Browse Tag: Spectra Speaks

Melissa Harris Perry, Host of MSNBC Show, Digs My Principles of Afrofeminism

Melissa Harris Perry (who hosts her own NBC show) says my interview at Ms. Magazine, during which I talk about my Principles of Afrofeminism, is now one of her favorite reads. Okay, I can die now.

 

Note: This interview was published on Ms. Magazine’s via The Femisphere Series by Avital Norman Nathman (@TheMamaFesto). The latest installment focused on profiling African Feminists in the blogsphere. I was one of three, so I’m honored that MHP picked my interview to share.

When I decided to concept my own personal framework, afrofeminism (not to be confused with a contraction for African Feminism, because neither feminism, social justice, spirituality etc — all frameworks I pull from — have ever been enough for me), I secretly thought it was silly and that no one would get it.

Thus, to have MHP — a reputable, brilliant, woman of color feminist — affirm my ideas, including that Love as a Revolution is meaningful, is absolutely everything.

A little bit about her — and why I’m honored that she shared my interview with nearly 100,000 Twitter followers:

Melissa Harris Perry is the host of MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry” (which airs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM to noon ET). In addition to hosting her own show on MSNBC she provides expert commentary on U.S. elections, racial issues, religious questions and gender concerns for Politics Nation with Reverend Al Sharpton, The Rachel Maddow Show and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and other MSNBC shows.

She is a regular commentator on Keeping it Real Radio with Reverend Al Sharpton and for many print and radio sources in the U.S. and abroad. Her new book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (Yale 2011), argues that persistent harmful stereotypes-invisible to many but painfully familiar to black women-profoundly shape black women’s politics, contribute to policies that treat them unfairly, and make it difficult for black women to assert their rights in the political arena.

Her academic research is inspired by a desire to investigate the challenges facing contemporary black Americans and to better understand the multiple, creative ways that African Americans respond to these challenges. Her work is published in scholarly journals and edited volumes and her interests include the study of African American political thought, black religious ideas and practice, and social and clinical psychology.

Thank you, Melissa Harris Perry! I so wanna be like you when I grow up!

Check it out my interview on Ms. Magazine if you haven’t already; I share the core concepts behind Afrofeminism, including Love and personal relationships as a framework for change.

You can also read about my thoughts on Ms. Magazine’s Femisphere series: What Does an African Feminist Look Like?

Love and Afrofeminism: Introducing a New Blog Series and #AfroFemLove Twitter Chat

Dear Readers, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be hosting a brand new guest blog at Bitch Magazine on “Love and Afrofeminism”!

I welcome this break from discussing politics to exploring Love, a topic I’m very passionate about, and the foundation for all my work, so I hope you’ll support me by reading along. You can expect posts (and, as always, vibrant discussions) about the usual suspects: gender roles, queer romance, masculinity/femininity, racism, transphobia, and exoticism in dating preferences, feminism, sex, and BDSM, self-love and martyrdom in activism, and a whole lot more. Check out the full post below.

—————

For the past ten years, my work has focused on using media to facilitate conversations around important feminist issues: gender, sexism, racism, media, etc. So when the editors at Bitch invited me to guest blog this summer, I surprised even myself when I told them I wasn’t interested in writing about any of those things; instead, I wanted to write about Love.

What Is Afrofeminist Love?
The more I thought about the idea of blog series exploring Love and Relationships through an afrofeminist lens, the more it made sense. Here are a few reasons why…

I attempted suicide when I was in college; the culmination of my experiences with bullying, homophobia, sexual assault, racism, not to mention the absence of affirming images of “me” anywhere in the media, eroded my self worth and left me with no hope one night. Even though I recovered and resolved to persist for the sake of my friends and family, my failure to practice self-love kept me in a dark place of depression for years after.

It was ultimately the love I discovered for and from community—friends, fellow immigrants, queers, women of color, Africans, etc.—that saved my life; both the sense of belonging and accountability that came via my role as a community organizer (Founding Director of QWOC Media Wire) were enough to give me the hope and affirmation I needed to better tend to my mental health, and join the ranks of the people who fight every day to make the world a little bit better.

