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Justice Funders

Want to honor women’s hxstory? Invest in a Feminist Economy.

On Tuesday night, six Asian women transitioned into ancestorhood — women whose intimate and feminized labor put food on the table. Their murders are among the most recent in the rising violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, fueled by the racist language of the former president. The events of the past year have continued to leave our communities grieving, organizing, and caring for one another.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

The past & present violence endured by our mamas, aunties, and sisters at the hands of white supremacist men and their guns is the result of centuries of US racism, misogyny & imperialism — how can we build upon the legacies of liberation, justice, & healing that women of color have bestowed upon us?

This month is celebrated as women’s hxstory* month, when many of us honor the labor, achievements, and triumphs of women, past and present. March also marks the birth and death of two women who dedicated their lives to the liberation of their peoples. Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist mother who escaped enslavement and served as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, is honored on the 10th of March with a holiday in her name to commemorate her birth in March of 1822 and death at age 90 or 91 on March 10, 1913. Berta Cáceres, Lenca indigenous leader, environmental defender, and mother, was born on March 7, 1971. She was assassinated five days before her 45th birthday on March 2, 2016 by former US-trained Honduran special forces agents, who were hired by DESA, a Honduran dam company.

March is also the one-year anniversary of shelter-in-place orders in nearly 100 countries that put half the world’s population in lockdown. We have grappled with the uncertainties of the pandemic, exacerbated by politicized misinformation campaigns and willful negligence of the former presidential administration. Meanwhile, nurses, doctors, custodial staff, and medical technicians have taken life-saving measures to treat our loved ones, while simultaneously demanding hospitals and institutions to put patients above profit. Domestic workers, the majority of whom are Black, Latina, and Asian women, have worked from their employers’ homes. Domestic workers have provided care that has always been essential, despite being excluded from basic workers’ protections. At the same time, 2.5 million women have exited from the workforce to care for loved ones, which the first Black and Asian American woman Vice President has declared a “national emergency.”

Even as scientists and public officials struggled to assess the enormity of the COVID-19 crisis a year ago, the virus almost immediately found a host in the systemic racial capitalism permeating our societies, allowing it to spread and devastate communities of color at disproportionate rates. One year later, the pandemic continues to illustrate how our health — and what literally happens to our bodies — are a function of our access to power. Yet this has been the reality for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming people who have experienced different forms of violence and control over our bodies, long before the pandemic began.

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

The centuries-long struggle for self-determination is the struggle to free ourselves — to be liberated — from the grasp of racial capitalism, which undergirds and necessitates misogyny, heteropatriarchy, and the treatment of feminized labor as a sacrifice.

Racial capitalism extracts and exploits the labor, land, and resources of oppressed peoples for seemingly unending wealth accumulation — a system that has produced the field of institutional philanthropy and one that the field reinforces. It is the very system from which our sheroes and ancestors, such Harriet Tubman and Berta Cáceres, fought to liberate us.

This Women’s Hxstory Month, we join the call for all of us to truly honor the hxstories of women like Harriet Tubman and Berta Cáceres, by daring to imagine and invest in a Feminist Economy.

Below are the principles of a Feminist Economy and excerpts from a recent teach-in hosted by our friends at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the United Frontline Table, the Feminist Green New Deal, and the people behind the Feminist COVID recovery proposal in Hawai’i — Feminist Economy for People and the Planet:

“Four principles of the feminist economy to re-envision our world” c/o It Takes Roots

“In a feminist economy, we recognize, value, and center reproductive labor as low-carbon, community-generating, life-affirming, and skilled work that is necessary for the well-being of everyone and to sustain human society and nature itself. Feminist economy focuses on four principles to re-envision our world: ensuring bodily autonomy and self-determination as it relates to feminized, transgender, and gender non-conforming people; socializing reproductive labor; being in right relationship with people globally; and being in right relationship with nature and Mother Earth.

