archives

exploring a day in the life of
violence against women

I hurt. I hurt everyday. My heart aches, my chest tightens, my breath quickens until I’m breathing so loudly people begin to stare. I want to say this is a rare occurrence. That I don’t feel like this over ten times a day. But I cannot. This sorrow consumes me—it destroys me. Let me walk you through it. I read a line from a news article, “girl gang-raped and then burnt alive.” I look up from my phone to the television, I hear the telecaster prompt: woman stalked and then killed by her ex-husband. I can sense despair in her voice, but she shows no emotion—objectivity is what is needed in the news. Emotions cloud facts. I pick up my keys, throw on the biggest jacket I can find hoping it protects me from the cold weather—or at the very least from the coldness of those around me.

Getting into my car, I turn on the radio, and I hear the next story. Young student brutally assaulted in her dorm. Raped. Tortured. Serious injuries reported. And that’s just the local. The global news seems to creep in as the narrator does a top five in five minutes recap. I don’t yet hear about much other than what x country did to another, or what protests look like here, or what one president said about the other. Oddly enough, hearing this news makes me feel better. If this is worthy enough to be in the top five, maybe there is nothing worse out there. A new narrator usually comes on at this point—generally a more conservative viewpoint. He begins to speak about specific countries.

                                   Myanmar. Burma.                                                                                           

My ears perk. This was my nani’s home. He then mentions a new number of women being trafficked for marriage or sex slavery or something else in the region. They are not any different from me. Some other country will generally pop up at this point. Women killed, raped, tortured, decapitated, trafficked, the list can go on. The newscaster will not linger, however. There is a brief pause as he moves to the next story. His voice need not falter. His tone need not change. He will then usually bring us back to America. Is that not where the story always ends up? He will most likely mention something about the impeachment, a quick summary of the same regurgitated information they repeat everyday. If he is feeling a little more talkative that day, he may mention the border. He will not mention the atrocities, nor will he “pick a side”; as if any side other than not caging people up can even be valid. He will maintain the same tone, the same expression, you can even hear the slight slur of the smile lingering on his lips as to not seem unprofessional. His objectivity rings in my ears. Could I maintain that objectivity, I’ll ask—do I want to?

I might turn on some music at this point, bring out Spotify and play something relaxing. Something to stimulate my mind away from these thoughts. It doesn’t work. Not like I want it to. I park my car and get out. On my right, I see a billboard. Some jeans company. It resembles the Dolce & Gabbanna “gang rape” ad of the late 2000’s. I still remember all the pushback. Here, I see a woman in black, lace underwear standing in heels I imagine to be as tall as me. Sexy, I should think. Around her are five men. On the floor is a pair of jeans. Her jeans are around her ankles. One man has none. Another has his zipper lowered. One has his hand on her lower back. She stares at me. They stare at her. I stare at them. What should I think?In these twenty seconds between my car and the building, I have made a connection to these strangers. One that left me uneasy. Would I be her with those jeans? Do I want to be her? Do I want to be the men? A photographer stood there. Commanded her to dress as such, first having the thought run by the creative team. It was manufactured. Every detail made to encode a feeling. Power. Should be felt, should be experienced, should be had. Who has that power? Who defines it?

I open the building door, press the elevator button, and make my way up. I stop by the break room; the news is playing while I make some tea.

“Sad isn’t it?” he asks me with a hand in his pocket, coffee in the other.

“Sad,” I respond. Need we say more?

I walk to my desk, put my headphones in, and begin working. He trails behind and finds his seat. He rolls over to me, seemingly motivated in the quest for help, but instead asks me a series of questions about that news story—as if educating him is the task I hold dearest. He never does ask if I have the time to chat, or if I’m a bit busy at the moment. Ignoring my reluctance, he still proceeds: “What is rape culture? What does it look like? When did it come? What does that mean about me?” The grandest concern for him surrounding rape culture is not its accompanied violence, but that it brings a mirror up to his face, and forces him to ask, am I rapist? Am I complicit? How do I fit into a system that implicitly demands my domination over women?          

I tell him that I say this not because I believe men are instinctually dominating or because I do not believe they can change their behaviour, but exactly because I believe these relationships can change. I believe we can solidify the relationship between us all outside of the bounds of dominance and submission. I try to stress my optimism even in my despair. That I have hope that one day our world can and will look different. He seems perplexed by my answer. Clearly it was not the pat on the back for being a “good guy” that he had grown accustomed to. Forced to face your own complicity in a system that is made to keep you “asleep”, unaware, and unconscious of your role in the continued systematic genocide of women is difficult. It is not more difficult than the beatings, torture, rape, slavery, prostitution, trafficking, decapitation, and murder of women everywhere. I let him feel his win of trying to learn, however. A soft smile accompanied with the slightest words I can muster.

“Good job for trying”, I whisper. Not all battles I can fight today.              