I fell in love, with the wrong woman, and ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship—an “on-again, off-again, perpetual invalidation of my needs, bad sex, and thoughts of purchasing a one-way ticket to an island I couldn’t pronounce” type of relationship, in which I was a survivor who was constantly portrayed as the abuser because of my more masculine gender presentation. Contrary to the overly simplistic narratives in the L Word, being in and out of love as a young queer woman of color, struggling to make ends meet and affirm my identity as masculine of center (without being pigeon-holed into having unsatisfying sex) didn’t turn out to be all that glamorous.

When I finally fell in love with the right woman, and dared to daydream of our queer, afrofeminist, Nigerian-Puertominican wedding, it dawned on me that hate crimes against gender non-conforming people of color, traditionalist anti-gay legislation in African countries, and white-male-led campaigns for equal marriage, weren’t just issues, but very real circumstances in my life; it occurred to me that my political perspective on diamonds would become a personal obstacle as both my partner and I wrestled with ways to validate our future engagement to our immigrant parents (who still think being gay is an “American thing”). We laugh about how we’re caving to societal pressure when we pontificate on the more superficial elements of our life-threatening wedding ceremony in Nigeria: rings or no rings? Should our fathers still “give us away” (provided they don’t disown us for attempting to get married in the first place)? And wouldn’t it be fun to force our brothers to wear bridesmaids dresses? But I digress.

Love, Actually, Is All Around Us
This isn’t just about me, my terrible and awesome relationships, or even just about the politicization of marriage. My definition of love is far more expansive due to my work as an activist; I see very clearly how love in various forms (for self, for others, for community) can influence and drive so many parts of our lives.

I’ve seen queer women of color struggle to find love and acceptance outside of their families, and, despite messages that influence so many people into hinging their finding the “perfect partner’ on serendipitious, accidental, meet-cutes, how the act of “choosing” love can lead to more fuilfilling partnerships, and sex lives! I’ve spoken with teachers who have lost youth to suicide, and seen the love of community birth political leaders from personal tragedy. I’ve watched girls wither away from lack of self-love at the hand of the media’s white, thin, standard of beauty; and I’ve seen girls with so much self-love check them on that BS.

Love is absolutely a feminist issue, a recurring theme in various parts of the political landscape. But we’ve grown so accustomed to framing our discussions and ideas for progress around everything but love—instead, facts, figures, statistics, issues, enlightement or problematicness—that I fear we’ve inadvertently distanced ourselves from the most important part of any of this: our lives and experiences as people.

Hence, this series will be dedicated to discussing and exploring love through a very personal lens, including Love for Self, Love for Others, and Love for Our Community and/or Environment—and the pop culture messages that influence our relationship with Love.

What I’ll Be Writing About
You can expect posts (and hopefully, vibrant discussions) about the usual suspects: gender roles, queer romance, masculinity/femininity and estate management, racism, transmisogyny, exoticism in dating preferences, feminism and BDSM, self-love and martyrdom in activism, and more.

Incidentally, I was recently featured in the Femisphere series at Ms. magazine, during which I talked about love as the propelling force behind all my work. I also discussed afrofeminism, the framework I created for myself to move through the world, and through which I believe that personal relationships—and the love that facilitates them—are the building blocks of progress. So, I encourage you all to read it as this is the “place” from which I’ll be writing.

Join My Twitter Chats on #AfroFemLove 
In addition to my blog posts, I’ll be leading discussions on Love and many peripheral subjects on Twitter! I’ve already started hosting impromptu Twitter chats about Love and Afrofeminism, which I hope will inform and/or complement my posts. I encourage you to follow me @spectraspeaks and join the conversation by also following and using the hashtag #afrofemlove.

What Do You Want to Talk About?
Lastly, I’m open to suggestions for topics to include/tackle in my series, so if you’ve been dying to discuss something, please leave a comment below with your idea. I’m looking forward to exploring, evolving, and learning to love better, with all of you.

