Fusion ON-QS: On Feminism
To see Part 1 —On right-wing nationalism, click here: https://medium.com/@noraloreto/fusion-qs-on-fighting-right-wing-nationalism-df18b1067ed
To see Part 3 — On the Constituency Assembly: https://medium.com/@noraloreto/fusion-on-qs-on-the-constituency-assembly-8933af9ca094
The QS-ON fusion has dominated my social media feeds for months now. One of the biggest fears that I see over and over, is what happens to our feminist party if ON is allowed to come.
In the great tradition of Quebec women kicking ass, I’m very happy that this is part of the debate.
I have always felt tension between sovereignty and feminism within QS debates. The hardest core sovereigntists are men. The feminists, hard and soft core, are women. The gendered division is undeniable. When we debate a constituency assembly, the microphones have more men than when we debate childcare (if we even debate it because aside from “free childcare now” there’s not much to debate).
Merging with ON with bring to QS more men and worse, more men who want to debate sovereignty ad nauseam!
I speak French as a second language. I find most interventions longer than 20 minutes boring and hard to follow, so I’m very sympathetic to the frustrations about how much space men who like to talk take up. But I know that the fighting spirit of women, woven into the party is the counterbalance to the influx of men from ON, if the perception actually comes true.
I don’t know ON. I have no idea how, internally, ON struggles against patriarchy. I don’t know if they have gender parity speaking lists, I don’t know what they talk about in meetings. I don’t know if there’s an ON version of me who is dying inside every time someone talks for longer than seven minutes about a constituency assembly. The feminism vs. sovereignty fight has both emerged explicitly in some spaces and implicitly in others, where QS stands in for feminism and ON stands in for sovereignty.
But we already have this dichotomy: in QS, Manon Massé/Françoise David stand in for feminism and Amir Khadir/GND stand in for sovereignty.
It’s a dichotomy that I think obscures the debate and distracts what we’re actually voting on at the upcoming congress.
QS’ feminism is not static. It’s strong because it’s constantly being practiced. When women organize to ask questions in meetings, or repeatedly remind chairs about gender parity, or when they move their motions or bring a gendered lens to everything we do, our feminism is being re-produdced and strengthened. Our feminism is a constant struggle both inside the party and outside. It gives us a lens for what must happen if we hope to attack other -isms, notably racism, within the party and in Quebec at-large.
It’s easy to reproduce society’s oppression and inertia within our social movements always does. This wont change if ON become a caucus of QS. Being mindful of sexism and constantly battling it is a reality of the left and our feminist practices will march on regardless of who sits on the CCN or who decides our platform.
This is why I see the debates about sexism more as a proxy argument: one that doesn’t quite say what someone means to say.
There are details about the fusion that must be worked out: who will the three ON candidates be? Will they all be men? Will they all be in Montreal? But there will be elements of democracy on which our party was built that will not be threatened: women must run in winnable ridings, there must be a course à l’investiture, run locally, that elects the candidate, regardless of what any fusion expresses hope for.
When I talk about Quebec independence to Canadians, the most compelling example of what’s possible in a society that thumbs its nose at Ottawa are our social programs, all of which would improve women’s lives, services and social location. It isn’t by accident that Quebec is the only province with a childcare system: it’s a direct result of a social program imagined by a society with aspirations of building its own nation, especially through something as gendered as education and childcare. A project of liberation that places women at its centre is the only independence that I support, and I suspect that a majority of QS members would agree with this too.
In this way, the reorganization of sovereigntist forces along the lines of right and left means that feminism needs to be at the front of any progressive project. Bringing ON members into this movement, with this lens at its core, is a political strategy where no one loses. It puts us all into the same room and creates a framework through which we can work together, share these perspectives and, most important, ensure that the sovereignty espoused by the left is one that isn’t dominated by men, that does put women at its centre, runs women for office, and importantly, that’s run by women.
If we say no to the fusion, we say no to creating this common space. Rhetorically, we’ll remain two separate parties: one that is sovereigntist and one that is feminist. It’s confusing, and easily exploitable by a right wing that’s gaining confidence across the province.