I used to hear the women from these stories cry, scream, shriek, yell, asking me who the fuck I thought I was to read their stories, hear their tales, gape at their terrors, and then just move on. Forget. Distract. Stimulate. Over and over again until their names are a distant memory if I even knew them in the first place. I repeat this cycle. It’s like clockwork. When I begin to go home, I do the same in reverse. The next morning, I do the same. Come the weekend, I cannot recall any of the stories as vividly as I can recall my breakfast that whole week. It stayed with me, I thought. But, did it? Their pain stayed with me, but did I stay with them?

I’m hurt that I cannot remember their names, or even remember if I knew their names, but I can remember the details of almost very task I worked through that week. I hurt. I hurt as much for the violence of the world as I hurt for my apathy to it.

I read the news again, trying to find the stories and piece them back together. It’s not hard. I may even write their names down. Weave their tales together on scraps of paper until I’m drowning in pain I can hardly handle. I tell myself I mustn’t forget. But I do. I try so hard, but I still do. I cry. Sometimes it loud and full of misery. Sometimes it’s a lone tear that hits my phone. I wipe it away. The sorrow consumes me. I wish it would end, but it does not. Warming up some water, some tea keeps me company. Provides me the warmth I crave in a world that lacks it so desperately. They are me; I am them. We hold no difference I can conceive. I care. I mourn. I weep. And then, the cycle repeats.

radicalize yo'self

prison abolition
& black lives matter
toolkit

this is a time to radicalize. to (un)learn. to document. to resist. to demand liberation. to and for freedom. let’s take the time necessary for revolution and justice to manifest.

online books/pdf’s/theory resources: access radical reads library/collective

revolutionary writings i am sitting with

 

“When I say, “abolish the police,” I’m usually asked what I would have us replace them with. My answer is always full social, economic, and political equality, but that’s not what’s actually being asked. What people mean is “who is going to protect us?” Who protects us now? If you’re white and well-off, perhaps the police protect you. The rest of us, not so much. What use do I have for an institution that routinely kills people who look like me, and make it so I’m afraid to walk out of my home? My honest answer is that I don’t know what a world without police looks like. I only know there will be less dead black people. I know that a world without police is a world with one less institution dedicated to the maintenance of white supremacy and inequality. It’s a world worth imagining.”

— Mychal Denzel Smith

“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”

— Angela Y. Davis

“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions – poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed – which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.”

—Howard Zinn

“One should recall that the movement for reforming the prisons, for controlling their functioning is not a recent phenomenon. It does not even seem to have originated in a recognition of failure. Prison ‘reform’ is virtually con­temporary with the prison itself: it constitutes, as it were, its programme.”

—Michael Foucault

“I remember the week following the protest with Alexia Christian’s mother, thinking a lot about Assata’s words: “ Who are they [prisons] for? They certainly aren’t planning to put white people in them. Prisons are part of this government’s genocidal war against Black and Third World people.” I thought to myself, if the answer to “who are prisons for” will always be an answer that transgresses my being and the being of my people, then why do we need them?”

—Devyn Springer

“Demands for parity with men’s prisons, instead of creating greater educational, vocational, and health opportunities for women prisoners, often have led to more repressive conditions for women. This is not only a consequence of deploying liberal – that is, formalistic [abstract] notions of equality, but of, more dangerous, allowing male prisons to function as the punishment norm. A more productive version of feminism would also question the organization of state punishment for men as well and, in my opinion, would seriously consider the proposition that the institution as a whole – gendered as it is – calls for the kind of critique that might lead us to consider its abolition.”

—Angela Davis

“In the carceral municipality you are followed in your car by a police officer as you drive to your shit job simply because you are not white. While you are being given a ticket for $300 the cop realizes there is a warrant out for your arrest for an unpaid fine for the length of your grass being three inches too long (though you cannot recall having ever received such a fine). In jail, you call your aunt to bail you out, but she doesn’t have the money and it takes her a day to secure your release through a commercial bondsman. Since your aunt lacked financial assets, she had to list her car as collateral. When she misses a payment due to low-waged and precarious employment, she will be charged additional fees by the bondsman. After you are released from jail, you are reprimanded by your boss for missing work without calling in, and you are written up. Because your license has been revoked for traffic violations and an unpaid ticket, you now have to use the unreliable and underfunded public transportation system to get to work. You arrive late on the day you have been summoned to appear in court because the bus did not arrive on time, and thus you are forced to reschedule your court appearance and pay an additional fee. This scenario could go on and on and on…”

—Jackie Wang

“The logic of terror and violence enacted upon the Black and Brown bodies that are identified in the present as “criminal” is reliant on inverted perceptions-in this case where brutal assailants become the victims or heroes. These visions of racial punishment are twisted into social hallucinations that legitimize policing and imprisonment. These twisted or inverted perceptions emerge from a whole constellation of institutional structures situated within histories where the meaning and the value of the racial body is actualized in the moment of its destruction at the hand of the state. Structures such as the courtroom, or the police car, or the booking station force a perception of justice marked by institutional symbols seen within a field of vision of reality: the police uniform and badge, the judge’s robe, the sanctioned gun. Despite this, they are hallucinations of justice.”

—Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas

“When children attend schools that place a greater value on discipline and security than on knowledge and intellectual development, they are attending prep schools for prison.”

—Angela Davis

“As important as some reforms may be – the elimination of sexual abuse and medical neglect in women’s prison, for example – frameworks that rely exclusively on reforms help to produce the stultifying idea that nothing lies beyond the prison.”

—Angela Davis

“What is, so to speak the object of abolition? Not so much the abolition of prisons but the abolition of a society that could have prisons, that could have slavery, that could have the wage, and therefore not abolition as the elimination of anything but abolition as the founding of a new society.”

—Stefano Harney & Fred Moten

“Whiteness, just as it functioned in the 19th century to pave over class differences in the interest of racial solidarity, also has contributed to structuring urban poverty and to building the fear of criminal populations (nonwhites) that has fueled the construction of the prison-industrial complex.”

—Kim Gilmore

“To respond to high levels of harm in ways that are not derivative of the PIC, we must first and foremost let go of the notion that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people—that people who murder, rape, and assault people are ‘bad’ and that people who don’t are ‘good.’ We all harm people and are harmed ourselves, in different contexts and conditions and with different levels of power behind us. Accepting this does not minimize violence but actually empowers us to be able to face violence clearly.”

—Mimi Kim

“There has never been a major social transformation in the history of mankind that has not been looked upon as unrealistic, idiotic, or utopian by the large majority of experts even a few years before the unthinkable became reality.”

—Sebastian Scheerer

“Ever since the Middle Ages slowly and painfully built up the great procedure of investigation, to judge was to establish the truth of a crime, it was to determine its author and to apply a legal punishment. Knowledge of the offence, knowledge of the offender, knowledge of the law: these three conditions made it possible to ground a judgement in truth. But now a quite different question of truth is inscribed in the course of the penal judgement. The question is no longer simply: ‘Has the act been established and is it punishable?’ But also: ‘What is this act, what is this act of violence or this murder? To what level or to what field of reality does it belong? Is it a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional episode, a perverse action?’ It is no longer simply: ‘Who committed it?’ But: ‘How can we assign the causal process that produced it? Where did it originate in the author himself? Instinct, unconscious, environment, heredity?’ It is no longer simply: ‘What law punishes this offence?’ But: ‘What would be the most appropriate measures to take? How do we see the future development of the offender? What would be the best way of rehabilitating him?’”

—Michel Foucault

“But it should be remembered that the ancestors of today’s most ardent liberals could not have imagined live without slavery, life without lynching, or life without segregation.”

—Angela Davis

“The creation of new institutions that lay claim to the space now occupied by the prison can eventually start to crowd out the prison so that it would inhabit increasingly smaller areas of our social and psychic landscape. Schools can therefore be seen as the most powerful alternatives to jails and prisons.”

—Angela Davis

prison abolition resources

 

complete archive of resources for #blacklivesmatter
black owned bookstores (if you can avoid amazon please avoid it): tumblr guide

what does covid-19 unravel?

a (Re)Design of Our Survival During COVID-19

Reckoning. Apocalypse. World-Ending Prophecy. Capitalist Failure. Conspiracy. Propaganda. Coronavirus. Covid-19. To name the struggle takes a recognition of it. To recognize the struggle we must name it. What then comes first?

COVID-19 hit. And it hurt. Currently, there sits over 1.3 million active tested cases, and over 73,000 recorded deaths. The truth of the matter is not so much how high the “official” number keeps going, but that millions of people are not being tested, are not having their deaths recorded, are not accessing the necessary health care services whether it be because of their spatial location, their race, caste, class, gender, religion, and/or sexuality. People are suffering. That is fact. Do we know precisely how many? That is not fact.

I hesitated to write today. To put pen to paper and attempt to contextualize something I am not intimately intertwined with—luckily, at least not right now. I recall Patricia Hill-Collins in these times as she writes, “survival is a form of resistance”; in the midst of the “we need to be productive!!!” tweets and messages online, I cannot help but find them insulting. In such survival of ours, there is hope, promise, and resistance. COVID-19 is as much a continued struggle as we would look at a war, a global outcry of death and destruction. Its end is not some silver lining to strive towards, carrying the bodies of millions on our backs, its end is through a deliberate shift—shift of what we consider normal, because “normal” is only what we adjust to and create going forward. I hope we do not forget that.

My hope extends particularly for and towards women in the home, who imbue and live through the violence, disciplining, and punishment that has taken on a greater hold of their lives in these domesticated times. The WHO records absurd numbers of domestic violence complaints. The UN Secretary General has advised that COVID-19 has hit women the hardest, who face violence not only through physical and medical means of the virus, but through the private, purposeful, systematic and structural violence legitimized and authorized at the various entanglements of patriarchal bounds. We have all heard that those most vulnerable are those left behind, and while media and government officials have made explicit the homeless, the racialized, the precarious, the poor, the migrant, and the “in the developing world” worker, we have not made salient the women, the housewife, the financially dependent, the trafficked, the prostitute, the othered who is seldom analyzed when disaster strikes. These are the people being left behind, who we cannot reach, correction: who we do not wish to reach.