What Does an African Feminist Look Like? Ms. Magazine Features African Feminist Bloggers

I was recently interviewed by writer, feminist, and #africansforafrica ally, , for her Femisphere series on the reknowned Ms. Magazine.

The Femisphere is “a blog series of the many diverse corners of the feminist blogsphere,” and the latest installment featured three African feminists, Minna Salami (aka Afropolitan)Lesley Agams, and yours truly. Here’s the introduction to the series:

Despite centuries of cultural practice that has routinely silenced the voices of African women, one of the most vibrant and vocal online global feminist communities comes from Africa. The online writers from the African feminist movement are nuanced and complex as they share their stories, their lives, their struggles and their triumphs.

And here’s an excerpt from my interview:

My writing isn’t so much about the topics I write about as it is how I write about them. There are the usual suspects — women, gender, LGBT, and other identity issues — filtered through an international lens due to my Nigerian heritage and media advocacy and development work in Africa. But I also take the approach of highlighting solutions versus contributing to the constant re-articulation of problems I find over-saturates the feminist blogsphere.

I pride myself on thinking forward, and so I push myself to write from a place of hope and positivity. I believe that personal relationships — not just rhetoric — are the building blocks of progress, and that winning hearts — not just arguments — are what bring about real change. My afrofeminist principles are a roadmap for navigating the spaces between us as human beings, towards deeper, more empathic connections. My mantra is “Love is My Revolution”.

You can read my full interview here, during which I share my principles of Afrofeminism for the first time. Also, check out Minna and Lesley‘s interviews as well.

Diversity Is Important within the Context of Discussing Africans, Too

The series is titled “The Femisphere: African Feminist Bloggers”, but I think it’s important to note that all of the feminists included in this round are West African.

As I applauded the voices of my sisters, Lesley and Minna, I thought instantly of other African feminists I know, and wondered how they would feel about seeing a list of “African Feminists” occupied by mainly west Africans, and specifically Nigerians. Though African women’s voices are marginalized in western media, the fact still remains that Nigeria is one of the most economically advantaged countries in Africa, and its citizens, the most tech-savvy Africans on the web. Hence, we often dominate (or at least take up a lot of space on) Twitter lists, “Top __ lists”, and important media conversations about Africa.

Still, to expect that Ms. Magazine could capture all of this in a series featuring just three African bloggers is unrealistic. The short list certainly created obstacles to featuring a more diverse set of African feminist voices, but this is generally the case when we expect westerners to highlight our work; we’re either presented as special interest and thrown into the same bucket, or by way of tokenization, pitted against each other as we struggle for the few seats at the table, or in this case, slots in a blog series. (Must-Read: Ms Afropolitan’s piece on the problem with reductive Twitter lists).

I must add at this point, that Minna and Lesley inspire me daily, and that all three of us (including our Twitter #afrifem family) were absolutely thrilled and proud of this series. For this reason, I’m grateful to the writer for the work she put in researching this topic, seeking out writers/bloggers — including myself, and crafting questions that gave us enough room to talk about the complexity our work and present original viewpoints, versus react to reductive questions e.g. how is African feminism different from western feminism? Oy, if I had a penny for every time a white woman asked me to explain my experiences in relation to hers, I’d be rich.

Whose Responsibility Is It to Highlight African Feminism?

Too often, due to our voices being excluded in the media, our stories and perspectives are constantly re-presented, re-told, and/or reduced to incidental testimonies; due to the hegemony of western narratives, implicit in so many questions about Africa (and African feminists) is the fallacy that our stories come second, our perspectives are deduced from outside of the continent, and that our stories only exist to add context to other people’s conversations about us. So, over and over again, we’re asked to frame what we say about who we are around a western narratives; this is tiring, to say the least. Hence, the opportunity to share what I perceive as the nuances within my own framework, #afrofeminism, was (and is always) welcome.

