transnational feminism

July 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm (anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, women of color)

tanglad writes about the womens desk….

The book Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices by Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan has helped me tremendously in focusing my feminism. I don’t worry about what the authors term as “a theory of hegemonic oppression under a unified category of gender.” Instead, as an activist interested in the gendered and racialized foundations of globalization, I’ve adopted the framework of transnational feminism, which:

must also find intersections and common ground; but they will not be utopian or necessarily comfortable alliances. New terms are needed to express the possibilities for links and affiliations, as well as differences among women who inhabit different locations. Transnational feminist activism is one possibility. (Kaplan, page 116, emphasis mine)’

i am really glad to have found this term: transnational feminism.  because this is part of the vision revolution of the lilies.  the theoretical part.  how exciting…i love relevant theory.

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unbought and unbossed

June 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm (anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, women of color)

ode to shirley chisholm

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so iguess the democratic nomination is over and i feel…sad

May 25, 2008 at 2:09 am (anti-classism, anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, prisons, women of color)

here’s the thing.  i will be so happy ot have the first black president.  i think that is awesome.  and i would have been happy to have the first woman president.  (but i have to say that i became quite disenchanted with the clinton campaign after south carolina…really, bill, barack won sc, jesse j won sc, and so did you win sc, pres clinton…but you didnt bother to mention that…) and there have been moments when watching barack (ok i admit it) i tear up.   i mean i think he is…well…sincere.

but this latest kerfuffle that hillary want barack dead is just ridiculous.  of course she wants barack dead.  if i were her i would want barack to die.  whateva the path to nomination is, she has no doubt, and i have no doubt that she would beat mccain and frankly if barack died it would be easier to beat mccain.  i mean acually barack dying is one of the surest ways to the white house.  we blacks (and yes i am speaking for all of us) would flock to her campaign and to the polls with a level of unmitigated grief and love that would be unprecedented in general elections (this is my theoretical secret to dems winning the whtie house…not that i am a democratic…people underestimate the black vote to their peril.  we may not be many but we come to the polls in incredibly low number…and when we come to the polls in high numbers we turn an election…and we will come out for barack…that is what barack is betting on…a couple of percentage points in a couple of key states with afr-am pop’s that normally cant be counted on…white working class is one thing…but the black working class remembers revolution…heard it on the laps of their parents and grandparents…and we had a dream…and that dream is about to come true…if we vote…the first black president…i will address the idea of the first woman pres in a second)

and she the clinton, who yes insulted us, but we liked the nineties better than the aughts (or atleast financially i did) and we should be angry about our great black hope covered in the morass of assassinations blood and we would be energized to change the election…

so of course she wants barack to be killed in a hail of bullets.  it is romantic.  violent.  beautiful. i mean when bobby kennedy died that was a ‘moment’ in the course of history.  it changed people’s lives.

and of course it cropped her mind.  when the msm calls barack the next kennedy.  well, we know what happens to kennedys.

so ted kennedy is in the hospital.  or just out of it.  and she thought bobby.  barry. barack.  evolution?  im not sure.  a path to the white. house.  god damn suree boy!

i aint hating.  i am a writer.  and as for violent. beatiful. romantic. nothing beats the assasination of a dream.  the murder of hope.  and another hope blooming in its place.

and it would rock if we had a woman represented as president.  even more exciting if i felt a kinship with her.

which brings me to a tiny side point.  the racism and the sexism has been awful in this campaign.  but honestly as a black woman it was hard for me to feel as empathetic about the sexism that hillary endured as opposed to the racism.  and i have been wondering why.

here is the closest i got:  because the sexism that i saw in reference to hillary was so different from the sexism i have encountered as a black woman.  because white folks and black folks (okay all folks) view black women as diametrically opposed to white women.  a white woman when she is seen as not following the gender script is seen as angry, masculine, aggressive, hypersexual, which is the normalized version of black woman identity.   the darker you are the more aggressive (especially sexually) and angry you are seen.  you are masculinized.  not seen as vulnerable, feminine, soft, reserved.  i tried to ask macon d over at stuff white people do why this was….i have seen the phenomena but i dont understand the underlying causes.

