The Walling of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

I traveled with the NOW-NYC group to the march in D.C. on January 21. We felt exhilarated as we made our own signs and carried them up high for everyone to see. The colorful parade with its provocative banners against Trump and his team, signs that screamed out in protest of the new government violating our much fought for voter, reproductive, and civil rights, absorbed us and we were soon pushed toward the vicinity of the rally with its speakers lending their powerful language to further energize an already energetic crowd. The feeling of solidarity, the awfulness of the election of a President who was antithetical to every idea of justice Americans had fought for, the need to work together to handle this new beast—all of this was palpable.

As I was pushed into the thickest part of the crowd, I realized the crowd was sandwiched behind barricades on the corner of 4th and Independence to restrict them from flowing down Independence Avenue. Some of the women around me were fainting and had to be escorted by the national guardsmen into the medics’ tent. I focused on the speeches by Tammy Duckworth, followed by Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, and I used all my willpower not to pass out when Alicia Keyes was speaking. It grew suffocating by the minute.

Some of us wove our way back toward C Street. The marchers reported that they were not allowed beyond 14th street. Why had Trump ordered us to be blocked away from the White House? As May Nazareno, one of the staff organizers for NOW-NYC said, “He is working for us. We need to take ownership of our democracy.”

Another thing many marching with me noted was the absence of helicopters and drones to maintain a count of the marchers. Why had Trump made this area a no-fly zone when only the previous day, drones and helicopters were making a tally of the number present at the inauguration?

As May Nazareno pointed out, not many reporters were present at the march compared with the barrage of media present at the inauguration. Why such a paucity of reporters?

So, we need to do the job of the media and post on Facebook, write blogs and articles of our eyewitness accounts of the march, become historians and document everything and respond to issues as they arise, because an authoritarian government’s main task is to curtail democracy and free speech and twist truth and replace reality with falsehoods.

What I witnessed was the immediacy of unity, peace, justice, awareness of issues, sensitivity, kindness, wit, humor, and love. And these we can build on to save the country from falling apart.

(Photo Credit: Chang W. Lee / The New York Times) (Audio interview with May Nazareno conducted by author)

Educate, Agitate, Organize!

Dining hall workers have never had it easy at the George Washington University, but in September 2015, the University announced things were going to get worse for those workers. In response, George Washington University’s Progressive Student Union organized a Fair Jobs GW campaign, using the Jobs with Justice values triangle as an organizing tool.

First, we were clear on our values: we were an organization that worked to build student and worker power on campus, and valued dignity and respect for those who were working and learning at the university.

Second, we were building relationships with other people and organizations that shared our values: other students and student organizations, staff members, faculty members, university-employed workers, and workers in outsourced positions, faculty and staff associations and unions.

We were clear that it was in all of our collective self interests, the tangible manifestation of our values, to make demands that administrators commit to retention of workers, cease outsourcing, and stop the increasing precarity in staff and adjunct faculty employment.

Bringing together different groups — students, faculty, staff — built the power that we needed to make those demands of administration. If power is organized people and organized money, we didn’t have organized money, but we could organize people. Even so, we had nowhere near enough power to fight GW’s plan to lay off cafeteria workers.

So we went back to the values triangle. To build the necessary power, we had to use agitation to find others with shared values, and through accountable, reciprocal, and transparent relationships work to connect values to our broader self-interest, around specific events and issues. Effective one-on-one agitation meets people where they’re at.

We started agitating harder than we had before – reaching out to other students, understanding their values, and challenging them to take action in alignment with their self-interest. We tripled the size of our coordinating committee, going from seven or eight members to over 25 in order to effectively run a campus-wide campaign. We built relationships and connected those values of dignity and respect to others’ self interest. In addition to fighting for basic dignity and respect that was not being afforded to workers who had spent anywhere from ten to 50+ years as employees of the university dining program, this was a fight against the corporatization of higher education. As students, it was in our self-interest to ensure the jobs at the university – be they dining, facilities, staff, adjuncts, already outsourced or not – be high quality jobs that allow anyone in those positions to live fulfilled lives. This in turn impacts the quality of higher education as a whole, and the quality of jobs many students work as employees of the university as well. Allowing any position to be outsourced or restructured with little to no input from students sets a dangerous precedent, one that has emboldened administrators at GWU and elsewhere to make damaging cuts to programs like the Music Program or staff in the University Library with relatively little fear of pushback.

