The time for feminist politics is now
I gave this speech yesterday at the Women of the World Festival in Tampere. I wrote this from my perspective as a Finnish-American feminist (although I am not sure what these definitions of nationality mean to someone who doesn’t believe in borders).
Content note: because this is a speech about what makes people feminist, I briefly mention / touch upon several forms of oppression and how they play out in the lives of people.
In my observation, people come to feminist politics through two different routes, or some combination of both.
Most feminists experience viscerally the inequalities inherent in our current social structures. These are children who stood embarrassed with other children in hand-me down clothes, whose parents made up creative names for bland meals.
Young girls who watched their mothers bruise under hairy knuckles, only to never find the word “no” after two beers and unimaginative flattery that cost them the trust of being seen as anything but cunt to prey on.
These are the kids with coercively assigned genders, forced to hide their rapidly creeping puberty under baggy clothes.
The boys whose mere existence was already criminalized, to whom sirens meant someone who looked like their dads and uncles was in trouble.
The kids who were too shy, deemed too restless, pumped full of pills, their morning oatmeal a cocktail of white lies designed to keep them in line, the emotions that lead to playing with razors, the kids who fantasized of jagged cliffs and dreamt of falling.
The kids, too, who never understood authority for the sake of authority, the kids who were loved enough to understand respect was to be earned.
Others come to feminist politics through careful intellectual analysis, the ones that reach beyond lecture books to articulate the deep feeling of things not being quite right, the ones that seek out the history not written by oppressive rule and force fed as victory.
The people who are observant and ask questions, the ones that look up from their phones in the morning subway and notice the headlines that tout military success next to the man with no shoes whose sign says: homeless veteran, anything helps.
The ones who wonder, where this man’s home went, where his shoes went, why the government does not care for its veterans, why the country is at war, why a whole generation of men drown dreams of splintered body parts with clear liquid that numbs hearts and tongues.
My politics are feminist, because I am the fifteen year old who couldn’t call what happened that night rape until she was twenty. The child who took free school for granted, the white young woman whose accent was never used to undermine her intellect, the immigrant who already had citizenship.
I am a feminist because we deserve more than toiling for meager wages, we deserve more than validation through career trajectories that define success through the accumulation of status and wealth.
I am a feminist because of carefully crafted intersectional analysis that has been made accessible to me. I am humbled by the power of its authors, Assata’s daughters.
My politics are feminist because I believe that all life is sacred and that our current imperialist socio-economic order is founded on the opposite of that.
My politics are feminist because in a state where neoliberal ideology puppeteers xenophobic politics, the rich get richer, while the middle class squabbles over their leftovers, and shits them out on the poor. We are told to build walls and cleanse drowned hope and dead dreams from our shores.
My politics are feminist because they are all I have. I can either choose to act or not. Once you reach the state of empathy or intellectual analysis where you realize that societal injustice is so rampant and only getting worse, you can either choose to be complaisant and thus inherently complicit, or you can choose to take heed from the words of revolutionary black feminist lesbian poet Audre Lorde: Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.
The time for feminist politics is now.