so hillary crying and that being sympathetic… i wonder if a black woman had done that if she would have been seen as sympathetic (ok hillary got slightly chocked up she didnt cry…but damn msm had a field day with it)  or would she have been seen as deficient, ‘as not being strong’.  and who would have been the women who would have flocked to the polls to support her.  would white women have flocked to the polls to support her?  yes, oprah cries and ‘gets emotional’ but oprah aint running for president.

and i feel like what white women want from black women is for black women to represent and inspire them to ‘strength’ towards a ‘manliness’ and a ‘go gett-m-ness’ that white women feel like they lack. attitude.  a sort of diva self-appreciation.

how easy is it to empathize with someone who is from a different social group with you and still see her weakeness as strength? then speak out for michelle obama.

so racism/sexism that i experience is different than the sexism that white women experience.  because you know that dichotomy that says that women can only be a virgin or a whore?  yeah, black women for the most part get to experience the ‘whore’ part.  so aggressive.  so hypersexual.  so experienced.

and i feel sad.  because the idea that hillary wants obama to die.  is to be expected.  but the fact that t he only good black leader is a dead black leader.  that has me sad.  and the fact that ‘oppression olympics stands in the way of: when we advance we can all advance–is sad.

i guess the question i should have asked was: why is it that no one notices that black women vote overwhelmingly for obama and not hillary.  and our votes ( and the majority of black folks voting for obama are black women.  too many black men are not allowed to vote.  that is the effect of the prison industrial complex) are not counted by msm.  when folks say that women overwhelmingly vote for hillary.  well, black women do not overwhelmingly vote for hillary.  and even though ‘working class white men’ vote for hillary and that is the sort of statistic that accounts for too much of msm’s analysis.  the fact that working class black women vote barack…means what?  not worthy of comment.

if i thought that hillary would make my life as a working class black female easier.  i would vote for her.  no really i would.

but the idea that she wants him dead.  well, i mean, that is just obvious.  you dont run for president without having entertained the thoughts of ordering an assasination or two.

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first writing since

May 17, 2008 at 12:29 am (anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, middle east, palestine, women of color)

this poem inspired me to go to palestine.  It gave me a specific sense of where I beloned in the world.  Stretched across the world.  She wrote it after 9/11.  And told a story of her discovering the bombings in her home city.  For the first year I had a limewire edition of her reading it for Def Poetry.  I would cry.  And promise myself to write something that held the world as honestly.

suheir hamad:

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the
plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?

but i know for sure who will pay.

f there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either
you are with us, or with the terrorists” – meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.

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black women, islam, and hiphop

May 7, 2008 at 4:43 pm (anti-sexism, islam, middle east, palestine, women of color)

there is a great article at racialicious

on black muslim women and hiphop.  Okay actually the article originates on Muslimah Media Watch. Gorgeous pictures of Erykah Badu and Eve. And a discussion as to what consitutues Islam. It reminded me of my first visit to the West Bank and haing a discussion with a teeenager muslim woman named yasmmina about he connection between Black Muslims and Islam. Malcolm X and Sunni. Yasmina who considered herself an Islamist thought of Islam as both a policial as well as a spiritual idenity. And while we did not have a discussion about the dogma or beliefs of the Nation of Islam and 5 percenters, there was a definite connection and appreciation that people would be willing to take on the label of ‘Muslim’ especially in a post-9/11 world.

What struck me was how much variety and diversity Yasmina assumed to be a part of the Islamic world. And the variety of wary that Muslim women have interpreted the Koran and present themselves to the world.