We need to protect, repair, invest, and transform our society in the following ways:

  1. Protect Women and Girls from Violence in Extractive Industries
  2. Strengthen Worker Rights and Protections
  3. End US Sanctions
  4. Pay Our Climate Debt
  5. Invest in the Care Economy
  6. Transform Health Care & Reproductive Justice”

The People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy toolkit also describes how these principles and practices come to life in policy and in communities.

Frontline communities across the country and around the world have been building just transitions to a regenerative economy, and GGJ clearly connects this vision with that of a feminist economy:

“The Regenerative Economy is inherently a feminist economy because it understands life — its production, growth, sustenance, and reproduction — as the center of gravity from which value is created. A feminist economy requires undoing centuries of extractive economic policy founded on the ideology of individualization, isolation, and invisibilization of the reproductive labor required to sustain human life from one day to another — from the carework that happens in the home, to the support that happens in communities, to the resource generation that happens in the planet.”

At its most basic and radical level, the word “economy” can be understood as the sum of its roots: “eco,” meaning “home” and “nomy,” meaning “management.” Economy means the “management of home. How we organize our relationships in a place, ideally, to take care of the place and each other.” [1]

At the local level, we are learning from our partners in the Richmond Power Coalition (ROPC), who show us how this regenerative future looks by centering this principle of “caring for each other and our home.

  • Communities for a Better Environment is fighting to decommission the Chevron Refinery, whose recent oil spill adds to the over 120 years of health and environmental harm that Chevron is responsible for in Richmond, California, a city that is over 80 percent Black, Latinx and Asian American.
  • Richmond Progressive Alliance has built grassroots political power to hold government officials accountable to the people.
  • Safe Return Project is amplifying the voices of Black and Latinx families most impacted by mass incarceration to challenge its extraction of human dignity.
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) is fostering intergenerational approaches to climate resilience in five languages.
  • Urban Tilth is growing food sovereignty and repairing our relationships to land and nature.
  • Rich City Rides is transforming the streets of Richmond by building the Black Wellness Hub and paving the way for more bicycle infrastructure.
“Staying power” photo c/o Richmond Our Power Coalition

In the absence of a more responsive and adequate government action during multiple public health, housing and climate crises, ROPC organizations have launched highly organized mutual aid networks to care for one another and fulfill community needs, from the Farmers to Families program to the Laotian Leader Network to mask distribution for protection from Covid-19 and wildfire smoke. ROPC is organizing and cultivating the leadership of working-class, Asian American, Black, and Latinx residents, tenants, and young people to build and govern the regenerative economy that we need for the well-being of all people and the planet. We can and must learn from the wisdom and ingenuity of the frontlines.

Movements are leading the way, and our partners in philanthropy must embody and practice these principles to invest in the Feminist Economy. The “Assessing your organization’s gender analysis” tool is one way to get the conversation started with your team and identify opportunities to fortify your work with a gender justice lens. This deeper reflection can take the conversation beyond representation, which while important, is insufficient.

The path to a Feminist Economy demands unlearning the practices, attitudes, and “truths” that animate the extractive economy. A Feminist Economy requires centering the deep care, healing and repair of the damage, oppression, and violence that communities have endured at hands of colonizers, governments, corporations, and philanthropy. A Feminist Economy requires reexamining, reimagining, and revolutionizing our relationships with our labor, land, resources, and one another. Let’s take this path together.

*We deliberately use the word “hxstory,” which is a practice shared among numerous queer, women of color, and youth organizing spaces to reject patriarchy and the ways that mainstream history has fixated on men as protagonists. “Hxstory” is an acknowledgement that our understandings of the past are inherently political and represents the effort of oppressed peoples to reclaim our stories of the past that have been erased.

[1] Movement Generation, “From Banks and Tanks to Cooperation and Caring.”

Special thanks to Dana Kawaoka-Chen, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, Maria Nakae, and Rosita Lucas for their support on this post.

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Stories and analysis to inspire philanthropic transformation.

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Sydney Fang (she/they)

Sydney Fang (she/they)

Part of the long lineage of women of color advancing just transitions. Just Transition Organizer @JusticeFunders

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