An observation and plea for Intersectional Feminist Solidarity
Let’s talk about… intersectional feminist solidarity! Welcome to my first ever column! This one is focused on solidarity – a core principle of feminist activism and work so let’s get to it. If you’ve read the teaser, if you know me, you know I have something to say about this!
In times of crisis, of war and conflict, of uncertainty, I feel solidarity has increasingly become a word that easily rolls off the tongue. But my question is: do we really know (and live) what it means? Are we sure about the type of commitment that it entails? Sometimes, it really makes me angry seeing tons of solidarity statements – my organisation is surely not free of that either – followed by a lack of action and commitment. Solidarity actually requires you to do something in the long run (remember when a lot of people posted a black tile after George Floyds’ murder? Ask yourself, what about your antiracist activism since then?)! Feminist intersectional solidarity can be uncomfortable – all the more reason to embark on this path because we must never forget: showing solidarity is NEVER as uncomfortable as the situation for the one in need of solidarity.
Solidarity comes in various forms. It can be a social media post, sharing the other’s message (e.g. sharing what Ukrainian feminists have to say). It can be speaking up and advocating for something when others lack the capacity, strength, funds, support or it is simply too dangerous for them (e.g. not letting antiracist work rest on the shoulders of racialised people). Solidarity can also mean unapologetically questioning power structures and the ways they shape society. It can mean recognising the other’s trauma, individual or collective trauma, and acknowledging the role oppressive systems play here. And the role we as individuals play in these systems, upholding them even. Solidarity means active listening and trust-building. Trust that might have been lost over the years. It means shifting power and money and practicing knowledge sharing. Solidarity means making sure others can rest.
There are so many other, creative forms of solidarity and I encourage myself and you to explore them. I am sure we can all do better here.
Solidarity also does not mean I have to share the other’s views and values entirely. I can show solidarity with people that are different from me. Maybe even opposing my views. It is mostly about a concrete situation that offers me the choice to show solidarity or not – despite not being on the same page with a person or group. It can mean saying: “Whilst I might not fully agree with you, I see your pain and point and want to make sure that you know I got your back.”
And yet, I also do not have to show solidarity. I have seen newspapers, blog posts and outrage on social media about missing solidarity within the feminist community (if such a thing exists, might be something for another think piece). But does being a feminist mean I have to show solidarity with EVERY feminist out there (like J.K. Rowling)? Personally, I don’t think so and here’s why: it seems that nowadays, a lot of people claim to be feminists but do not necessarily all share the same feminist values. For me, as a marginalised feminist, intersectionality is always key. And if I see other feminists not being antiracist or inclusive, or being transphobic, that means they have forsaken the guarantee of my solidarity. This goes beyond not sharing the same views on something. It’s about not agreeing on some of the core values of feminism that for me are non-negotiable. And so, requesting solidarity of other feminists if you need it while not truly being in solidarity with other feminists at other times seems hypocritical.
Solidarity is not something you have to earn or that requires a ‘give and take’. Surely not. But it is also not something that should be taken for granted only because you circulate within the same ‘bubble’.
I wish for ‘us’ as feminists to be true to ourselves and engage in open and honest discussions about what it means to build intersectional feminist solidarity. Think about it – what does it mean to you? I wish for us to stand together not only in times of crisis but in ‘good times’ – honouring, cherishing and praising each other’s work. I wish for us to not only celebrate persistence – as persistence is not necessarily something we want to strive for at all times. I’d rather strive for joy and being at ease. I wish for us to acknowledge the unequal power structures that are prevalent even within the feminist community – our struggles are connected but they are certainly not the same. We need to redistribute power, work collaboratively and take responsibility. Feminist intersectional solidarity is real, she is working, so let’s show them how it’s done!
Oh and I almost forgot… money! We need governments, foundations, corporations, and individuals to actively and generously fund feminist civil society. It would make showing true solidarity so much easier if our minds were not constantly heavy with having to think about how we can pay our employees, extend projects, support other feminists, this and that… A lack of funding also creates unnecessary tension between feminist civil society because we ambitiously have to compete for the same, and let’s be honest annoyingly low, funds. And this again creates obstacles in showing solidarity with each other. So stop the talking and give us the money!
Sheena Anderson is Project Manager at CFFP, leading our work on Climate Justice and Anti-Racism.