I appreciate that Eve gives gratitude to Allah but says that she cannot follow Islam properly. I think that in the Black community, women identifying as Muslim in many ways gives them a hiphop cred that is difficult for women to achieve. In that Muslims in hiphop culture are considered to be ‘deep’, ‘strong’, and ‘dedicated soldiers’ that allows for Black women to be able to move through many of the sexist assumptions about women mc’s. There is also a sense within the Black community that Muslim women are somehow moe socially protected and respectable than other women. (ya know there are ho’s and then there are queens).

One of my inspirations to live in the Middle East was the respect I had for Muslimwomen in hiphop. So that political connection that Yasmina and I talked about matters.

I am going to try to get the original article by McMurray.

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New Orleans Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center

May 5, 2008 at 6:48 pm (anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, women of color)

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence New Orleans Chapter and

the New Orleans Women’s Health & Justice Initiative

Seeks Books by Women of Color authors
for a Radical Women of Color Lending Library Project

The New Orleans Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center (a joint project of the WHJI and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence – New Orleans ) will serve as a resource and organizing hub to nurture grassroots organizing and activism to end violence against women of color, linking struggles against the violence of poverty, incarceration, environmental racism, housing discrimination, economic exploitation, and medical experimentation and forced sterilization.  The Center will provide a host of movement building and leadership development programs, activities, and resources to end violence against women of color; the Center will also house a radical women of color lending library, a cluster of computers for community use, meeting space, and a comfortable environment for women and girls to hangout. 

We are currently in the process of establishing a radical women of color lending library.  We are seeking donations of books by women of color authors across genres, topics, interests, and subjects including but not limited to:


African Social Movements/Activism-Organizing/ Anti-Oppression/ Arab Feminist Organizing/ Arab Social Movements/ Art & Culture/ Asian Feminist Organizing/ Asian Social Movements / Autonomous Movements/ Black/African Feminist Organizing/ Caribbean Social Movements/ Chicana Feminist Organizing/ Civil/Human Rights/ Colonization/ Community Accountability/ Re-Constructing Masculinity/ Disability Organizing/Rights/ Disasters  and Vulnerabilities/ Diaspora Organizing/Identity/Domestic Workers Organizing/ Economic Justice/ Education/Radical Teaching/ Environment/Ecological Justice/ Erotic Autonomy/Feminism/ Gender Theory & Identity/ Gender Justice/ Gender-based Violence/ Genocide/ Globalization/ Healthcare (Access & Disparities)/ Health Justice/ Health & Alternative Therapies/ HIV/AIDS Organizing/Prevention Justice/ Housing & Community Development/ Human Rights/ Human Trafficking/ Immigrant & Refugee Rights/ Imperialism/ Intersex Identity and Organizing/ Just Sustainabilities and Development/ Juvenile Justice/ Labor Organizing/ Latina Feminist Organizing/ Latin American Social Movements/ Media Justice/ Mental Health and Wellness/ Middle East Organizing/Solidarity/Justice/ Militarism/ Music/ Native American Feminist Organizing/ Native American Social Movements/ Neoliberalism/ Palestine Organizing/Right of Return/ Pan-Asian Organizing/ Policing/ Law Enforcement Violence/ Population & Development/Poverty/Welfare Rights/ Prison Industrial Complex/ Prison Abolition & Prisoners Rights/ Queer Theory/Identity/ Racial Justice/ Radical Parenting/ Radical Women of Color Organizing/ Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons/ Reproductive Health & Justice/ Sex Work Organizing/Street Economies/ Sexual Health/ Slavery/ Sovereignty & Self Determination/ Spirituality/Healing/ Spoken Word/Performance Poetry/ Trans Justice/ Transnational Organizing/ U.S. Black Social Movements/ War/ War on Drugs/Racial Profiling/ Welfare Reform/Policies/ Women and War/ Women’s Health & Healing/ Worker’s Rights/ Youth Organizing



All books are welcome—fiction, non-fiction, poetry, zines, articles, resource books, anthologies, photodocumentaries, etc.  Videos, documentaries, and music are also welcomed.   We are specifically interested in books by African, Arab, Asian, Black, Caribbean, Chicana, Indigenous, Native, and Latina authors.    Donations should be mailed to the:

New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic
c/o WHJI
1406 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans , LA 70116

For more information, please contact us at whji_info@yahoo.com or by phone at 504-524-8626.


