Wednesday, January 16

Budgeting Time as a Feminist

Blogger BrownFemiPower used Sen. Hillary Clinton today to illustrate how much harm a white woman can help do to women of color and still get credit as someone who helps "women," period, rather than as someone who helps "white women."

One of her commenters, Radfem, summarized this idea well:

she’s marketed both through her self, campaign and others as being like has been said for *all* women, which is contradictory because she’s made decisions, done things that are very harmful even deadly to many women.

One of the best things white feminists can do is to work hard to look out for instances in which we don't think we're even looking at a "gender-related" issue. Because if we don't look at it that way while deciding how we're going to act about it, we'll end up hurting many women.

So, for example,
if you really want Mexican women's lives to be as good as Mexican men's lives, on account of, as a feminist, wanting women's lives to be as good as men's lives, then you've got to dedicate some hours of your activist & intellectual time to fighting & persuading to make sure that women don't get arrested by lone men with guns & state-given authority in the middle of the desert.

Listen--you can't keep lone men who would like a gun & state-given authority from deciding to do women more forms of harm than they decide to do to men.
Maybe Men Can Stop Rape will be able to in 100 years, but you can't.
But you know what you can do right away? You know what fight your help can win within a year or five or ten?

You can make sure your state doesn't give guns and authority over Mexicans to lone men.

Example #2:
You already know from mainstream feminist stories that violence in general plays out as beatings on both men and women but as beatings and sexual violence on women.

Now it's important, as a white feminist, to apply that knowledge to any instances of violence you hear about--such as this statement:
beefed-up border security has funneled migrants through one of the world's most forbidding deserts, and...smugglers adopt increasingly violent tactics.

It's important to think to yourself, "What correlation between the violence and the nouns mentioned in that sentence should I notice and consider throwing my hand into activism and blogging about?"

More generally,
you can dedicate a significant percentage of your activist organizing, letters to Congress, letters to your church, blog posts, school papers, and thoughts to shaping the rules of what we will consider acceptable border policy in ways that make life at the border the same quality for Mexican men and Mexican women.

I'll avoid telling you what those shapes of policy should be--largely because I don't even know, myself.
What I'm saying is that you need to do these things even if, for example, you are largely against immigrants coming to our country at more than X% of our current population per year.

If you're a feminist, to really be true to your feminist ideals, you need to use your thinking-and-blogging time to make a list of all the immigration control policies that you previously thought useful and, for each of them, brainstorm the ways in which they would, in practice, turn out to harm women more than they harm men.
  • If it seems that they don't, then keep them on the list of immigration control policies you support for now.

  • If you see that there are many, many ways that a policy would hurt Mexican women more than it would hurt Mexican men, then take it off the list of ideas you support.

    • If your list now seems too short to achieve another goal you believe in--for example, keeping immigration levels at X% of the current population--and, upon thinking about it, you still feel committed to reaching that goal, brainstorm again.

      You probably won't come up with any great ideas right away, but don't go back to any of the items you crossed off your list. YOU ARE A FEMINIST. You now know that those old ideas play out unfairly between the genders. Keep them off your list. Do not ever advocate them again.

      Don't worry--you're human and therefore creative. If feminism and that "X%" population level both matter to you equally, you'll get there. You'll network--you'll keep brainstorming. And slowly but surely, you'll find beliefs about immigration that you do feel comfortable pushing with activism, organizing, letters, and blog posts.
      (Of course, subject these to this same process once in a while--perhaps once per year!)

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