I feel less of a duty, and more of a forceful pull to speak to, with, and through the crisis, for it is not only one of epidemiological concern. COVID-19 hurt not only because it is a pandemic, which historically have wiped out millions, but because it unravels the cracks, the vestibules, the shortcomings of systems we are meant to emulate, strive towards, love with our open hearts. Industrialized capitalist democracy. COVID-19 hit the hardest on these nations not because they are more biologically or geographically susceptible to its reach, but because of their structures. The state that demands them legitimacy are not structures capable to handle the crisis because they were not built to aid, assist, protect its citizens but to aid, assist, and protect its profit and economic vitality. I will not sit here and argue that those countries hit hardest are systematically much different from the rest of the globe—we all live within binding, oppressive, vexed systems of colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. It is impossible to escape it bounds. Nor will I argue the importance of economic prosperity in the very DNA comprising the Global North. People are already doing that.

We are sitting at the brink of the quite possible death of hundreds of millions. I hope the number is much lower, but that hope does not dissuade nor does it provide substance to forget that these deaths are treatable. We have the opportunity to pave new paths, mechanisms, and structures to craft quite literally a brighter future. For those of us with the privilege, the true, inescapable, omnipresent privilege that grants us the ability to work from home, we have the time and space to understand and calibrate how and what we want these next few months, years, decades to look like. I do still know, feel, and experience the continued fear, stress of the unknown, of the economic, of the physical that has grasped our world. Together, as cliche and morally hopeful I seldom sound, I believe we can birth new designs to not only pave more effective paths for this pandemic, but so that when a crisis such as this hits again—and it will—we can find the means to ensure it hits differently, not just hoping it does not hit at all.

Decolonizing Healing: Reflecting on bell hooks', Sisters of the Yam

“Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you are well.”

—Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

bell hooks references Bambara’s beautiful words in the introduction of Sisters of the Yam. I needed this book. Truly needing her writing in times like these where I am consistently juxtaposed. I mean, reality was difficult to deal with before covid-19; hundreds of thousands of people were and are dying everyday regardless of the virus. In 2016, it was estimated that 8,000 people die from hunger everyday. How am I supposed to just pretend that is not happening?

There has been no clear answer for me. I simultaneously wish to remember and ignore. To hold close, fight for, with all those who are hurting, but in doing so, I am ignoring my own hurting. The weight of carrying the world’s trauma on your heart is no easy feat. It is of course easier than experiencing the trauma itself, but the goal of liberation is not for one of us to experience the horrors the other is experiencing, but to find ways to break free and liberate those very people from the oppressive state itself. To do so, we have to be open. Intimately ready. Completely immersed in understanding and compassion. Those are not easy feats. 

Healing is no one step process, where I magically unravel the years, decades of simulation, ignorance, and learnings. It is simultaneously infinite. But it’s longevity does not excuse me from actively practicing healing. I embody this, but it is often easy to forget. bell hooks seldom lets me ignore the work I must do, to arrive to the revolution, to participate in the movement as wholly, fully, and intimately as I can. For the revolution and healing are inexplicably intertwined.

Like me, hooks makes claim on the ways self-care and healing have been made into a white woman’s practice. Healing has traditionally been that of black and brown women, of poor women, lesbian women, disabled women, fat women, dalit women, ‘third world’ women, detained women, migrant women, immigrant women. Healing has been utilized in the truly darkest of times, for that is when it has been needed most. Healing is no superficial practice, it is a deliberate engagement individually and collectively, with the necessary political consciousness, to resist, transgress, oppose, and transcend.

She writes,

“This book, however, like many other self-help books for women, disturbed me because it denied that patriarchy is institutionalized. It made it seem that women could change everything in our lives by sheer acts of personal will. It did not even suggest that we would need to organize politically to change society in conjunction with our efforts to transform ourselves.” (12)

With a frame of consciousness that transcend the individual, we must still find pathways and mechanisms to heal that are personal to our lived experiences. Individuality does not necessarily mean our practices cannot be illuminating of the experiences of others, but that we must deliberately create blended paths that combine both scales of experience into our healing practices and journeys.

hooks writes,

“Knowing when to quit is linked to knowing one’s value. If black women have not learned to value our bodies then we cannot respond fully to endangering them by undue stress. Since society rewards us most, indicates that we are valuable, when we are willing to push ourselves to the limit and beyond, we need a life-affirming practice, a counter-system of valuation in order to resist this agenda. Most black women have not yet developed a counter-system.” (69)

It is difficult to develop such a system. I recall Sara Ahmed, a feminist queer theorist’s, phenomenal work on feminist resistance in everyday life, as she writes “sometimes: to survive a system is to survive in a system”. Without deliberately placing blockades around and through these systems that attempt to limit, force, derail, and stress our work and bodies, we can very rarely survive without intentional effort to do so. This is a harrowing reality: we must work deliberately, continually, and purposefully to survive these multiple oppressions, to heal with, through, and past them.