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rape and race

April 28, 2008 at 5:09 am (anti-racism, anti-sexism, women of color)

RAPE AND RACE: WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT: REMIXING THE RACIAL RULE OF SILENCE

Rape and Race: We Have to Talk About It
April 10, 2008 — Remixing the racial rule of silence.
By Melissa Harris-Lacewell
TheRoot.com
Updated: 12:29 PM ET Apr 9, 2008

I witnessed something truly astonishing on Monday night: a public discussion of black women’s experiences of sexual violence at the hands of black men.  It was an intergenerational group of black men and women, gay and straight, survivors and perpetrators, all grappling with the legacy of rape and race.

The experience was unusual because black people rarely talk about sisters being raped. We talk about all kinds of things: trivial, critical, humorous, serious, political, painful and frivolous. But as we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, I am reminded that there are things we don’t talk about.

We are silent about black women as victims and survivors of sexual assault by black men.

In African American communities rape narratives are not women’s stories.  They are men’s stories.  Rape is tied to the historical legacy of white terror.  Strange fruit hanging from Southern trees has led to a legacy of disbelieving women who report sexual violence and intimidation.

Black women raped by black male perpetrators often remain silent because they are alone. They don’t want to confirm white racial stereotypes; their own families and communities tell them to shut up; they have little reason to think that authorities will take their cases seriously; they fear the devastating ramifications of a manhunt in black communities if they are believed; and in the history of lynching, white women have been adversaries, not allies, on the question of rape.

Recovering from rape is burden enough without having to shoulder this vicious legacy.

I do not want to diminish or deny the pain, agony, recovery and triumph of survivors who are not black women.  I do not want to claim that all black women survivors have parallel experiences or that all black women experience the same traumas in the aftermath of rape. I only want to claim there is often a different dynamic that operates for black women who have been violated by black men.As a sexual assault survivor and advocate I know the debilitating effects of silence.

That is why I was so moved by Monday night’s gathering in Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn , NY .  Together we watched Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ NO! The Rape Documentary. Then Simmons, who is herself a rape and incest survivor, talked with us and answered questions to help us process the grief, anger and confusion that her exquisite film provoked.

But here was the most surprising part of all: the gathering was organized by a community group called Black and Male in America. Under the leadership of writer, activist and Congressional candidate Kevin Powell, this group of men arranged a screening of Simmons’ powerful film.  Let me say this again.  A group of black men arranged for an honest, difficult, intense, public discussion of intra-racial rape.

Filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons revealed that it has been difficult to find wide distribution for her film because so few people want to grapple with black women’s sexual victimization.  Simmons was joined on the panel by Kevin Powell and Quentin Walcott from ConnectNYC.  Sitting next to these men, Simmons acknowledged that brothers from the hip-hop generation, a generation that has been critiqued as universally commercial and misogynist, have been among her strongest supporters.

Simmons said, “It’s also very important for me to note that this and many other community-based screenings that have been organized by Black men are men from the hip-hop generation. I share this because there are many justifiable critiques of hip-hop. However, hands down, the overwhelming majority of the men who have supported NO! and spread the word about NO! are from the hip-hop generation.”

Organizer Kevin Powell is certainly a central figure of the hip-hop generation.  As a first season Real World cast member, Powell helped usher in the age of reality TV. As a writer and poet he has reflected on and critiqued hip-hop. Powell also has his own difficult past as a perpetrator of domestic violence.  But rather than being silent and demanding silence from others, Powell has written movingly about his own awakening from violence.  On Monday night he and other men of this Brooklyn organization helped provide space for sexual assault survivors to speak and be heard.We are right to focus on and criticize the elements of hip-hop that are complicit in the violence, abuse and degradation of black women.  But we are also compelled to acknowledge the possibility that some men of the hip-hop generation just might have something to teach their elders about passing the mic and being quiet while sisters share their stories. Maybe, just maybe, this generation of men will create a different path.

