Feb 11, 2019 News
A friend of mine is an Indo-Guyanese woman who abhors misogynistic remarks from men, especially when it comes to men harassing her on the street. She complains that men don’t respect her. In my opinion, she’s right that many men don’t. Men have an issue with acknowledging the privilege and power we have in society, and how we tend to wield that privilege at the expense of the women around us. It is unbelievable to me, at times, how men fail to take these issues seriously, despite how much pain men have caused women, through sexual and domestic violence, as well as psychological oppression.
Another friend of mine is an Afro-Guyanese man who is pro-black in just about every sense of the word. He regularly engages in discourse about racism against Afro-Guyanese people and, by extension, African people around the world. He knows that, in spite of his experiences with micro-aggressive and overt racism, he is not who those aggressors have attempted to make him out to be. He has every right to be proud of who he is, and to stand up against anti-black racism. I stand with him. I recall a statement by Opal Tometi, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. She said “Anti-blackness is global. Structural racism impacts Black people and their quality of life and freedoms everywhere”. Even in Africa, where they are the majority, Black Africans still face widespread structural issues caused by colonialism that is rampant to this day.
I have a third friend who is an Afro-Guyanese woman. She identifies with the Feminist thought of the Indo-Guyanese woman and the Pro-Black thought of the Afro-Guyanese man. However, she finds herself in a rut when interfacing with these people, because neither of them truly understands or has taken enough time to acknowledge the uniqueness of her experience as someone who deals with sexism and anti-black racism.
These three people run circles around each other, seldom meeting to talk about how they could lift each other up because, for each one, if an issue doesn’t affect one person, it’s none of their business.
More than two decades ago, a professor at the Columbia Law School, Kimberle Crenshaw, coined the term “intersectionality” in a paper because she needed a way to explain the unique issues faced by African-American women by virtue of the intersection of their experiences as African Americans and as women. She found that her experience as a woman are different from that of a man because of the sexism her gender faces, and that her experience as an African American is different from that of other ethnic groups in America. She found that the intersection of those identities made it difficult for other people to relate to her struggle if they didn’t experience it.
This gave rise to the term, “Intersectional Feminism”. This concept recognizes that no individual lives a single issue life, and that true equality could never be achieved unless there is a collective effort to defend each other’s rights. It is the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, sexuality, ability and ethnicity.
There are some that recognise the importance of being this selfless when engaging in advocacy, but Guyanese society suffers from a system of fragmentation in activist spaces, caused by these various tribalisms.
In this regard, I have watched social movements in Guyana rise, and then flail because people do not value the experiences of others. If people would operate less like they live single-issue lives then they would realize how much Guyanese could do to uplift each other, if they only tried.
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