in harmony”.
So it’s not because I think we are all going to be one, or because I feel like it’s my job to educate or constantly push the envelope. I’m trying to understand why I go. And I’m utterly and completely at fault for this. Why do I participate in something on the general level of organizing IWD in Canada and the United States, that I fundamentally disagree with?