With an expanded coordinating committee to run the campaign, we were able to rally the support of over 2,000 students, staff, faculty, and workers at the university to demand full retention of all workers employed in the university dining program with the Fair Jobs GW campaign. Over 80 people marched on the administration building to deliver these demands along with the 2,000 signed pledges, including newly elected members of the Student Association. Ultimately, administrators at GW ran out the clock on students, holding their final closed-door meetings in late July to avoid mass protest. The company that was awarded the new dining contract – Restaurant Associates – made concessions to have GW dining workers placed in other locations of theirs around the city. Of the workers that weren’t placed at other positions within the university dining program, many were relocated to other positions throughout D.C. The campaign wasn’t a clear cut victory, but it did provide an indication to the university that the community would not idly watch as administrators pulled the carpet out from underneath those who work and learn there. It created lasting relationships between students, workers, staff, and faculty that endure and will be ready for the next fight. And it agitated people, allowing others to stop believing the myth of their own powerlessness, which served as a mask for our unwillingness to sit with thoughts and feelings that challenge us.

Agitation, ultimately, is about encouraging others to find the alignment of their values and their self interest – about being clear on their values to then inform where their self interests lie – thinking, how can we motivate ourselves and others in our community to take action to achieve a shared vision for a more just and inclusive future? Start with the values triangle and get organizing.

(Photo Credit: Fair Jobs GW / Facebook) (Image Credit: Jobs with Justice)

Women of Color Mark the Silver Lining in Bleak 2016 U.S. Election

 


Four women of color make their mark representing Democrats in the national and state legislatures. They are Kamala Harris from California and Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada, elected to the Senate; Pramila Jayapal from Seattle, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Each of these women have a remarkable background. Kamala Harris, born of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father grew up in the working class neighborhood of Oakland. Pramila Jayapal emigrated to the U.S. from India and has traveled globally to widen her activist foundational knowledge. Ilhan Omar, who lived in a Kenyan refugee camp as a young girl, has her ear to the ground regarding immigrant concerns. Cortez Masto, third generation Mexican-American, is conscious of the immigrant journeys of her grandparents.

What special issues do these women bring to the floor? Both Harris and Cortez Masto, as Attorneys General, have done much work with citizen rights in relation to law enforcement. Harris, especially, was unafraid of taking unorthodox positions to support citizen rights but at the same time negotiating better relations with police. She will also be strengthening her work on anti sex-trafficking legislation. Cortez Masto, outspoken about Donald Trump’s rhetoric of divisiveness and misogyny, can be counted on to work for equal pay for women, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, and against human trafficking: “My grandmother was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and my grandfather came from Chihuahua, Mexico. They came to this country and brought their young family here for the same reason many families do: to have a good job, work hard, have every opportunity to succeed, make sure your children get a good education, and you can’t forget that. If I forgot everything that my grandparents went through so that my sister and I could be the first ones in our family to graduate from college, that wouldn’t be right. We don’t close the door behind us.” Ilhan Omar, a community organizer, brings her awareness of social and environmental justice that affects many people, including immigrants, Native Americans and African Americans. Upon winning, Omar said, “I hope our story is an inspirational story to many people.” Along with ensuring that minority women entrepreneurs receive the help they need to succeed, Omar said her priorities would be “closing the opportunity gap in our educational system, working on criminal justice reform, taking on policing reform.” Pramila Jayapal, a child of India’s process of decolonization, has paid close attention to immigrant rights, refugee rights, the fight for fair wages, LGBT rights, women’s healthcare and equal pay. Having built ties with many groups in Seattle, she is in touch with the pulse of different communities’ concerns.

While many voters have been dispirited by the 2016 election results, reading about the backgrounds, issues, and policy concerns of these four women can prove energizing for many of us who want the country to move in the direction of peace and justice.

 

(Photo Credit: Imgrum) (Video Credit: YouTube / Buzzfeed)

 

Chibok: Why is our outrage so muted?