Nonetheless, the responsibility lies on us as African women — and this is true for any group, LGBT, people of color, disabled etc — to create our own spaces, big enough to hold all our complex, nuanced perspectives. It is ultimately the responsibility of every African feminist to speak up, contribute to the conversation, create our own media spaces so that we don’t rely on westerners to portray African feminism authentically. As we continue to have conversations amongst ourselves, and define who we are, our stories and perspectives will carry more weight.

As Lesley Agams states so eloquently:

White feminism drowned out our voices with their privileged access to the media. I’ve heard their stories, I want to hear from my African sisters and not just the ones with Ph.D’s. Before the internet I mostly heard what white feminism and their black students had to say about me and about us. Now I can hear what my African sisters say about me and about us and compare our experiences, our priorities and our needs and articulate those when speaking to white feminisms. Maybe then when we speak in a loud voice together they will actually listen to us.

When people visit Ms. Magazine to read about “African Feminists” what will they walk away with? How are we unique? What experiences do we share? More importantly, given the short length of the list, what assumptions about African feminists are being perpetuated? Are we all Nigerian? Does it matter what country we’re from or where we’re living? (Yes, I think it does). What kind of language do we use? What spaces do we typically occupy?

What does an African Feminist look like? 

Tokenization is Oppression’s Most Powerful Weapon: My Thoughts on Storify

Tokenization is Oppression’s Most Powerful Weapon

The other day, I was reflecting on tokenization and shared a few of my thoughts. I often tweet when I should be writing, which is why storify is a great tool for someone like me who’s very busy, and doesn’t always have time (read: procrastinates) to write full essays.