Reflecting on what this new path might look like Powell said,

“What we’ve found in our work with black males is that many of us brothers are completely clueless about what manhood should be. So we swallow whole what society, our communities, our families, our fathers, and, yes, our mothers, tell us it is, even if that definition leads us to hurt or destroy black females or other black males. Or ourselves. There is a growing recognition, now, among many hip-hop generation black women thinkers, leaders, and artists, and a growing number of us black male counterparts, that if we do not deal with the multiple insanities we as a community have internalized, then we are doomed as a community. It is really that serious.

“Monday night’s event helped us to remember that rape is complicated by race.  For many black women there is a sense of betrayal that exists alongside the personal humiliation, pain and fear. Intra-racial rape can feel like a rift between a woman and her people. The survivor is cast into silence not so much a by a desire to protect those men who perpetrated, but to protect the black men in her life who she loves, respects and trusts. As Simmons’ NO! reminds us, survivors often feel that by fingering the attacker we might somehow accuse our own fathers, husbands, friends and sons of possessing this same capacity for violence.

So it makes a huge difference for black men to stand with us and encourage us to tell.  The Brooklyn gathering was a model of how black men can help create safe spaces for us.  It was a reminder that men can exert power and reclaim manhood by standing with black women, bearing witness to our stories and holding one another accountable. It was a testament to the reality that men can stop rape by saying NO!

Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University .

URL: http://www.theroot.com/id/45744

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oprah: black women and politics and gratitude

April 21, 2008 at 10:13 pm (anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, women of color)

So it turns out that Michelle Obama has an edge, something like a chip on her shoulder.  She has that Black woman problem.  In the way that she expresses herself…it is something.  Cause black women need to be careful how they express themselves or else they might appear to have an ‘attitude’ or be ‘angry’.  It is something in her personality, she is not as relatable as she could be.

My contention is that any Black woman who enters politics is going to have this stereotype attached to her.  Especially if she is dark skin and successful.  Name a Black American woman who is a face in politics who does not have this ‘personality’ problem…

Not even Oprah can pull it off.  Not even Oprah can back Obama without losing favor with white folks.

Mainstream white folks love us black folks as long as we are grateful for how much they love us.  They will support us, praise our intelligence, our generous hearts, our insight, our talents but we must always make sure that we are as grateful as they want us to be.  In other words, when white folks feel that their self-interests are being threatened by Blacks, they call in all that support they have given to their Black friends, because it is time for Blacks to step up, support whites and act grateful.

And Black women carry all the stereotypes of women plus all the stereotypes of blacks.  so they are angry, irrational,  uneducated, bitter, resentful, lazy, hypersexual, etc.  And even if the woman presents herself as educated, calm, rational, hard-working, sexually responsible…most whites are constantly looking for the ‘real’ black woman to reveal herself.  And the second that she smirks, rolls her eyes, stumbles while talking, expresses anger, presses her lips together, misspeaks, makes a mistake, etc.  most white people nod their heads in recognition that the ‘real black woman’ is finally coming out.  In other words white folks are looking for, waiting for the stereotype to become real and see the overwhelming evidence that denies the veracity of the stereotype as window-dressing.

I mean just look at what happened to McKinney.  Thank god for the Green Party.

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yeah, this election is important

April 21, 2008 at 9:44 pm (anti-racism, anti-sexism)

For me, it is not so much that this election is important as it is that this election has revealed an underbelly, an unconscious and unspoken current of the united states, of the empire, as to how it views race and gender and class.  And this democratic primary reveals how we see blacks, women, immigrants, working class by putting them on the front stage and listening to how the discourse surrounds the election and invades the election.