1001 days ago, at least 276 young women were kidnapped from Chibok. It is not the first instance of kidnapping in the area and their return in ‘dribs and drabs’ is an exercise in agony. I spent my birthday weekend surrounded by love, family, safety and assurance of my place and value in this world. Surely that is the bare minimum of life and existence? And yet about 200 of this last group of young women and girls remain captive not only to Boko Haram but also to our silence. Our shared inertia. Our disinterest in stories that do not have fast and happy endings. Our appalling attention span that is further diminished by tweeting and Instagram and yes…Facebook.

I am so frustrated by my own lack of ideas and inability to make a meaningful contribution to bringing these young women home. The state seems to be sleepwalking, the AU seems to be disinterested and ECOWAS has seemingly not yet found the means to do something that ought to have happened 1000 days ago – find these women. How many more days? A 1000 more? Do Black lives and Afrikan lives have so little value even to us? Do Women’s lives and Black women have such little currency? Is this why our outrage is so muted?

I watched as these women were paraded by President Buhari recently, many of them so disoriented, distant and deeply haunted. Many have lost their families who moved away from the volatile Chibok area. Others have been so dislocated that they are unable to re-adjust. Nothing can ever be the same again. One cannot unsee, unfeel and unremember.

Many have come back with children, the product of rape and coercive sex. Few of us want to speak of the stigma and shame that accompanies their return. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, nightmares, shame, STDs, fear, paranoia and so much more. A pretty dress and a visit to the President do not erase all this. I suppose this is my own attempt to make sense of such a senseless event and to find balance in such a bizarre and violent context. #1000daystoomany.

 

(Photo Credit: TRT World)

Children are disappearing into the night and fog of solitary confinement in jails and schools

A seclusion room in Horn Elementary School in Iowa City

Across the United States, we continue to torture children by throwing them into segregated, solitary confinement, and this happens as often in schools as it does in jails in prisons. Children are disappearing. That children are disappearing is not new. That we continue to disappear children is also not new, but it is shameful, and it’s a shame that reaches every day deeper and deeper into our collective spirit and individual souls.

Last week, the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice gave formal support to a lawsuit filed last year against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office for its ongoing and regular practice of placing 16- and 17-year-olds in solitary confinement at the county jail. Last year, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of Central New York charged that, between October 2015 and August 2016, the Onondaga County Justice Center dumped 80 teens, mostly youth of color, into solitary confinement. The Department of Justice endorsement of the case noted, “The Civil Rights Division has previously exercised the United States’ authority under CRIPA and Section 14141 to address issues related to the use of solitary confinement on juveniles in jails, including in the Jefferson County Jail in Alabama, the Hinds County Jail in Mississippi, the New York City Department of Correction Jails on Rikers Island, and the Baltimore City Detention Center in Maryland. The Division also has addressed the use of solitary confinement in juvenile detention facilities, including in the Scioto and Marion Juvenile Correctional Facilities in Ohio and the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi.”

According to Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director, “The Department of Justice’s involvement shows that what is happening to children at the Justice Center is not simply a tragedy for Syracuse, but it is a national disgrace. Children must be protected from the tortures of solitary confinement.”

The disgrace is not limited to prisons and jails. Last month, a complaint was filed against the Iowa City school district, charging that the district’s use of seclusion rooms violates Federal law, primarily because parents don’t know that the seclusions rooms exist and are being used and because the use of seclusion rooms is broader and more `ordinary’ than the law allows. During the 2013-14 school year, most of the students dumped into solitary confinement were students with diagnosed disabilities and individualized education plans. Half of the students with education plans who were sent to seclusion rooms were Black. Other than students with education plans, ALL of the students dumped into seclusion rooms in the 2013 – 2014 were Black. Black students comprise about 19% of the school population.

The good news, such as it is, is that these dismal mathematics are being challenged, and that occasionally something like decency wins. Torturing children is wrong. Children do matter. So do the adults who surround them. At the same time, consider how much energy, labor, work, investment is required to protect children, our children, your children, their children, from torture, every single day. Every single day, across the United States, children are disappearing, forgotten children who haunt the days and ways of our world.