This process of healing is a process of consciousness, of decolonization, of (un)learning. hooks further eloquently elaborates:

“We have resisted continued devaluation by countering the dominant stereotypes about us that prevail in white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy by decolonizing our minds. Here decolonization refers to breaking with the ways our reality is defined and shaped by the dominant culture and asserting our understanding of that reality, of our own experience.” (10)

In times of covid-19, I understand truly, that healing can be brushed off as ‘unimportant’. Like I asked before, how can we focus on healing when thousands are dying

every
single
day

I still don’t have an answer, but I know I practice healing with intention to the collective for I can only show up as closely as I have met and shown up for myself. That is non-negotiable. And I hope you find the process that enables you the flexibility to explore your liberation as simultaneously your own and beyond yourself during these times.

* you can access a pdf copy of this book in the radical reads library: https://kanishkasikri.com/access-book-club/

tokenized wokeness: the rise of non-violent white saviours to fix the world

Throughout these past few months, media channels have been bombarding us with discussion of Greta Thunberg, political figures of the United Nations, the infamous Donald Trump, and their reactions to the climate crisis. In this sphere of polarization and the rise of comfortable/mainstream activism where people want tangible change without giving up their privileges—regardless if this is even possible—we must be critical and vigilant when there are these heavy endorsements of Greta and her forms of advocacy by world leaders, celebrities, and mass media; for it has become increasingly easy to equalize advocacy with action, and white saviours with activists. So, I ask you a simple question, whose answer may be immensely convoluted: why Greta? Why is Greta Thunberg the face of climate change activism today?            

There is a difference between attacking Greta because of her advocacy in questioning the audacity of world leaders in their lack of action against climate change and recognizing that certain bodies are always centered in global discussions—that of white Eurocentric perspectives.

But, let me just say, when Greta asked,

how dare you?

The power, the emotion, the rawness of that question, it inspired me. It was, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, “one thing to know something intellectually and another to feel it emotionally”.                                                       

However, there is a difference between applauding this advocacy and working to dismantle the narrative that places certain bodies as the center perspective, as the only perspective, in public discourse, academia, and activist spaces. Recognizing the embedded nature of political dynamics to favor the less radical body does not mean that those with platforms should not utilize them in dismantling our colonial capitalist supremacist patriarchy. Rather, we need to actively work to recognize the mechanisms of popular advocacy and understand how these modes of prioritization are rooted in other forms of systematic exploitation and oppression.    

I applaud Greta, as should all of you, while still recognizing that those disproportionately affected by climate change, rarely if ever access platforms that allow them to voice their own lived experiences and embodied knowledge. If we never center marginalized voices, can we ever hear, understand, and change their realities? Greta, unlike many marginalized people does not face the continued blame, degradation and consequences of the climate crisis; we must then ask: why are communities who are continually exploited by transnational structures demanding ecological destruction, not the ones that are able to organize strikes, protests, and policy changes according to their own lived and embodied learnings? Why is Greta, somebody who has a platform, who is white, and residing in the Global North considered the face of a movement that does not affect her in the same capacity as it has the majority of the South?

World leaders, celebrities, journalists, news outlets, mass media, they will praise Greta and others that look like her and hold her privileges and will place them as the voice of climate change. This re-orienting of the white saviour and activist is nothing new. The white rescuer, protector, liberator has been practiced for centuries now, whether it was at times of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the continued colonization and genocide of the manufactured “Third World”, or the co-opting and appropriation of the gun reform and climate activism movements today.

For instance, the Parkland shootings in the United States revolutionized the way the media portrayed gun reform as those of primarily white advocates. When preventable disaster struck Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018, claiming the lives of 17 students, black teens rose and stood up to the forces demanding the deaths of children, and shouted #NeverAgain repeatedly throughout the nation. They organized protests, marches, gun reform rallies, but their advocacy was not taken as seriously as that of their counterpart white student activists. This is when the Times put the white Parkland survivors who had gone through tremendous trauma, on their covers. Who chanted their names as heroes, brave, courageous activists repeatedly throughout the news while casting similar black victims of gun violence as vicious, gang-affiliates, “known to the police” perpetrators. Who cast them as the holy light against the corrupt NRA, who by the way supported gun control and reform when the Black Panthers carried them.

Why are we pretending that gun violence was not a systematic racialized and gendered issue before February 14th, 2018? Where are the black women founders of the Black Lives Matter movement—Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza (the one name I did not have to google)? Where are the organizers of the #SayHerName Campaign of 2015, who demanded Washington University publish their study that found nearly 60 percent of black women killed by police were unarmed? Where are the other awareness campaigns, like Project Orange Tree led by black and indigenous women who wear orange because historically that was a call between hunters not to shoot? Where are their stories, activism, and lived experiences?

