Diversity Feminism.

I have both a spiritual and justice agenda in life. Simply put, it is the empowerment of the Feminine and the healing/balancing of the Masculine – in my country of citizenship, in my country of birth, in the Pacific/Oceania region, and globally.

The text below has been sitting in my hard drive for eight months. I wrote it one evening, for myself, in the midst of one of those frustrating public discussions that occasionally arises regarding what feminism is and isn’t, who is and isn’t a good feminist, and why some women distance themselves from the term altogether.

It was inspired by innumerable disagreements I have observed on social media, about ‘white feminism’ and the bizarrely controversial term ‘intersectionality’; and my frustration with how essential conversations about the diversity (different realities) of women are often handled in this public sphere by otherwise intelligent, brilliant people.

And it was my first ‘stream of consciousness’ attempt to articulate my personal feminist framework in my 31st year of life – specific to my experience as a citizen of a ‘settler society’ (Australia) and the barriers that exist in this context. It takes into account the diverse lived experiences of women here (the experiences I am aware of), and how some women face additional barriers due to the intersection of gender discrimination with class, race, et cetera. 

Specifically, barriers to what liberal feminists would regard as the goals of feminism: equality in the public sphere and individual self determination. I did not consult any feminist theories whilst writing this document – my views expressed below evolved over time, shaped by diverse texts, debates, public intellectuals, and lived experience.

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So here it is. what I will refer to as my version of ‘Diversity Feminism’.

It:

1) Is focused on settler societies, and their diverse populations.

The locus of my Diversity Feminism is within ‘settler societies’ such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States – countries broadly built upon the displacement of Indigenous peoples by European colonisation, racist population and border control, and waves of migration. Some of these countries have historically also accommodated forced migration – various forms of slave labour. Australia included

Justice necessitates a full acknowledgement of these histories and policies, and the legacies they produced in terms of persistent intergenerational trauma and cultural, systemic inequalities – which adversely affect some groups in society whilst privileging others. Diversity Feminism seeks to understand – through history and other disciplines, the sciences, the humanities, and the arts  – the root causes of group disadvantage, and discord.

It seeks this multi-faceted understanding, in order to find holistic and innovative solutions to these disadvantages themselves, and create a more just society.

2) Is committed to reconciliation and respect for Indigenous peoples.

Full acknowledgment of history – in particular Indigenous history, both prior to and after white colonisation – is an essential condition of reconciliation, equality, and social cohension. 

The seismic injustice and wounding that occured at the time of the foundation of settler societies, and the destruction that policies governing Indigenous communities wrought over centuries and upon generations of people, must be acknowledged – as a precursor to a healthy society, the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples and, in particular, Indigenous women and girls.

Diversity Feminism upholds that justice requires SELF DETERMINATION for Indigenous communities, and recognises the esssential leadership role Indigenous women play in this self determination. These communities are diverse – geographically and otherwise. Their histories, needs and preferences will differ. The aim of government policies should be to work with communities in order to design and tailor programs to suit them and uphold human rights.

A committment to long-term funding and a ‘self determination’ approach is crucial – communities, Indigenous women and girls, have suffered tremendously as a result of myopic funding cuts and frequent policy changes. In many cases, successful, self determination oriented policies formulated with or indeed by community leaders have been attacked and shelved as a result of the ideological biases of politicians, bureaucrats, and activists. 

Top-down, radically assimilationist policies have in many cases caused much harm. Knee-jerk resistance to “paternalistic measures” required to interrupt cycles of dysfunction can also be harmful. Again, the specific conditions and needs of each community, and the vision and wishes of each community, should determine the policies designed for them.

Finally, policy makers, the broader society, and certainly diversity feminists must acknowledge the deep racism that lingers towards the Indigenous peoples within our countries. This is undeniable – reflected in shameful statistical disparities and documented lived experiences of Aboriginal people. To deny these disparities in 2015 is, in and of itself, an act of racism. And will continue to be until those disparities are fully eliminated.

Much progress towards reconciliation has been made, and this is to be acknowledged and celebrated. But both systemic racism and incidences of personal racism towards Indigenous peoples remain ubiquitous. Respectfully understanding the histories of our nations – not just the relatively recent white settler histories, but Indigenous histories – and how they have shaped our national consciousness, is essential to understanding why.

We cannot truly close the empathy gap and support the empowerment of all Indigenous women and girls without this understanding.

3) Asserts that diversity is reality.