For example, barack obama ‘brushed that dirt off his shoulder’ after the 21st debate.  It was a shout out to hiphop culture.  And it was hilarious to listen to the commentators on msnbc and cnn look confused at his gesture.  ‘I think he is brushing off the criticism in the debate.’  Uhh…yeah…and referencing one of the more popular hiphop songs by jay-z in the past few years.  And as Melissa Harris Lacewell points out:

He displayed all the familiar self-assurance and bravado of the hip-hop emcee. The people who got-it went nuts, while those who don’t know hip-hop just thought he was being funny and confident. This moment hit YouTube and went viral in a matter of hours. It was a signal of solidarity with his base of young, urban, black and brown voters. We loved it.

I loved it as well.  I laughed my ass off when I saw the clip.  I also loved the fact that he smirked, looked to the side, brushed that dirt off, and only said: ‘you know…you just gotta’ and then shrugged it off and smiled.  It was priceless.
I am also fascinated by the way that he is now being labeled as an elitist.  The first time I heard the commentary and criticism about him being elitist, arrogant the phrase that came to my mind was: uppity negro.  That he wasn’t staying in his place.  That he might think that he is ‘better’ than working class white folk in Pennsylvania.
I grew up in Virginia and lived with working Appalachian white folk.  And for the most part they loved me.  Except when I crossed some invisible line (that seemed to be constantly moving) and became arrogant.  Often times that line appeared when I was in an argument with someone and brought out facts or analysis that they were not familiar with.  When I quoted a writer or thinker that they were familiar with but could not counter.  When I spoke persuasively and refused to back down.  When they felt like they were losing face and needed to remind me of my ‘place’.

Honestly, I feel like most of the people who are offended by ‘bitter-gate’ are offended because they lost face.  Because a bunch of ‘elite’ white politicians and media folk told them how they should interpret Barack’s statements.  These white elites used all the code words that register as: uppity negro in order to understand what Barack really meant.  And maybe some working class work folk felt that they lost face.

I am also interested in how Clinton is constantly proving how tough she is.  I know that feeling.  When you enter into an all boys network you have to be both tough and feminine and that is an incredibly difficult tightrope to walk.  And she walks it well.

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statement of solidarity with palestinians arab and muslim women facing war

April 3, 2008 at 1:20 am (anti-racism, anti-sexism, middle east, palestine, women of color)

INCITE! ENDORSED: AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL FEMINISTS: STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN, ARAB, AND MUSLIM WOMEN FACING WAR AND OCCUPATION