It is not that Greta and the Parkland survivors should not speak to their own experiences, but that there is an incredible silencing of perspectives that differ from the idea of the dominant activist body that dictates solutions. People of colour advocates, especially black, indigenous, and “third world” activists are seen as the radical body, the othered body, the “colored” body. And when I speak about Greta and the Parkland survivors, I am not attacking them as much as I am attacking this system that utilizes them to maintain a conformist and white supremacist power dynamic.

Greta will be praised mainly because her forms of advocacy are nonviolent and are not rooted in the dismantling of racist and classist forms of colonial power that are embedded into climate change. Climate change is not an isolated issue. The climate crisis is one of a racial crisis. It’s one of a sexist crisis. It’s one of a colonial crisis. It’s one of a capitalist crisis. Greta is not advocating for justice that dismantles these intersecting layers of oppression. Accordingly, political leaders and mass media can praise Greta and center her as the climate saviour because her advocacy is not one that questions and challenges their own compliance and dominance in the continued genocide of our planet and its peoples.     

The voices of people of colour, women, poor, disabled, fat, immigrant, refugee communities are not centered precisely because they are working to dismantle that power structure beyond superficial layers. In the face of whose activism to choose, middle-to-higher class, rich, white, straight men will choose the activist that allows them to keep their comfort and privilege. By working to dismantle the consequences rather than roots of climate change, Greta can utilize these nonviolent forms of resistance and it works great for her, but we cannot and should not equate creating a climate strike day or organizing awareness marches, as equivalent to those who put themselves and their lives in danger every day. Who are on the ground doing the work, who are sitting in jail for protesting, who cannot find housing because they were displaced from their homes, who cannot find employment because of their past advocacy, who are surveillanced by the state, who are killed every single day, fighting for justice in a system that values everything but their lives. I think of the The Chaski Warmi of the Abyayala, a tribe of indigenous women demanding that the United Nations put indigenous culture and livelihood over mining and unsustainable development in Ecuador. To be honest, they are the only indigenous activists I know without having to search and sift through media coverage. Embarrassingly, I had to look up 15-year-old, Autumn Peltier, an indigenous water activist fighting against the exploitation and degradation of indigenous peoples and land in Canada, who is completely unknown to me even while I have grown up here.

I hope that just because Greta is inhabiting a less “radical” body, we do not put her actions, protests, and forms of resistance as superior than those of continually marginalized communities. Greta’s work and advocacy are an integral and important step of climate and environmental justice. However, let me be clear: we are aware, but awareness is just not enough.

postcolonial
feminist toolkit

* given the high demand and use of this feminist toolkit when in its online course format, a new course (based upon this one) is being designed to accommodate both in-depth examination and reflection, and server size/platform for wide use and sharing in a multitude of environments. stay tuned! but in the meantime, please refer to the glossary below. 

What is feminist theory? How does it relate to our geopolitical space? To race? To class? To able-bodiedness? To fat versus thin dichotomies? To sexuality? How do we relate feminism, and its multiple branches, to our day-to-day lives? This toolkit provides you with an introduction to theoretical contentions and debates within feminism, and provides a lens to begin looking at the politics of contemporary feminist theory and subsequent critiques.

In order for us to effectively engage in critical discourse and discussion we need to discuss and analyze the points of contention within and between the issues we are discussing. The main reason for doing so is to recognize and accommodate the spectrum that we all exist on. Some of you are absolutely new to any discussion on feminism, race, intersectionality, and prejudice. That’s okay. Some of you are intermediates who have some exposure to these topics but still feel like you could, and want to learn more. That’s also okay. Some of you are knee-deep in critical analysis, and want a space to actively discuss and examine these theories. That is more than okay. Some of you are in the middle of these different planes. Wherever you are, that is okay. Allow yourself to accept whatever you know, and especially what you don’t know. We exist on a vast and never-ending continuum, not as a binary of experts and learners.

This is a critical space for you, no matter where you are at on this spectrum. Given the diversity of you, it is important to highlight, define, and examine the key roots and theories we will be dissecting, as well as the formal language that we utilize in its analysis. So, don’t be scared. This is a space for you to learn. For us to learn together.

It is hard to confine this term into narrow roots, but as a general rule of thumb, it is important to understand this definition to be able to critically examine its discourse. Feminism first originating in the 19th century, as the terms “féminisme” and “féministe” is a broad, interconnected, and vexed term which can be used to describe ideologies, movements, persons, and goals. In its original form, feminism highlighted the struggles towards dismantling the patriarchal society we live in to establish equality and equity for women.

*we cannot achieve liberation from patriarchy until, and only when, we begin to dismantle the interconnected systems that demand its institution. This includes the deconstruction of our colonial capitalist supremacist patriarchy as a whole.

Misogyny: Explicit and implicit hatred towards women.
Misandry
: Explicit and implicit hatred towards men.
Misogynoir:
Explicit and implicit hatred towards black women.

Race is a social construction aimed at categorizing and grouping communities of people together based on shared perceivable characteristics.