Storified by Spectra Speaks · Sat, May 19 2012 14:34:47

The folks at @openforum2012 (OSISA) asked me to share my thoughts as it’s relevant to the conference they’re convening in Capetown next week. So, you have them to thank (or chastize) for my stream of consciousness. 
My ppl are excluded, I speak on it, powers that be try to silence me, give up once they realize it won’t work, deploy tokenization insteadSpectra Speaks
Tokenization is one of my biggest gripes; and I’m not just talking about the ridiculous idea of having one person rep an entire group…Spectra Speaks
Tokenization fragments communities. It is the tactic that is deployed once the powers that be realize we won’t shut up — divide and conquerSpectra Speaks
Tokenization is how our unity is tested; can we stand together in the face of oppressors throwing scraps at our feet for us to fight over?Spectra Speaks
#Tokenization is tricky because it’s often presented as a solution i.e. "we’re trying." And so we’re guilted into accepting it. RESIST.Spectra Speaks
Beyond the obvious fact that we shouldn’t expect one person to represent entire communities, #tokenization is a sedative of a solution.Spectra Speaks
#Tokenization is the reason many white people have the audacity to suggest the US is now "post-racial" a la "Obama is black." No.Spectra Speaks
#Tokenization is the reason the mainstream gay community thinks #ChazBono celebdom means there’s no more transphobia.Spectra Speaks
#Tokenization is a sedative, not a solution.Spectra Speaks
#Tokenization attempts to create the illusion of progress; it ridicules our demands for change with examples of those "who made it"Spectra Speaks
But #tokenization can be confusing; how to distinguish between a small step towards progress we can support, and a downright lie?Spectra Speaks
And so we scratch our heads, fight amongst ourselves because we can’t agree on whether or not we believe the lie #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
#Tokenization dulls our senses, distorts our view of who the real enemy is; we’re blinded, and so begin to swing blindly at our brethren.Spectra Speaks
Meanwhile, the powers at be proceed w/ their agenda, the task of silencing us conveniently delegated to our brethren. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
Amidst the noise, some of us will realize what is happening, and pause. We shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
See the they’re not winning through force anymore; they can’t. They’re winning by making us fight over limited resources. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
I have three cats. Three feeding stations. When I get lazy, and fill just one, something very familiar happens… #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
My cats start to hiss and swipe at each other in an attempt to reach the first bowl quicker than the others… #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
This ‘movement’ thing is getting to me. I now see my communities reflected in hissing and spitting among my hungry cats. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
The thing is… they’re not just cats. I’m pretty sure if they banded together in anger I’d be in serious trouble. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
Unity only works if we stand together, no matter what. Not a single one of us should ever break the line to reach for scraps #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
Maybe a holding a ‘line’ over simplifies what unity means, at least to me. We’re not all shackled in the same way. #tokenization #privilegeSpectra Speaks
When you "hold the line" in battle, there’s an entire camp of people behind you. We’re protecting/advocating for each other. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
Moral of the story: We need to hold the line. But we can’t hold the line if we’re running the same shit camp as our oppressors #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
We can’t be united if we’re so quick to reach for scraps, leave others behind because those w/ privilege decide agenda. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
We cannot resist the fragmenting impact of #tokenization at any level, until we learn to see ourselves as privileged in some way.Spectra Speaks
For #tokenization to work, it depends on many of us submitting to being victims all the time; prioritizing OUR needs just to survive.Spectra Speaks
Perhaps this means I should finish my essay about what we can learn about #tokenization from visiting the zoo?Spectra Speaks
A few others on Twitter chimed in to echo some of my thoughts, including two of my favorite African Feminists, MsAfropolitan and the founder of 419Positive. In particular, we’d chatted about the lack of visibility (in male-dominated Nigerian and western media) of Nigerian women in the occupy movement a few months prior, which quickly spiraled into a divisive debate between African women on the continent and the Diaspora living abroad. 
Now reading @spectraspeaks #tokenization tweets. Powerful truthful words. #AfrifemMinna Salami
@spectraspeaks @MsAfropolitan Thanks. Puts the disagreement over ‘missing’ women at #OccupyNigeria into context. #tokenization #Afrifemrmajayi
@spectraspeaks @MsAfropolitan Minna & others had questioned the absence of women as evidenced in the photos available #tokenization #Afrifemrmajayi
@spectraspeaks @MsAfropolitan on ground. The women felt Minna, others had no place to ‘criticise’ because they were abroad. #tokenizationrmajayi
Meanwhile, the men had somehow weasled their way out of the conversation. Someone saw the twitter debate happening, and scrounged up some pictures to post, effectively suggesting that our questioning had been unwarranted, invalidating our concern. “See!? They’re women here!” And the women chimed in, too.
@rmajayi @spectraspeaks Yup. Women can be staunch defenders of patriarchy& villainize women who disrupt gender "harmony".also #tokenizationMinna Salami
@rmajayi @spectraspeaks Re the occupy tweets I jumped into a convo that was already taking place #tokenizationMinna Salami
@rmajayi @spectraspeaks & jumped out when it became clear that folks wanted 2 attack ‘abroadians’ rather than focus on d issue #tokenizationMinna Salami
@rmajayi @spectraspeaks What felt important was 2 prevent the #tokenization western media would bring by debating gender roles…Minna Salami
@rmajayi @spectraspeaks …in the protests before that convo took place amongst Nigerians themselves #tokenizationMinna Salami
@rmajayi @MsAfropolitan One of the effects of #tokenization: advocacy sounds like criticism, provoking defensiveness, quarrel within groupsSpectra Speaks
@MsAfropolitan @rmajayi No one wants to feel like their value is being reduced to puppetry by the oppressor. Hence #tokenization is tricky.Spectra Speaks
@MsAfropolitan @rmajayi Important to have convos that don’t instigate the blame game. Fighting each other means we lose. #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
@spectraspeaks @rmajayi Yes, I like that point you made. & not only privilege; can be misused as #tokenization in itself. Honesty, allroundMinna Salami
@spectraspeaks @rmajayi How to foster such dialogue? Think one thing is to be aware of tensions within ourselves we all have #tokenizationMinna Salami
@MsAfropolitan @rmajayi Agreed. Tweeted earlier abt acknowledging privilege within "the line" to work towards real solidarity #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
@spectraspeaks @rmajayi & that we speak to each other from. Who can claim ownership? #tokenizationMinna Salami
@MsAfropolitan @rmajayi Man, I don’t think Twitter can hold all the feelings I have about #diaspora abroad vs. home tensions #tokenizationSpectra Speaks
@spectraspeaks @rmajayi Yes, I like that point you made. & not only privilege; can be misused as #tokenization in itself. Honesty, allroundMinna Salami
@spectraspeaks So true, same. I’m looking fwd to having these conversations in the flesh next week. Stay tuned @rmajayi #tokenizationMinna Salami
Let’s continue the conversation. Follow me @spectraspeaks and share your thoughts on #tokenization

Spectra is an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks, which publishes global news and opinions about all things gender, media, diversity, and the Diaspora.