 

(Photo Credit: The Gazette)

Must we as feminists love microfinance and leaning in? No!

Why do we love the concept of microfinance? For the same reasons we embraced Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s “how-to” corporate guidebook sold under the auspices of feminism, with open hearts. In a capitalist society, money equates power. And, with recent increases in awareness of the patriarchal capitalist structures that disproportionately disadvantage and harm women, there has been a resulting push for economic solutions, quick fixes meant to help women lift themselves out of poverty. This desire for straightforward solutions, coupled with an individualist view of poverty-eradication, has led to an embrace of microfinance for women in developing countries around the world.

At first glance, microfinance seems like a quick, clever solution. The rush of donating $25 to microfinance donor websites like Kiva.org provides the illusion that you are doing good works, without the strain of a larger donation of money, time, organizing power, etc. Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work as the founder of Grameen Bank, the first major microfinance institution, is a compelling figure, one providing solutions that seem entirely doable and possible, to solve a problem that seems unconquerable.

But how could microfinance be the solution when, just like Sheryl Sandberg’s trickle down feminism, it embraces a capitalist structure and places the onus on the individual? Microfinance has been presented as the method through which we can “solve” poverty; in Sandberg’s vision of feminism, telling women to lean in and close the ambition gap in order to better their work and financial lives can be seen as the Western, middle- and upper class equivalent to microfinance. In Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh, Lamia Karim explains the ills of microfinance:

“By giving loans to people who could not invest the money properly, and by telling them that they would materially improve their condition, the NGOs induced poor people into risk taking that often had…unforeseen consequences on their lives. The problems faced by [a microfinance loan recipient] reflected the unregulated and rapid growth of the microfinance programs in Bangladesh that emphasized an increase in member enrollments, loan disbursements, and installment collections over training and social investment in the lives of the borrowers”.

The capitalist market is considered more important to those in power than ending the problems microfinance claims to be solving. Lifting women out of poverty, helping them build a steady career, and guaranteeing a woman’s own agency are cast aside in favor of a return on investments.

Academia and the media have lauded both microfinance and Sandberg’s trickledown feminism, respectively, but when you dig into them, whom are they helping? Microfinance and Lean In are simply buying into the individual view of success for women in a capitalist society, and as such, both benefit the capitalist market.

In Lean Out, Dawn Foster responds to Sandberg’s consumer/capitalist/individualized feminism and calls instead for direct political and protest action that challenge oppressive systems, rather than individual focus on ambition or profiting from the use of feminist rhetoric or identity.

Foster urges us to lean out of the corporate capitalist model that systematically exploits women: “‘Leaning out’ of the capitalist model is far more effective at securing attention, provoking change, and ensuring demands are met than ‘leaning in’. Few people ever get anything radical accomplished by continuing to play the game”. Microfinance continues to ‘play the game’. Microfinance will never challenge the oppressive structures of power that perpetrate and maintain women’s oppression, nor will Sandberg’s brand-name feminism. Lean out!

 

(Image Credit: Repeater Books) (Video Credit: Heinemann Media / YouTube)

All that is human drowned in the sea

This year, all that is human drowned in the sea, all that is holy has been profaned, and we are at last compelled to face with sober senses our real conditions of life, and our relations with our kind. In 2016, at least 5000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Last Friday, two boats capsized, and “about 100 people are missing and feared dead.” Who fears them dead? No State and no amalgam of nation-States fears them dead. Rather, in this the deadliest year ever for migrants trying to reach Europe, the year’s epitaph is simple: “2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees”. We are the world, and we turned the sea into a graveyard. This year, the women, child, man of the year lies on the bottom of the Mediterranean, and we do not know their names, and we do not much care. If we did, they would be alive today. So here is a poem for the unknown refugees who lie in the cemetery that we have made of the Mediterranean. See you next year.

Home
by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

 

(“Home” by Warsan Shire appeared here.) (Photo Credit: Electronic Intifada /Oren Ziv/Active Stills)

In Syria, women as weapons of war is a crime against humanity!

After the tragic end of East Aleppo and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of survivors from horrific bombings, that included hospitals and typical civilian’s landmarks such as schools, who would pay attention to the violence inflicted on women in Syria? With the insurrection and the rebellion against the authoritative regime of Bashar al-Assad, women have served as weapons of war as has been increasingly the case in the many places torn apart by conflicts.