My Diversity Feminism obviously recognises areas of “universal” concern for women and girls in settler societies: legal equality for women; healthcare and family planning services; equal access to education, jobs, and public spaces; equal pay for equal work; progressive restructuring of education and work institutions to accomodate and value caring duties and child rearing responsibilities; freedom for girls and women from violence, abuse and harassment in all its forms.

However, by putting the locus solely on “universal” concerns, many western iterations of feminism within ‘settler societies’ fail to acknowledge or address a vast array of specific, complex obstacles that inhibit marginalised or “Othered” women within them – and prevent such women from enjoying the rights, freedoms, and equal participation in society enjoyed by the more privileged – i.e. white, able bodied, middle class women.

[This has always been the case. An historic legal example: “women” in general were not granted the right to vote in Australian Commonwealth elections in 1902; white women were. Indigenous women had to wait until 1962. In 1920 British subjects were granted ‘all political and other rights’, but South Sea Islanders were still ineligible to vote despite being British subjects. Natives of British India living in Australia were allowed to vote in 1925.]

To remedy this, Diversity Feminism centres its focus on the diverse realities of:

  • First Nations women
  • Ethnically diverse women, and linguistically diverse women
  • Women living with neurological differences, chronic illnesses and disabled women
  • Women living with psychiatric conditions
  • Elderly women
  • Transgender women
  • Single mothers
  • Women carers
  • Women who struggle with English literacy
  • Women stuck on a low income (the working poor, and welfare supported women)
  • Women trapped in abusive and/or violent relationships
  • Homeless women and women who require public housing
  • Women in remote, rural or underserviced communities
  • Same-sex attracted women
  • Women sex workers
  • Exploited workers (including non-citizens & forced/coerced labourers)
  • Women in the prison system
  • Women who have sought asylum in our countries.

These women may in theory share some of the aforementioned “universal” concerns and seek the same gender equity that white, middle class, able-bodied women do – but they face additional external barriers to the realisation of full empowerment due to factors like location, class, “race”, cultural background, literacy/language competency, and disability that can prevent them from doing so.

Diversity Feminism therefore centres the experiences of these women and seeks to examine these barriers, to understand how they intersect (“intersectionality”) with gender – in order to find multi-disciplinary, holistic policy solutions for them. Diversity Feminism is committed to ensuring all women are valued, supported, and empowered to live safe, meaningful, productive, and self determining lives.

4) Upholds and supports individual human rights, both in mainstream national culture and for women within culturally diverse communities (First Nations women included).

For the purposes of this document, cultural patriarchy is defined as: cultures in which the desires, drives and demands of men carry more weight that the desires, drives and demands of women; within which women are restricted to defined gender roles, mores of behaviour, and life paths; and within which women are prevented from ascending to leadership positions due to their sex.

Diversity Feminism supports progressive cultural change away from rigid cultural patriarchy, towards equal opportunity and rights for all women and girls – within both the broad national culture AND within its various cultural communities.

Diversity Feminism also understands that sustainable cultural change comes from within – in this case, led by women and men inside the communities in which change must occur. It therefore seeks to offer firm support to women and girls in culturally diverse communities – and their allies – to instigate progressive change within those communities.

In doing so, Diversity Feminism aims to both respect the unique identities of various cultural communities that are important to many women, AND augment such cultural communities to include recognition of human rights for women and girls. Diversity Feminism affirms those who seek to be agents of change from within.

Fundamentally, Diversity Feminism recognises the reality that many feminists successfully mediate between different cultural identities, in ways that affirm and empower them – and that cultures can change. It therefore aims to foster progressive change across all cultures towards the recognition of human rights for ALL women and girls – and more broadly, all people.

5) Upholds and supports individual human rights for women globally.

Supporting ‘change from within’ is a principle applied in relation to women and girls in other countries too. It is expressed through supporting grass roots initiatives in other countries – and between countries – to secure the rights and empowerment of women and girls around the globe. In particular, the voices and leadership of women in the “Global South”, and conflict zones, should be elevated and affirmed. Overseas movements of men for progressive cultural and legal change – the empowerment of the women in their countries – should also be supported. 

6) Understands that the nation states we live in exist within a bigger picture – a global economic system, that entrenches inequality and relies upon exploitation. 

My Diversity Feminism recognises that Western nations enjoy the level of development they do in large part as a result of centuries of mass human and resource exploitation in the “Global South”. Western colonial projects also planted the seeds of many conflicts and territorial disputes. The international relations objectives and foreign policy of countries (notably the United States) since the development of the nation-state system, have created both immense wealth for some and immense suffering for millions of others globally. Obviously, women and girls are amongst those affected. 