Ethnicity is a construct that attempts to hegemonically characterize individuals into groups of communities based on shared characteristics, including but not limited to values, language, geospatial contexts, education, and geopolitical histories (colonial hierarchies).

Culture, a relative term to each individual environment, refers to the shared meanings and behaviours between groups of people as a collective community. Culture has an underlying code, social, moral, economic, and political, for when individuals choose to participate in that community they tacitly agree to the unspoken rules of conduct.

Discrimination: (In)active differential treatment of individuals and communities based on various identity markers or perceived markers, including but not limited to, race, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, biological identity, gender, orientation, and able-bodiedness.

Racism: The act of discrimination, coupled with the power to be able to exercise that hatred against specific communities. Racism and discrimination are not the same, it is the power balance that determines its expression. 

Individual racism is the exercise of power and dominance among individuals supported by an oppressive transnational structure of white supremacy. These acts of racism can be deliberate and unintentional, but their intent does not excuse their exercise.

Also known as structural racism, institutional racism refers to the acts of power laced with and embedded within coloniality, discrimination, power imbalances, white supremacy, etc. Individual racism is able to function, through the institutional racism which provides it legitimacy.

Internalized racism is an extension of white supremacy, in which the supremacist and oppressive system rewards people of colour when perpetuating hatred against their fellow community and/or upholding whiteness. It is not just the idea of the “white body” perpetuating racism, but the ideology that the white body perpetuates, which can, and most definitely will spread to people of color communities.

A complicated dynamic in which some communities hold greater manufactured ability in the economic, social and political sense to marginalize and control other communities. Power is not only a physical act, but is made possible through language and discourse. For instance, through historical documentation of the white man as a site for objective knowledge creation and production, white men are able to assert, define, and (re)manufacture certain narratives that enable them power. The creation of this discourse is then a creation of power. The order of this discourse then produces a specific reality, and excludes the possibility of any other social fabrics from existing.

Oppression refers to the institutional power to wield control, discipline, and punishment; and consequently is the systematic act of dehumanization, subjugation, and marginalization of specific communities, which is done to benefit the oppressors at the expense of the oppressed. Oppression manifests in a wide range of mediums from women’s reproductive oppression, such as the control of abortion rights, to the continued repression of certain religious groups, such as the Rohingya Muslims in Burma (Myanmar).

This type of feminism in blatant form is white supremacy. It refers specifically to the goals, aims, and mission of many “feminist” movements which attempt to advance their own personal narrative as white women, which unsurprisingly is done through and by the continued oppression of women of colour. White feminism constructs itself as outside discussions of race, for “why does everything have to be about race?”, the white woman will ask. Until race is no longer constructed and utilized as a tool to further repress, hinder, and control; until we deconstruct the white narrative as the narrative for all; until we unpack the privilege that accompanies the ability to not see why race is embedded into the structures of our world itself, at that time, and only then, will it not be about race.

Western feminism serves to construct the idea of “third world women” as a homogeneous powerless group who are implicit victims of particular socioeconomic systems. These discourses utilized by Western feminists serve to situate themselves as the center of all analysis, which pushes all other women to a sort of mold around the pre-existing center comprised of generally, white women. This is the praxis through which western feminists organize their dissertations of the world, and shape media representations of the “third world”however, looking at third world women as representations of assumptions produced by hegemonic discourses in western feminism attributes this false identity as a direct identity of these women, making them an extension of how they compare to the western world rather than how they actually are. It is also important to note that “third world woman” is placed in quotations because it is reflective of the power dynamics within global discourses that allow for some women to be classified as less than others.

Internalized misogyny is an extension of our patriarchal system which produces a wide-held belief within women themselves that they are inferior to men; thus becoming an aspect of our self-identity. It is important to note that internalization is not a conscious space of being since it is deliberately manufactured and curated through socialization from birth⁠—it is then an involuntary state predicated on keeping us unaware, asleep, and disembedded from our own (un)consciousness. Internalized misogyny furthers oppression from an open to a hidden scale, as even when oppressors are not physically involved in the space of the oppressed, their emotional oppression⁠—and physical manifestation that the emotional brings into real space⁠—is still being exerted.

Privileges are advantages we hold over others, whether that be of resources, opportunities, institutions, or representations. We all hold some type of privilege; it is not a binary but rather a range we fall on and between. It is also important to note, that privilege is environmentally formed–meaning in some geopolitical and social contexts, you may hold more privileges that in other spaces. Privileges are not fixed, but rather, fluid. We can then understand them as a spectrum, from which sometimes we, even without intentional consent, still tacitly hold the upper hand. Let’s use an example in which there are two women: one is Indian and one is white. In this case, yes, both are women, but one is also an Indian woman, a racialized and marginalized individual, thus giving the white woman an upper hand in advantage and privilege. The purpose of this example is to illustrate that our privileges are not fixed and stagnant beings, but are malleable to the different natural and social environments we are in. More importantly, privileges and intersections of domination are ever changing as our relation to others is changing. What advantages we have, don’t have, and wish to have are contingent upon the ways in which we navigate our social and cultural spaces.

