Feminism and Love: We Shift

“The act of ‘falling in love’ can serve as a ‘conduit’ or impetus for the action necessary to challenge oppression.”
-Chela Sandoval, paraphrasd by Maythee Rojas

As borders are not separated from all of us who construct them, the cracks in the borders do not merely take off a weight so that we can breathe more easily. When we see each other in new ways, we, too, shift: our convictions are tested, our lived experiences are re-interpreted, and we are confronted by the fear and promise of transformation.

To talk about the borders is to talk about fear. To talk about responsibility or liberation or love is to talk about fear. Even in the supremely brave act of love, we fear that every word can be misinterpreted, every action misguided, every relationship threatened by the realities of our bordered lives.

Thus, we must respond to this fear in “the language of lovers [,which] can puncture through the everyday narratives that tie us to social time and space.” We can write the borders in the language of our own stories. We can challenge the borders out of responsibility to and love for one another. And we, ourselves, can shift.

The language of love represents a radical change from the language of the everyday, for it challenges the comfort of our abstract principles, the familiarity of our homes, and the constancy of our very selves. It throws us into relationships that force us to confront our privilege and our prejudice, our fears and our doubts. It calls us to “de- and re-center,” to be transformed by one another, to find a home amid all manner of shifts.

To create a home in our bordered world is to live each day with the inescapable realities of separation and oppression and to be called every day to common struggle. Our feminist struggle is not common in the sense that the oppression we face or the liberation we envision is the same. It is common through our dedication, first and foremost, to one other.

After a night at Occupy Wall Street, Manissa McCleave Maharawal “biked home over the Brooklyn Bridge and I somehow felt like the world was, just maybe, at least in that moment, mine, as well as everyone dear to me and everyone who needed and wanted more from the world. I somehow felt like maybe the world could be all of ours.”

Love imagines that possibility; that the world does not belong to an intangible universal but is home to all of us, sharing our stories, challenging our borders, and bravely committed to the responsibility and the joy of loving one another.

 

(Photo Credit: Racialicious)

Feminism and Love: Borders Shift

“Each one of us here is a link”
Audre Lorde

Filled with love, our greatest tool is the ability to look across the border, acknowledging its existence, and into the eyes of another person. I ask you to teach me what the border means for you; I will teach you what the border means for me, and we will, together, recognize how we are linked across and beyond it. In that moment, the border begins to shift.

This is love; more than sympathy, more than compassion, more than solidarity, this is responsibility to another individual. This is the “slow, attentive mind-changing (on both sides), ethical singularity that deserves the name love,” a commitment to see, understand, and change the world—and ourselves— together.

To be a feminist is to be attentive. To be a feminist is to change one’s mind. To be a feminist is to be responsible to one another, to listen and to question, to learn and to teach, to criticize and to celebrate. To be a feminist is to refuse the comfort of our own borders and to struggle together to make the borders shift.

Such responsibility can be painful, exhausting, and can seem hopeless. Manissa McCleave Maharawal from Occupy Wall Street writes, in response to the first draft of the Declaration of Occupation:

“Let me tell you what it feels like to stand in front of a white man and explain privilege to him. It hurts. It makes you tired. Sometimes it makes you want to cry. Sometimes it is exhilarating. Every single time it is hard. Every single time I get angry that I have to do this, that this is my job, that this shouldn’t be my job. Every single time I am proud of myself that I’ve been able to say these things because I used to not be able to and because some days I just don’t want to.”

We, too, are called to talk about privilege, starting with our own. We are called to argue and to question, even when it hurts. And we are called to love so fiercely that we keep trying.

“No matter how hopeless that undertaking might seem,” and no matter how exhausting it can be to pry open a tiny crack in the border with your fingers, this is what love asks of us. When we love, we notice even the smallest of blessings, every shift in which “words…blades of grass” can push through.

To challenge the borders through love is to recognize that no matter how small the shift, it is seminal; no matter how hopeless or painful a moment, there is the possibility for transcendence.

 

(Image Credit: Huffington Post)

Feminism and Love: We Live in a World of Borders

As we share our stories, we learn that the platitudes of the universal may mollify us, but cannot truly unite us. We live—and love—as individuals in a world of borders. We do not look for words; we look for one another and, all too often, instead of finding one another, we find the borders of geography, history, and language, of our genders, races, classes, ages, and abilities.

These borders break our hearts. This heartbreak stems not only from distance of geography and difference in language, but the militarization of that distance through histories of oppression and discourses of misrepresentation. It sits lodged in our chests in times of strife and times of change, when we are held back from marching together, from talking and working and loving together.

However, even in hopelessness, we choose how to respond to that heartbreak. We can deny the realities of our borders and our actions to proclaim, as in the first draft of Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of Occupation, that we are “one race, the human race, formally divided by race, class…,” that, in the words of Manissa McCleave Maharawal, “all power relations and decades of history of oppression” have not left a mark. But we are scarred by oppression and defined by our survival, and we have constructed our own stories of pride and love within the borders that we have come to call our homes.

The pain we have felt in our bordered lives, the despair we have known in our separation from one other and from ourselves, and the distance we have come to expect when approaching people from whatever we construct as the other side, have created anger in us, anger that cannot be forgiven for an empty universality. But we have survived within those borders; we have lived in them, grown in them, loved in them and past them.

In understanding the borderlands as living places, we defy the assumption of their immutability. We challenge both claims of all-encompassing universality and fears of irrevocable difference, for we know that life inside our borders is not universal and it is not enough. Thus, we “learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it,” to commit ourselves to liberation and to love.