And Diversity Feminism recognises that the material wealth and many of the products we rely upon/enjoy are stained with the suffering of unseen, unheard, exploited workers throughout the world – many of whom are women and girls, or the family members of women and girls.

Diversity Feminism therefore supports progressive government/legislative regulations at a regional, national and international level that protect ALL people, fauna and ecosystems from:

  • human and labour rights abuses
  • unsafe and unethical business practices in all markets (including practices harmful to animals)
  • unsafe and unethical supply chains in production of goods and services
  • unsafe and unethical resource extraction and/or processing

On a personal level, my Diversity Feminism compels me to try, as much as possible, to approach consumption with a sense of responsibility to both the wellbeing of workers and responsible resource extraction in mind – supporting businesses operating ethically in accordance with regulatory measures, or of their own volition [e.g. B Corps]. 

When exercising ones political, legal and consumer freedoms, the Diversity Feminist should endeavour to make choices that align with any or all of the above.

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And… that was it. First attempt to articulate my approach to feminism as a citizen of Australia, a lady with roots in the Global South, a disabled woman. The idealist in me actually believes settler societies have the potential to be the freest, healthiest, and most harmoniously diverse societies on Earth, if they examine their national souls and do the necessary progressive justice work; my diversity feminism is very much about getting us there. I will continue to refine the vision.

© 2016 Pauline Vetuna, All Rights Reserved.


100+ Black Women You Should Know (from 1825 to present)

Peaceful greetings.

I came across an article via site for Female and Male Feminists of Color The Crunk Feminist Collective’s facebook page – in honour of Black History Month, autostraddle.com have put together this list (with beautiful photographs) documenting over 100 women to know about. The website is for same-sex attracted women, so of course the article focuses on them for the fact that each of them is lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer and/or transgender. But honestly, I think that’s the least interesting thing about them.

Have a read. My favourites are the older women, those who have passed on. I also now have a whole new list of writers and filmmakers to check out! If she was still alive, the oldest woman on the list would be 189 years old, and the youngest woman on the list is 21 years of age. All these women have public profiles and work(ed) in activism, media, entertainment, and/or the arts.

People on the list (look at the article for bios and pretty photos):