She is also the founder of Queer Women of Color Media Wire (www.qwoc.org), a media advocacy and publishing organization that amplifies the voices of lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or transgender women of color, diaspora, and other racial/ethnic minorities around the world.

Follow her tweets on diversity, movement-building, and love as a revolution on Twitter @spectraspeaks.

Reflections from a Woman of Color on the War on Women: “My Sisters-in-Arms, We Are Not United”

Yesterday, I took part in the MA Women United Against the War on Women rally at Boston City Hall. 

Across the US, thousands of men, women and children gathered in front of municipal buildings to voice their outrage at recent state and federal initiatives to propose and/or implement anti-women measures, including the GOP’s attempt to redefine rape, making abortions illegal or virtually inaccessible to low-income women, and removing government mandates for companies to include birth control coverage in the health insurance they offer to employees.

Despite the fact that it took challenging the white women organizers to include more women of color in their speaker lineup — as a little birdie told me — I was honored to be invited to participate, and share the stage with fellow women’s rights activists and feminists, Jaclyn Friedman, Sarah Jackson, @graceishuman, Idalia, and even Norma Swenson, reknowned author of the book, Our Bodies, Ourselves.

I found myself thinking about the concept of “unity,” and the fact that so many women of color, immigrants, transgender women etc are often left out of mainstream women’s movements. But this isn’t news to me, nor to my mentors separated from my experience by four whole decades — mentors who fought so that I would have something different to say to white women “united” for (white) women. It breaks my heart to tell them that we’re still having the same conversations after all their sacrifices.

Hence, for the rally, I decided to have an honest conversation about marginalization with the crowd via a call-and-response speech I partly improvised. Here’s the message I gave, in poem-ish form.

Post-Rally Reflection: To speak from a place of anger doesn’t always mean to speak from a place that is without love. How emotional I became when speaking to the rally yesterday has everything to do with how much I love my comrades of all shades and stripes, fellow women, my sisters-in-arms. And their response to my calling out to them, “My Sisters in Arms” with “We Are Listening” helped me through my anger to the other side… hope.

—-

When I was younger, I dreamed of being part of a revolution.

I imagined it would feel very much like it did in the movies, like Braveheart for instance:

Mel Gibson riding back and forth on horseback, pumping his fist in the air
as he inspired the army before him to FIGHT for their freedom,
we would win this war together.

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

Like every big budget Hollywood movie,
I’d be the handsome, mysterious, emotionally constipated protagonist
who never really wanted to fight,
but live happily ever after in the same village of my beautiful virgin wife-to-be…

until one day,
the fight came to me

and wiped away the smiles of my love, my family, my home.

Only THEN, would I charge forth, my spirit consumed by purposeful rage
and the moment — the moment I’d dreamed of having my entire life — would arrive…

the epic war speech.

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

Yes, like Braveheart, my heart would be re-forged in stone; I would feel a bond with my comrades united in arms (and social media channels) like I’d never felt before.

And in that moment, against the violins and horns of a moving Hans Zimmer film score,
in the faces of all my sisters standing before me,
I would remember:

the battle, the war, the revolution
isn’t about me,
the battle, the war, the revolution
isn’t about them
but about US.

We would stand UNITED against whatever forces dared to oppose us,
and charge forth together.

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

But the revolution hasn’t quite turned out like the Hollywood movie I’d imagined it would be.
For one, it actually never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be riding a horse.

