Over the past year, we have seen how the global mass movement of the Women’s March has rapidly gained momentum in harnessing the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. The public outcry came immediately after Trump’s inauguration in January last year. It sent a clear and direct message to the administration and those in power that we were not going to take their abuse lying down. It symbolized an intersectional solidarity between women and their allies* – the first of its kind. It was certainly empowering to watch a historic moment like this unfold before me nonetheless. People from all over the world took to the streets. Women mobilized together, and used their collective power to voice resistance. It was women who weaponized against a system that is so openly willing to exploit and sanction violence against its own people. It’s inspired and even given leverage to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. We’ve made some tremendous strides, and our struggles, our stories, and our demands are being broadcasted loud and clear across industries everywhere. My reflections here are not intended to trivialize the tireless work and courage of our sisters – this should never be taken for granted. However, I believe this to be an especially critical time to beg the question: can we, as women, honestly say that the same is being done in our own relationships with other women? I believe it’s important because unfortunately I still meet women who quite genuinely enjoy bringing other women down. They take pleasure in bringing them to their demise. So, this very question needs to be taken seriously, and I pose it here to really challenge ourselves to reflect on it with great intention and purpose. We need to look within, and be as honest and as open with ourselves as possible. Ask yourself: am I bringing other women up with me along my journey? If you are, ask yourself: in what ways am I supporting their success? If you’re not, ask yourself: why, and what can I do to change?
* Although very problematic at times, but I won’t get into that right now. Maybe stay tuned for a future post?
We need to do a better job in raising each other up. We need to hold the one thing we all share in common to a higher esteem – our sisterhood. We need to show it more respect, and handle it with the care and dignity it deserves. Our sisterhood is a sacred entity, and it’s about time we wake up and treat it as such. We need to commit ourselves to being better to one another by unlearning this internalized behaviour. For far too long, we’ve been conditioned from a young age to see other females as competition. It’s internalized through the process of socialization, and this form of socialization in turn can produce outcomes that nurture systemically-rooted issues for us women. These subliminal messages are reinforced over and over again. It’s an age-old narrative that’s normalized in the media we consume, in the schools and workplaces we attend, and by the very adults we grow up to love and trust. It’s implicit as much as it’s explicit in nature, which seems to suggest that the thoughts influencing this behavior are sub-conscious. We sometimes don’t even realize when we do it or why it’s even happening. But when we actively participate, we are in essence feeding into the hands of a patriarchal system that’s meant to keep women in their place. We internalize the misogynic ideologies that underpin the second-class citizenry of women. The ways in which this operates on a systemic level needs to be acknowledged, but it’s no excuse. We still need to hold ourselves accountable nevertheless. Accountability in this case means bringing awareness to one’s own individual behaviours and interactions with women. But it also means checking your privilege. Yes, even as a woman. The reality is that some women have more privilege than other women. You see, who we are directly informs the power and privilege we have. For example, although white women are marginalized because of their gender, they still benefit in many ways because of their racial identity – which may also include other privileges based on their class, sexuality, and/or ability (although this isn’t necessarily always the case). So, we can see how this is further complicated by the varying contexts and realities that exist when gender intersects with other identities that may either work to marginalize or privilege us. Now it’s easy for us to get warped into an “oppression Olympics” mindset. And I urge us to resist this way of thinking altogether. It’s counterproductive, and will only make us feel helpless, petty, and vindictive towards one another. It’s no one’s fault for having privilege. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for having it either. I refuse to participate in shaming and blaming women for it. What I will not tolerate however is the refusal to name oppression, especially when it does not implicate us directly. The truth is, even if we are not directly affected by it, we are.
My point is that if we are really serious about being committed to achieving gender equity, we must develop a critical understanding of how race, class, sexuality and other differences contribute to further oppressing women who may be different from us. Use your privilege for good. Use it to give other women a voice and space to liberate themselves from the shackles of oppression. Otherwise, what you’re doing is actively being complicit in further marginalizing women who don’t share the same identity-based privilege you have. So, if our personal and collective objective is to successfully liberate ourselves as women, we need to be inclusive of all women – including and especially Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, rural women, Muslim women, disabled women, lesbian queer and trans women, as well as any intersecting identities of the like. It’s either all of us, or none of us. We need to recognize that our liberation is bond to one another. True liberation can only ever be realized through the stronghold of sister solidarity and allyship. So long as another woman is unfree, I will never myself truly be free, even when her shackles are very different from my own. It’s up to us to break the vicious cycle. We cannot let them pit us against each other. We cannot afford to see each other’s wins as losses. Men certainly have a role to play here too. But it’s up to us women to lead our own liberation. Let us embrace being and becoming our own heroes. The power we have when we come together is astronomical. It’s an incredibly powerful force – one not to be reckoned with. Together, we can defy all possibilities. We can, and will, overcome. We wield the strength of steel, and carry the courage and resilience of all women who came before us, and those who presently ground us. They fought tirelessly for us, and their spirits continue to live within us. We must have the critical consciousness to realize this if we are ever going to unleash our greatest and most powerful potential. So, let’s all take a step back and reflect. Let’s be honest and critical with ourselves, starting with the way we treat other women in our lives. So, I invite you, my dear sisters, to let this knowledge and awareness empower you. Let it empower you, and together let’s empower each other. Because whether you realize it or not, we’re all in this together, and I want us to envision a future that’s kinder, more compassionate, and more loving than ever before. Women have always been at the forefront of revolutionary change, and women will continue to be the ones coming together to fight for a better world for many, many generations to come.