The sexual abuses committed against women from Da’esh/Isis are notorious and exposed under the antiterrorism narrative, but the strategically organized sexual violence against women set up by the regime of Bashar al Assad against the opposition has not been narrated as such. Some few have identified “rape” as Bashar’s secret weapon or weapon of mass destruction.

Once again, women’s bodies are the stakes of political violence while women see their participation as full citizens with rights to political and social debate systematically impugned or rendered impossible. Additionally, religious and social patriarchal discrimination against women have put women in a position of intensified vulnerability.

During the conflict that partitioned Yugoslavia Bosnia in the 1990s, sexualized violence against Muslim women became a strategy of war. In the middle of the killing, “rape camps” were established in which women were raped, had their breasts cut if they resisted or slaughtered. Women’s bodies instrumentalized by elite strategists were tortured by Serbian militias, soldiers; the goal was to make them forget that those bodies were/are women beings. Margot Wallström, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, estimated that about 60 000 women suffered sexualized violence in Bosnia and Croatia.

Today, one wonders yet again about the international community’s position.

UN resolution 1820 of 2008, entitled Women and Peace and Security, was described as a “step in the right direction.” The expectations with this resolution were that sexual violence during conflicts would be recognized as a weapon of war violating the rules of war and therefore could be punished in a tribunal. This resolution raised the question of the impunity of the perpetrators of these atrocities that typically left deep scars and pushed women to commit suicide. As a former UN peace keeping forces major general declared, “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

And still after this resolution, rape and humiliation of women has remained a formal strategy, as we have seen in Syria. Moreover, the impunity with which some atrocities have taken place underlies the failure of the UN Security Council to refer the regime of Bashar to the International Criminal court.

Annick Cojean, who exposed the sexual abuses in Gadhafi’s circles, has investigated the Syrian case. She explains that women have been arrested in great numbers for various reasons for demonstrating peacefully or for being related to an opponent to the regime, simply because the regime has been dictatorial and brutal. Being in custody means that sexual torture. A teenage girl recalls that during her time in a detention center, she along with all the women there would be raped and sexually tortured, burned and more everyday but every day a doctor would give her a pill and check her periods. One day she was late and received another pill that triggered strong pain in the abdomen; she wouldn’t be pregnant despite the numerous rapes. Some witnesses claim that the guards and soldiers receive “performance enhancing” stimulants.

In this patriarchal environment, women who are being humiliated and shown and sometimes filmed naked and raped in their own communities in front of their children and husband are being utilized “to dishonor” their family or community. They often face rejection instead of compassion and support.

They become the culprit instead of the victim. They are crushed under this double threat. Annick Cojean emphasizes that for them to come forward and testify is sometimes an impossible task. She met some of them in Jordan in a refugee camp or in Lebanon; each time the stories were more horrific.

It is hard to know how many women have faced this ordeal. The Syrian representative of the human rights league now estimates that about 100 000 women have been thrown in jail or in detention centers. A great number of them have been sexually tortured. But do we need the number to know that this is a crime?

The ruthless economic and political order followed by many world leaders is an alibi to humiliate and rape women and establish this practice as a normal war strategy along with bombing starving civil populations and targeting and bombing hospitals.

After the ordeal that women went through in Bosnia, many Bosnian leaders and some Imams recognized that women had been victim of war crimes, breaking the patriarchal code of silence that surrounds the mistreatment of women because of religious and “cultural” definitions of honor. That probably helped in getting The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia working. It was “the first international criminal tribunal to enter convictions for rape as a form of torture and for sexual enslavement as crime against humanity.”

Will it be possible to move to this type of resolution for the women of Syria? When the mechanisms of power associate themselves with hyper-masculinity, making the sword work with sexual domination, life has no value. Only domination to serve vested interests remains.

When is the dignity of women going to be restored in a world of forceful leaders showing their unabashed machismo, while making their little patriarchal arrangements between themselves keeping the defense of corporate power and financial interests in mind? Women must be included in peace resolutions.