Mel Gibson turned out to be one of the biggest bigots of all time.
And sexual assault has caused too much pain to the women I love to perpetuate the idea that virginity is a prize to be won,
not when rape is still being used as a mass weapon of war.

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

It’s true, the revolution hasn’t quite turned out the way I dreamed it would be,
it never occurred to me
that battle after battle,
rally after rally,
I would find myself standing in front of a sea of white women who don’t look like me,
having to keep reminding them that:

United we stand, Divided we fall.
United we stand, Divided we fall

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

I know why we’re here.
There is a war on women happening,
We’re angry — and we’ve had enough.
On that we agree.

But today, I want to make sure we do more than just agree.
I want to make sure we’re paying attention to our subconscious definition of “we”
I want to make sure we’re paying attention to who is missing.

Look around you, my Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

I ask you to consider,
is the women’s movement making a stand, or falling into pieces?
Are we uniting through our differences so that we can be stronger?
Or reaching for something way less grand,
with way less hands,
hoping that our “good intentions” will pay off if we just wait a little longer?

Which members of this army — of our family — are missing?

Where are the voices of low income women of color?
Where are the voices of transgender women?
Where is the rest of our family?

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

This women’s movement shouldn’t just voice the concerns of women who are pissed
that they may have to pay for birth control out-of-pocket,
but the concerns of low-income women who would have no access to birth control, period
because they rely completely on government-mandated coverage,
I know you agree, but…

My Sisters-in-Arms, are you listening?
(We Are Listening!)

we cannot profess to be building a movement for ALL women,
we cannot claim that we are UNITED against anything — especially not a war on women
when too many women of color, transgender women, women with disabilities — members of our family, are missing.

My Sisters-in-Arms…
(We Are Listening!)

When we picture the women’s movement what faces do we see?
What voices do we hear?
And are they reflected in our choices? In our larger strategy?
Are transgender women a part of this movement?
Have we done our jobs to make that clear?

If so, where is the outrage when transgender women are murdered at an alarming rate in this country?
Where is the feminist takedown when — even in death — the media refers to our trans sisters with male pronouns and the media suggests that their very existence warranted their assault and murder?

Too many transgender women are being left behind.
Too many members of our family are dying.
Too many members of our family are being  tortured and incarcerated, simply for surviving,
Just because we’re too busy “uniting” to look behind.

My Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!) 

You must do better.
We must do better.

If I’ve learned anything about real-life revolutions
it’s that they sometimes can take on the form of the war you’re fighting.
it’s that it matters less what you’re fighting for, but who is fighting with you

The War on Women needs to mean more than reproductive justice for middle class white women.
The War on Women needs to mean more than the debate over abortion and birth control.
The War on Women must mean to us the impact of racism on women of color and our sons.
The War on Women must mean to us the impact of racism, sexism, and homophobia on transgender women of color.
The War on Women must mean to us the impact of un-checked privilege and ignorance within  our movement.
The War between Women is real.

And until we can be brave enough to face the truth —
that we have to END the war over who counts as “women” amongst ourselves
we are NOT united.

My Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!) 

We are NOT united, yet.
But I know we can get there.

I believe in you, my Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!) 

I know we can get there.
And so I dare to dream of the day
when I can finally show up to rallies and protests
and not have to say,
“Where are my sisters?”
but “Here are my sisters, united.”

I dare to dream of the day when we can all feel the impact of true sisterhood
and unleash the power of sisters-in-arms, united,
against those who dare to challenge our quest for liberation.

My Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!) 

I believe in us.

My Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!) 

We are not united, now.
Let’s do the work, now
To make sure that one day, we will be.

And when that day comes,

My Sisters-in Arms
(We Are Listening!)

God help them.

Spectra is an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks, which publishes global news and opinions about all things gender, media, diversity, and the Diaspora.

She is also the founder of Queer Women of Color Media Wire (www.qwoc.org), a media advocacy and publishing organization that amplifies the voices of lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or transgender women of color, diaspora, and other racial/ethnic minorities around the world.

Follow her tweets on diversity, movement-building, and love as a revolution on Twitter @spectraspeaks.


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