Vol. 2, Is. 3: The Feminist Issue
Winter Issue 3, 2010
I can remember when I first wrote “Women, Race and Class” in 1981…everyone started calling me a feminist. My response was, “Who, me? I’m not a feminist! I’m a revolutionary Black woman who identifies with working class peoples struggles all over the world! How could I be a feminist!?”
-Angela Davis, Feb 3 2010, York University
The York community was very lucky to have recently hosted a lecture by Angela Davis, who has been one of the most influential and inspiring anti-racist feminist activists and writers for decades. While there are many stimulating parts of her lecture, her thoughts on the complexities, contradictions and possibilities for feminism are particularly relevant to the YU Free Press as we enthusiastically present to you our third Issue this school year: The Feminist Issue!
It is worth noting that we ourselves at the YUFP have had many conversations and debates regarding what exactly to call this Issue. Davis’ initial reservations with being called a ‘feminist’, exemplified in the quote above, speaks to the ways in which feminism has time and time again been named by middle-upper class, heterosexual, able-bodied white women as a type of politics only relevant to themselves. Feminism has historically and continually been stolen from marginalized women and trans people with critical and strong voices, causing many revolutionaries, both in and out of the spotlight, to be weary of feminism. As such, we at the YUFP recognize the importance of considering how we are utilizing and mobilizing the concept of feminism, and for whom.
Davis goes on to explain how her attitudes toward feminism changed throughout time, as the category of feminism has changed and been reclaimed by the marginalized voices so often excluded. She tells a story of how she worked to change the name of the department in UC Santa Cruz from ‘Women’s Studies’ to ‘Feminist Studies’: “Because we argued it wasn’t only about studying women! It’s not only about studying gender!…This assumption that feminism is only about gender has been a result of a kind of yearning for simplicity, that has racialized feminism as white…[But] I can’t imagine a feminism that is not anti-racist.”
It is in this spirit that the YUFP approaches our Feminist Issue. We acknowledge that feminism has histories, methodologies and politics that are complex, contradictory and often exclusionary. However, we also assert that critical feminisms hold the possibility to re-write oppressive histories, tell stories that are often forgotten and ignored, and listen to voices that are repeatedly silenced and rendered irrelevant. Critical feminisms create languages and methods to seriously engage with hierarchies of race, class, sexuality, ability, as well as gender. They open spaces to mobilize against state-based violence and contemporary practices of colonialism, slavery and genocide. It is with these considerations that we have chosen to give space and voice to the narratives of feminism featured in this Issue.
We recognize that different kinds of feminisms, including anti-racist feminism, are continually contested and re-organized. In order to challenge the ways in which dominant anti-racism is often heterosexist, homophobic and transphobic, we feature pieces by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Lauren Pragg with Shaunga Tagore to center the experiences of queer women and trans people of colour, as well as Indigenous Two-Spirit people. Furthermore, we include “Law Enforcement Violence against Native Women, Native Trans People and Two Spirit People” by the ‘Incite! Women of Color against Violence’ collective to assert that although it is a violence not often spoken of even in racialized communities, Indigenous queer women and Two Spirit people are among the most brutally attacked by police/military forces and colonial state-based violence.
The articles we feature for our Feminist Issue interestingly focus on the body as a prime target of sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist violence. Nidhi Punyarthi examines the passport as a device of racist, heterosexist and homophobic nationalism used to regulate and violate bodies rendered non-citizen; Laura J. Kwak explores histories of slavery that have produced Black women’s bodies and reproduction property of the slave master, as well as the implications of this history; Jen Rinaldi discusses the impact ableism has on controlling and limiting women’s access to reproductive freedom. Similarly, poetry by Jorge Antonio Vallejos and poetry/photography by Shaunga Tagore compel us to ask a number of questions about bodies: What kinds of bodies are often (un)noticed and (de)valued when violated? What kinds of bodies are worth mourning for, and which do we let disappear? How do we force sexist, heterosexist and racist judgements upon racialized women’s bodies that have physical impacts on their freedom and empowerment? How do we employ these judgements in our classrooms, within our collective/community organizing, during our casual, brief interactions with others, in our most intimate relationships?
We have also published a number of articles that do not fall under our theme of feminism, but are nonetheless important to cover. Significantly, we have featured a number of solidarity statements addressing the current situation in Haiti in our News and Comments Sections: statements from the Kapit-Bisig Centre, Magkaisa Centre and Kalayaan Centre and Adoptees of Colour all take different approaches in linking the consequences of the earthquake to larger issues of foreign colonial invasion that have historical precedent. Further, Canova Kutuk and Daniel Tseguay contribute similar historical interpretations of Haiti’s current moment, and connect how such contextualized understandings should inform bottom-up relief efforts in the region that empower local inhabitants as opposed to continuing centuries-old colonial legacies.
Our News and Comments Sections also zero in on a number of stories relevant to our campus and beyond: For example, in our News Section find Canadian-HART’s statement of the recent arrest of a YorkU student in Indonesia while advocating for the rights and freedom of Tamil refugees. In our Comments Section, readers can look forward to examining Jen Rinaldi and Chelsea Flook’s argumentative piece which analyzes ‘Vari Hall Renovations from a Disability Studies Perspective’ as well as Jordy Cumming’s questioning as to why, and to why extent ‘Is York University Ditching Guaranteed Student Funding?’
We would also like to note that many of our submissions for this issue are creative works, and it is no coincidence that this is the case for our Feminist Issue. Poetry, photography, music and other types of art have historically and contemporarily been a strong force to mobilize critical feminist activism and politics. The YUFP insists that creative art is just as political and significant as other expressions and types of journalism. Near the end of her talk, Angela Davis states: “…the kind of feminism I’m talking about has the capacity to embrace more and more complexity in response to historical circumstances. I think that is what renders feminism so exciting, this is what renders it so radical.” On that note, the YUFP welcomes you to our Feminist Issue!