Appropriation refers to the theft of property, both intellectual and material from different cultures and communities for individual and mass consumption, without recognition and understanding of the use and meaning behind different “cultural elements”. This is a reinforcer of colonial narratives, in which white communities feel a natural right to steal, utilize, and profit from people of colour.

Appreciation, living within the same space as appropriation, serves to broaden one’s understandings and respect for other cultures through cross cultural exchange, rather than its counter which serves to steal property for its benefit. It is a mutual space of respect and reciprocal sharing, rather than domination.

Colonialism refers to the dispossession, marginalization, and oppression of certain geospatial areas by other people, communities, and nations. This can be physical settlement, commonly referred to as settler colonialism; military occupation of an area; resource extraction and exploitation; trade imbalances; and forceful state coercion. Colonization produces an unequal power relation between the colonizer and the colonized, thus resulting in structural inequities governing the geopolitical climate of different areas, altering the lived realities and fabric through which colonized communities navigate their day to day lives. Many postcolonial thinkers, rightfully so, argue the emergence of development as an extension of neocolonial power that reproduce over and over again the narratives that keep colonizer communities at an advantage.

“The production of knowledge and the planning of development by western institutions is something that third world countries and regions find it hard to escape from. The process of dominating, restructuring, and establishing authority progresses in three stages:

(1) The progressive identification of third world problems, to be treated by specific interventions. This creates a “field of the interventions of power.”

(2) The professionalization of development; the recasting of political problems into neutral scientific terms (poverty indicators, for example), leading to a regime of truth and norms, or a “field of the control of knowledge.”

(3) The institutionalization of development to treat these ‘problems’, and the formation of a network of new sites of power/knowledge that bind people to certain behaviors and rationalities (in rural development discourse, “produce or perish” became one such norm).”

— Escobar 1995: 157

It is about time we complicate white supremacy away from any one body perpetuating it, to a practiced ideology. Whiteness is omniscient and omnipresent, it occurs simultaneously alongside many other systems of oppression and is not excused to any one group of people.  Like racism, white supremacy is both institutionalized and personal/indivdual, it occurs through multiple planes and scales, curating a worldwide notion of whiteness as superiority. If we are not against whiteness as an ideology, we are complicit.

“White supremacy” is a much more useful term for understanding the complicity of people of color in upholding and maintaining racial hierarchies that do not involve force (i.e slavery, apartheid) than the term “internalized racism”- a term most often used to suggest that black people have absorbed negative feelings and attitudes about blackness. The term “white supremacy” enables us to recognize not only that black people are socialized to embody the values and attitudes of white supremacy, but we can exercise “white supremacist control” over other black people.”
― bell hooks, Talking Back

“The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”
― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
 

⁠Patriarchy refers to our experienced structure which prioritizes and organizes men as superior to women. This is not based on any natural or biological abilities that differentiate the sexes, but are social constructs that utilize othering and gender roles to further assimilate our society into a world that prefers, protects, and advances men. While patriarchy as a transnational structure is universally sound, it is expressed and felt materially diversely in different cultural environments, and thus exaggerating specific norms, gender roles/identities, and sexist patterns depending on the geo-political-social plane. Patriarchy—as a structure—is the root through which individual relations of power between the different sexes can be exercised. Patriarchy however, has not existed as a sole oppressor for women’s liberation but works concurrently within a colonial capitalist supremacist patriarchy, in which they support, embed, and defend one another. It is difficult, near impossible to eradicate the consequences of each individual system, without understanding the way they are relationally conceived. To achieve liberation, we must re-design structures as to no longer embed injustices as we build wider and larger. 

Coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality came about to express the dire situation of immigrant, women of colour who were outcasted from both feminist movements and civil rights movements. It explores the way multiple identities conflict and coincide, within and between different systems, whether they be of patriarchy, capitalism, or white supremacy. This analysis often reveals that social institutions are double, triple, quadruple stacked against those identifying with a multi-minority identity, and that these institutions do not accommodate the complexity that arises when an individual identifies with more than one marginalized group. Intersectionality then, rightly so, refutes the notion that women are homogeneous groups who face the same oppression in any given situation. It is important to note however, that intersectionality is not about highlighting individual differences to create further grounds for isolation but works towards critically understanding these differences and fathoming how they can be positively expressed within physical and symbolic space. We do not need to identify parts of who we are to the exclusion of everything else, intersectionality gives us an alternative praxis to work through complex issues at the intersection of race, gender, class, and regional demarcation.

To be an ally is to be consciously aware of the privileges we hold, and use that consciousness in an attempt to sustain solidarity within and between different marginalized communities. I think it is important to recognize the binary model of allyship as one that has major flaws within it. Through discussions of privileges and advantages, we have analyzed the ways in which privileges change depending on the geospatial and social dynamics we are navigating through. During the changes in our privileges within different social environments, we need to become allies to those we hold certain privileges over. Allyship is not just a binary between white people and people of colour, but can, and should exist within people of colour communities.