On March 8th, the 23rd year into this century, we once again celebrate Womankind’s long history of struggle for equity and equality in the human world. For those of us living and working and fighting in the territory of the United States, that means going beyond the annals of the settler feminist movement. It means seeing the women of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy who provided the pioneers of the settler feminist movement the seminal ideas about gender equality. We see you even as we see Gage, Mott, and Stanton.
We see the women from Europe brought in as indentured slaves, the Black women who fought for the survival of their bloodlines through a most savage system of enslavement, the picture brides from Japan and Okinawa, the war brides from the Philippines, Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and various regions of Asia, the Native women of all US-occupied territories in the centuries-long struggles for liberation of land and women. We see you. We see the women of Mexico suddenly rendered migrants in their territory when the US border moved. We see the women of Central America and South America who come to build a life, create sustenance, and a home. We see those who trace their lineage to Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, and the Indigenous occupied land of Australia. We see all of you and greet you with that warmth that only a sisterhood in struggle can ignite.
We see what went before us even as we see what will come after us – the generations of women who will reach for understanding and self-awareness. March 8th should not only be a commemoration of what has transpired but a commemoration of what will come after us. The women’s struggle is not reducible to matters of equity and equality, though those are foundational. Rather, the women’s struggle for liberation is the struggle to change the direction of human development – to return it to the values which enabled the species to survive: centering at the core of human civilization the care for future generations and their habitat. This was the goal of the first female strike some hundreds of thousands of years ago, to curb male dominance and violence and establish the communal societies of hunting and gathering tribes.
Even as we see and remember the glory of the women’s struggle, so must we, on this day, remember the antithetical forces which waged and continue to wage war against women’s liberation. From that historic moment when the female became the first form of private property to this day and the cooptation of their work, skills, and knowledge. From the domestication of plants and animals to the barring of women from healing work, to the refusal to build public comfort rooms, to the perversion of their sexuality into commercialized sex exploitation. From the weaving rooms of the Mesopotamian kings where captive women created fabric finery, to the crippling foot binding of feudal China, to a hundred and one ways by which the female of the species was kept in isolation, immured, and voiceless.
Even now, we hear that women’s liberation can only come with or after the liberation of others.
Such reasoning ignores that communal life began with the first strike waged by women of the species, long before there was even language or writing. Such reasoning ignores the reality that every political paradigm has continued to fail women. South Africa, which has the highest rate of rape in the world, is now considering legalizing prostitution, thus institutionalizing a colonial legacy. Some 20 million female babies were aborted in China from 1980 to 2010 because of the one-child policy and a lingering feudal preference for boys. Up to 12 million female fetuses were estimated to have been aborted in India in the last 30 years. In Europe, the legal sex trade is devastating the female population of Romania. And in the US, femicide is on the rise, having increased by an alarming 24 percent from 2014 to 2020.
Each time a self-directed women’s organization rises, there is a clamor to transform into an auxiliary of and for the advocacy of other population segments. This clamor is but a continuation of the patriarchal idea that women should be an adjunct of someone else and that attaining her full humanity cannot be a principal concern. This view ignores the reality that the woman remains the node at the intersection of all systems of oppression and exploitation – economic, political, social, and psychological. No matter the amount of skill she possesses or resources available to her, there will be a point in her life when she will be considered not good enough and disposable. Moreover, women’s work is appropriated without compunction – from scientific discoveries to the name and logo of a women’s organization. We have seen this; we live its reality every day, beginning with the more than three women murdered every day in the United States.
This March 8th, AF³IRM reiterates the tenets on which it stands: women have the right to their liberation, the terms of which will emerge from their theory and practice. And while we salute the achievements of liberation struggles overseas and seek to learn from them, we work in this social and political terrain. The analysis and practice that will change this society will come from its people, in all their diversity.
Let us leave you with this: we must remember both the past and the future, not only on March 8th but in every action we undertake daily to make liberation a reality.
Women’s Liberation Completes a Revolution! Onward to a Feminist Future!