  1. Frances E.W. Harper (1825-1911), Abolitionist / Poet / Author
  2. Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis (1844-1907), Sculptor
  3. Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935), Poet / Journalist / Activist
  4. Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958), Journalist / Teacher / Poet / Playwright
  5. Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966), Poet / Playwright
  6. Ma Rainey (1886-1939), Blues Singer
  7. Gladys Bentley (1907-1960), Blues Singer
  8. Alberta Hunter (1895-1984), Blues Singer / Songwriter / Nurse
  9. Lucille Bogan (1897-1948), Blues Singer
  10. Josephine Baker (1906-1975), Dancer / Singer / Actress
  11. Bessie Smith (1894-1937), Blues Singer
  12. Carmen Mercedes McRae (1920-1994), Jazz Vocalist / Actress
  13. Ethel Waters (1896-1977), Vocalist / Actress
  14. Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), Playwright
  15. Ruby Dandridge (1900-1987), Actress
  16. Angela Davis, Activist / Author / Educator
  17. Moms Mabley (1894-1975), Comedian
  18. Ruth Ellis (1899-2000), Activist
  19. Alice Walker, Author / Activist
  20. Audre Lorde (1934-1992), Writer / Activist
  21. Mabel Hampton (1902-1989), Activist / Dancer / Philanthropist
  22. Marsha P Johnson (1944-1992), Activist / Artist
  23. Nell Carter (1946-2003), Singer / Actress
  24. Pat Parker (1944-1989), Poet / Activist
  25. Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), Politician
  26. Tracy Africa Norman, Model
  27. Danitra Vance (1954-1994), Actress/ Comedian and the first Black woman to join the cast of Saturday Night Live
  28. Margaret Sloan-Hunter (1947-2004), Writer / Activist
  29. Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), Author
  30. Barbara Smith, Writer / Activist
  31. Jewelle Gomez and Cheryl Clarke, Writers / Activists
  32. Sapphire, Writer
  33. Dionne Brand, Poet / Novelist / Essayist / Documentarian
  34. Gaye Adegbalola, Blues Singer / Activist / Teacher
  35. MeShell Ndegeocello, Musician
  36. Octavia St.Laurent (1964-1999), Musician
  37. Tracy Chapman, Musician
  38. Donna Kate Rushin, Poet
  39. Staceyann Chin, Writer / Activist / Performing Artist
  40. Alexis Hornbuckle, WNBA Basketball Player
  41. Aneesa Ferreira, The Real World: Chicago and Real World/Road Rules Challenges (MTV)
  42. AZ Marie Livingston, Model
  43. Cheryl Dunye, Filmmaker
  44. Darlene Garner, Clergyperson / Activist
  45. Coral Smith, The Real World: Back to New York & RW/RR Challenges (MTV)  […okay, the addition of this one to the list is bizarre, as are many of the younger ones on this list]
  46. E. Denise Simmons, Politician & Activist
  47. Ebony Haith, Model
  48. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Actress / Author / Rapper
  49. Fiona Zedde, Writer
  50. Gloria Bigelow, Comedian
  51. Linda Villarosa, Journalist / Author
  52. Marvita Washington, Model
  53. Melange Lavonne, Hip-Hop Musician
  54. Nalo Hopkinson, Author
  55. Nirvana Savoury, Musician
  56. Nona Hendryx, Musician / Author / Activist
  57. Pamela Sneed, Poet / Actress / Activist / Performance Artist
  58. Robin Roberts, News Anchor
  59. Sasha Mallory, Dancer
  60. Staci Michelle Yandle, Attorney
  61. Jacqueline Woodson, Author
  62. Sassy, The Black Ink Crew
  63. Skyler Cooper, Actress
  64. Wanda Sykes, Comedian / Actress
  65. Zanele Muholi, Photographer
  66. Mel B, Musician
  67. Marla Glen, Singer
  68. Chagmion Antoine, Broadcast Journalist
  69. Kathy Harris, College Hill: Interns (BET)
  70. Phaidra Knight, Athlete
  71. Monica Roberts, Journalist / Activist
  72. Sajdah Golde, The Real L Word Season Two (SHOWTIME)
  73. Sharon Bridgforth, Playwright
  74. Azealia Banks, Rapper / Singer / Songwriter
  75. Mia McKenzie, Writer
  76. Angel Haze, Rapper [to the uninitiated, remember that scene in season two of HBO’s Girls where they cut to Charlie’s work party and do a pan shot of the room, and that woman is crying on the phone? Before Marnie humiliates herself with that Kanye rendition? Angel Haze’s ‘Werkin Girls’ is the infectious track playing]
  77. Angela Robinson, Filmmaker
  78. Ari Fitz, Model / Reality TV Personality
  79. Brandi Ahzionae, Activist
  80. Brittani Nichols, Comedian
  81. Brittney Griner, WNBA Basketball Player
  82. Celisse Henderson, Musician
  83. Dalia Ali Rajah, Actress / Writer / Producer / LGBT Activist / Life Coach
  84. De’Borah Garner, The Voice
  85. Mélissa Laveaux, Musician
  86. Dee Rees, Filmmaker [I wrote about her film ‘Pariah’ here]
  87. Diana King, Musician
  88. Frenchie Davis, Musician/American Idol Contestant
  89. Genesis Tramaine, Artist
  90. Jade Ellis, Musician/The X-Factor UK
  91. Janet Mock, Author/Activist
  92. Jasika Nicole, Actress / Illustrator
  93. K Michelle, R&B Musician
  94. Keisha Sean Waites, Politician
  95. Kim Crosby, Writer
  96. KOKUMO, Musician / Writer / Entrepreneur
  97. Laverne Cox, Actress / Activist
  98. Monifah Carter, R&B Divas (TV One)
  99. Po & Dice, La-La’s Full Court Life (VH1)
  100. Raven- Symoné, Actress & Singer
  101. Roxane Gay, Writer
  102. Ruthie Foster, Musician
  103. Ryann Holmes, Co-Founder of Bklyn Boihood
  104. Bernice, South Beach Tow (Tru TV)
  105. Samantha Irby, Writer
  106. Seimone Augustus, WNBA Basketball Player
  107. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Activist
  108. Syd tha Kyd, Singer / Producer  / DJ
  109. THEE Satisfaction, Musicians
  110. Toni Newman, Author
  111. Vicki Randle, Musician
  112. Layshia Clarendon, WNBA Basketball Player
  113. Jasmine Jordan, Michael Jordan’s daughter

Here’s THAT LINK again.