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence endorses the following statement.

~~~

Given that International Women’s Day coincided with the catastrophic events in Gaza , please show your solidarity by signing the statement below from the Campaign of Solidarity with Women Resisting U.S. Wars and Occupation.  You can send your name, affiliation, and place of residence to: solidaritywomen@yahoo.com

Piya Chatterjee & Sunaina Maira 

An Open Letter to All Feminists:
Statement of Solidarity with Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Women Facing War and Occupation

As feminists and people of conscience, we call for solidarity with Palestinian women in Gaza suffering due to the escalating military attacks that Israel turned into an open war on civilians. This war has targeted women and children, and all those who live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank , and are also denied the right to freedom of movement, health, and education.

We stand in solidarity with Iraqi women whose daughters, sisters, brothers, or sons have been abused, tortured, and raped in U.S. prisons such as Abu Ghraib. Women in Iraq continue to live under a U.S. occupation that has devastated families and homes, and are experiencing a rise in religious extremism and restrictions on their freedom that were unheard of before the U.S. invasion, “Operation  Iraqi Freedom,” in 2003. 

At this moment in Afghanistan , women are living with the return of the Taliban and other misogynistic groups such as the Northern Alliance, a U.S. ally, and with the violence of continuing U.S. and NATO attacks on civilians, despite the U.S. war to “liberate” Afghan women in 2001. 

As of March 6, 2008, over 120 Palestinians, including 39 children and 6 women (more than a third of the victims), in Gaza were killed by Israeli air strikes and escalated attacks on civilians over a period of five days, according to human rights groups.[1]  Hospitals have been struggling to treat 370 injured children, as reported by medical officials. Homes have been destroyed as well as civilian facilities including the headquarters of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions.[2]  On February 29, 2008, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Valnai, threatened Palestinians in Gaza with a “bigger Shoah,” the Hebrew word usually used only for the Holocaust.[3]  What does it mean that the international community is standing by while this is happening? 

Valnai’s threat of a Holocaust against Palestinians was not just a slip of the tongue, for the war on Gaza is a continuation of genocidal activities against the indigenous population.  Israel has controlled the land and sea borders and airspace of Gaza for more than a year and a half, confining 1.5 million Palestinians to a giant prison.  Supported by the U.S. , Israel has imposed a near total blockade on Gaza since June 2007 which has led to a breakdown in basic services, including water and sanitation, lack of electricity, fuel, and medical supplies.  As a result of these sanctions, 30% of children under 5 years suffer from stunted growth and malnutrition.  Over 80% of the population cannot afford a balanced meal.[4]

Is this humanitarian crisis going to approach a situation similar to that of the sanctions against Iraq from 1991-2003, when an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children died to lack of nutrition and medical supplies, and the woman who was then Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, proclaimed that the death of a half million Iraqi children was worth the price of U.S. national security? 

As feminists and anti-imperialist people of conscience, we oppose direct and indirect policies of ethnic cleansing and decimation of native populations by all nation-states.

In the current climate of U.S.-initiated or U.S.-backed assaults on women in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we are deeply troubled by one kind of  hypocritical Western feminist discourse that continues to be preoccupied with particular kinds of violence against Muslim or Middle Eastern women, while choosing to remain silent on the lethal violence inflicted on women and families by military occupation, F-16s, Apache helicopters, and missiles paid for by U.S. tax payers.  This is a moment when U.S. imperialism brazenly uses direct colonial occupation, masked in a civilizational discourse of bringing Western “freedom” and “democracy.” Such acts echo the  language of Manifest Destiny  that was used to justify U.S. colonization of the Philippines and Pacific territories in the 19th century, not to mention the genocide of Native Americans.  U.S. covert, and not so covert, interventions in Central, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean have devastated the lives of countless indigenous peoples, and other civilians, in this region throughout the 20th century.  The U.S., as well its proxy militias or client regimes, has inflicted violence on women and girls from Vietnam, Okinawa, and Pakistan to Chile, El Salvador, and Somalia and has avenged the deaths of its soldiers by its own “honor killings” that lay siege to entire towns, such as Fallujah in Iraq.  

It is appalling that in these catastrophic times, many U.S. liberal feminists are focused only on misogynistic practices associated with particular local cultures, as if these exist in capsules, far from the arena of imperial occupation. Indeed, imperial violence has given fuel to some of these patriarchal practices of misogyny and sexism.  They should also know that such a narrow vision furthers a much older tradition of feminist mobilizing  in the service of colonialism—”saving brown, or black women, from brown men,” as observed by Gayatri Spivak. 