 

(Photo Credit 1: The Daily Beast / Nordic Photos / Alamy) (Photo Credit 2: The Daily Beast)

Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s blood flows over all of us

Faysal Ishak Ahmed died on Saturday or was it yesterday … or was it six months ago. Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 27-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, collapsed inside the detention center on Manus Island, the dumping grounds for those refugees and asylum seekers who seek haven in Australia. This is the same Manus Island where 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed two years ago. Eight months ago, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared the detention center illegal. Papua New Guinea and Australia have “agreed” to close the center, but, to no one’s surprise, no time frame has been set. Faysal Ishak Ahmed did not collapse nor did he suffer a seizure. He was killed, and his blood joins the blood of Reza Barati; their blood flows everywhere.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s story is all too familiar. For at least six months Faysal Ishak Ahmed complained of chest pains, swollen arms and fingers, high blood pressure and a pain at the back of his head, seizures, blackouts and breathing difficulties. He begged and pleaded for medical care. Fellow prisoners begged and pleaded on his behalf. He wrote letters; fellow prisoners wrote letters. He deteriorated; he received no medical care. When he finally died, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection stated a refugee “has sadly died today from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Centre”. There is no sadness like sadness. Jesus wept, the State shrugged.

The story continues. Manus Island prisoners rebel for a while. Letters are written, protests are lodged, pictures and drawings emerge. In Sudan, Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s parents say they want their body returned to them. They also say that they have not been formally informed of his death by anyone from the Australian or the Papua New Guinean governments. The State’s great and deep sadness continues to oppress the vulnerable and the hurting.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed is just another name, just another death, in the litany of neoliberal global ethics in which he must bear full responsibility for the site of his birth, the color of his skin, and the nature of his faith. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that he spent three years in prison on Manus Island. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed that he ever asked anyone for help, safety, or haven. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that he begged for six excruciating, agonizing months without any attention. It’s Faysal Ishak Ahmed that the medical staff consistently claimed he was malingering and returned to his bed. It’s his fault, it’s altogether Faysal Ishak Ahmed’s fault that his blood flows over all of us. We are innocent, we never saw him, we never knew.

 

(Photo Credit 1: SBS Australia) (Photo Credit 2: The Guardian)

Woke in progress

Hello, I’m a feminist—actually, scratch that, I’m an intersectional feminist. Wait, no, hold on. Hello, my name is Lilly, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I’m an intersectional feminist with Socialist leanings. Okay, that was almost perfect, but I forgot to add in that I’m white, bisexual, cisgendered, and able-bodied. Should I mention my relative income privilege? What about my personal connection to gun violence? Does it matter whether or not I justify my use of the word “bitch”? Let’s try this one more time.

Hello, my name is Lilly and I’m a human, woman, and feminist in progress. Using the word progress, of course, implies that I’m working towards a foreseeable end, perfection, an epitome. I should clarify that I’m not. Feminism is a process, and there are certainly ways for the movement and the people who are involved in it to improve their actions, but there is not one right way to be a feminist. Furthermore, there isn’t an absolute value, a pure and distilled version of feminism that is the absolute ideal version of the movement.

Everyone involved in the feminist movement, whether they choose to label themselves or not, will expand and improve the ways in which they practice their activism. As we grow older and wiser, so too do we grow more inclusive. For some of us, it will take years to incorporate intersectional identity politics into our doctrines. For others, we may be marrying diverse ideas when we are still young and fresh and inexperienced. Everyone grows at a different rate and in a different way.

When we reach a new intangible step up the feminist ladder, we are usually tempted to criticize those who are below us on the invisible path to enlightened activism. Maybe we want to do this to mark our own progress. After all, if we’re able to point out the problematic elements of other people, doesn’t that prove our own social consciousness? Constructive criticism is certainly important. Pointing out the harmful or problematic ideas of another person may very well be a valuable learning experience. At the same time, however, we should also remember that we were once in their spot. They’re still growing, and so are you. As feminists, our potential to hone our activism is limitless. We’ll never be the best versions of ourselves, but we can certainly take some steps in the right direction.

 

(Image Credit 1: Everyday Feminism / VAL3NTEA) (Image Credit 2: The Odyssey)