In this ROAR magazine essay, Dilar Dirik explores what brings women together internationally: liberation. Liberation for everyone (yeah guys too).
In the colonial context, or more generally within oppressed communities and classes, the household constituted the only sphere of control for the subjected male, who seemed to be able to assert his dignity and authority only in his family — a miniature version of the state or colony.
Historically, although women have participated in liberation movements in various capacities, their demands were often pushed aside in favor of what was identified by (usually male) leaders as the priority objective.
without a total divorce from patriarchy, without a war on our internalized self-enslavement, we cannot play our historic role in the general struggle for liberation.
This is a common idea in feminism, the self-inflicted sexism. This concept in
progressive movements and struggles that have the potential to fight power are confronted with what Arundhati Roy refers to as the “NGO-ization of resistance.” One of the primary tools to enclose and tame women’s rebellion and rage is the delegation of social struggles to the realm of civil society organizations and elite institutions that are often necessarily detached from the people on the ground. It is no coincidence that every country that has been invaded and occupied by Western states claiming to import “freedom and democracy” is now home to an abundance of NGOs for women’s rights. The fact that violence against women is on the rise in the same aggressor countries should raise questions about the function and purpose that such organizations play in the justification of empire.
Today, women are expected to cheerlead self-congratulatory manifestations of the most overt forms of imperialism and neoliberalism for their “gender inclusivity” or “female friendliness.” This grotesque appropriation of women’s struggles and gender equality was demonstrated in a recent joint article in The Guardian, co-authored by Hollywood star and UN ambassador Angelina Jolie and NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, in which the two made public their collaboration to ensure that NATO fulfils “the responsibility and opportunity to be a leading protector of women’s rights.”
The imperialist mentality underlying the logic that NATO, one of the main culprits of global violence, genocide, unreported rape, feminicide and ecological catastrophe, will lead the feminist struggle by training its staff to be more “sensitive” to women’s rights is a summary of the tragedy of liberal feminism today.
The problem today is not identity-based politics, but liberalism’s co-optation thereof to remove its radical intersectional and anti-capitalist roots. As a result, mostly white female heads of state, female CEOs and other female representatives of a bourgeois order based on sexism and racism are crowned as the icons of contemporary feminism by the liberal media — not the militancy of women in the streets who risk their lives in the struggle against police states, militarism and capitalism.
As oppressed groups, particularly women, have historically experienced, one’s liberation cannot be surrendered to the same systems that reproduce unbearable violence and subjugation.
Revolutionary women’s struggles — as opposed to contemporary liberal appropriations of feminist language — have always embodied the spirit of internationalism in their fights by taking the lead against fascism and nationalism.