While we too oppose abuses including domestic violence, “honor killings,” forced marriage, and brutal punishment, we are disturbed that some U.S. feminists—as well as Muslim or Middle Eastern women who claim to be “authorities” on Islam and are employed by right-wing think tanks—are participating in a selective discourse of universal women’s rights that ignores U.S. war crimes and abuses of human rights.

While some progressive U.S. feminists claim to oppose the hijacking of women’s rights to justify U.S. invasions, they simultaneously evade any mention about the plight of women in Palestine , Iraq , or Afghanistan .  Their statements continue to focus only on female genital mutilation or dowry deaths under the guise of breaking the “politically correct” silence on abuses of women in the “Muslim world” that the Right disingenuously laments.[5] 

Some progressives may support such statements with good intentions, but these critiques ignore the fact that Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim feminists have been working on these issues for generations, focusing on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, and nationalism.  Their work is ignored by  North American feminists who claim to advocate for a “global sisterhood” but are disillusioned to discover that women in the U.S. military participated in the acts of torture at Abu Ghraib.

We are concerned about these silences and selective condemnations given that the U.S. mainstream media bolsters this imperialist feminism by using an (often liberal) Orientalist approach to covering the Middle East or South Asia .  For example, on March 5, 2008, as the death toll due to Israeli attacks in Gaza was mounting, the New York Times chose to publish an article just below its report on the Israeli military incursions that focused on the sentencing of a Palestinian man in Israel for an honor killing; the report was deemed worthy of international coverage because the Palestinian women had broken “the code of silence” by resorting to Israeli courts.[6] 

The implications of this juxtaposition of two unrelated events are that Palestinians belong to a backward, patriarchal culture that, rightly or wrongly, is under attack by a modern, “democratic” state with a legal apparatus that supports women’s rights.  Others have shown that the New York Times gave disproportionate attention to the Human Rights Watch report in 2006 on domestic violence against Palestinian women relative to its scant mention of the 76 reports of Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Israeli organization, B’Tselem.[7] 

Similar coverage exists of women from other countries outside the U.S. that are portrayed as victims only of their own cultural traditions, rather than also of the ravages of Western imperialism and predatory global capitalism.  No attention is paid in the mainstream U.S. media to reports such as that in Haaretz documenting that Palestinian women citizens of Israel are the most exploited group in the Israeli workforce, making only 47% of the wages earned by their Jewish counterparts in Israel, and with double the rate of unemployment of Jewish women.[8]  Little is known in the U.S. about what the lives of Iraqi women are really like now that they are pressured to cover themselves in public or not work outside the house, nor of Afghan women whose homes are still being bombed in a war that was supposed to have liberated them many years ago. 

We stand in solidarity with feminist and liberatory movements that are opposing U.S. imperialism, U.S.-backed occupation, militarism, and economic exploitation as well as resisting religious and secular fundamentalisms. 

We also support the struggles of those within the U.S. opposing the War on Terror and racist practices of detention, deportation, surveillance, and torture linked to the military-industrial-prison complex that selectively targets immigrants, minorities, and youth of color.  We are grateful for the courageous scholarship of academics who are at risk of not getting tenure or employment because they do research related to settler colonialism or taboo topics such as Palestinian rights and expose controversial aspects of U.S. policies here and abroad. 

At a moment when U.S. military interventions have made “democracy” a dirty word in much of the world, we strive for true democracy and for freedom and justice for all our sisters and brothers. 

Piya Chatterjee, University of California-Riverside
Sunaina Maira, University of California-Davis

Campaign of Solidarity with Women Resisting U.S. Wars and Occupation
South Asians for the Liberation of Falastin



 [1] “The Tragedy in Gaza ,” Kinder USA, www.kinderusa.org. March 5, 2008.
[2] Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory : “Wide-Scale Israeli Military Operations Against the Gaza Strip.” Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, http://www.pchrgaza.org. March 6, 2008.
[3] Rory McCarthy, “Israeli Minister Warns of Holocaust for Gaza if Violence Continues.” The Guardian, March 1, 2008. www.guardian.co.uk.
[4] “The Tragedy in Gaza .”
[5] For example, Katha Pollitt’s petition, “An Open Letter from American Feminists,” posted at: http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2008/01/6901_an_open_letter.html.
See also: Debra Dickerson, “What NOW? Feminist Fatigue and the Global Quest for Women’s Rights,” Mother Jones. www.MotherJones_com.News.mht
[6] “16-Year Sentence in Honor Killing,” The New York Times, March 5, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/world/middleeast/05honor.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Honor+Killing+March+5%2C+2008&st=nyt&oref=slogin.
[7] Patrick O’Connor and Rachel Roberts, “The New York Times Marginalizes Palestinian Women and Palestinian Rights.” November 7, 2006.
[8] Ruth Sinai, “Arab Women – the Most Exploited Group in Israeli Workforce.” Haaretz, January 2, 2008. www.haaretz.com.

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