As many other bloggers have been discussing this week, ShoutOut! had the privilege of attending the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (NYFLC) this past weekend. We heard from kick-ass feminist role models from all different areas of the feminist working world. They shared with us countless ideas that we’ve now added to our feminist toolkits. One idea in particular is one I hadn’t previously given enough thought to. We’re always talking about how to explain feminism to those who don’t identify as feminist, but we rarely talk about how to we view feminism within the movement itself.
What I’ve always tried to keep at the front of my mind is that not everyone is at the same point in their feminism. Oftentimes I’ve heard my gender studies classmates largely leaving class, race, power dynamics, etc. out of the conversation. But I’d encourage myself to think, “hey, at least they’re here, in this class, and that’s enough for now… Isn’t it?”
But what I walked away from this conference realizing is that we are not obligated to tip toe around one another simply because we are on the same side. We are here to move each other forward.
If you encounter feminists who are fighting the good fight, but maybe with too narrow of a perspective in terms of who it is they’re fighting for– it’s ok to remind them to reach back and pull others forward WITH them. This movement is nothing if we’re ignoring those in the margins. Our work needs to always include looking to those margins and bringing them to the center.
As Candace Bond-Theriault (National LGBTQ Task Force Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice) said at the NYFLC second day’s general assembly, “Speak for yourself and no one else.” This was in reference to one of the overarching messages of the weekend, which was a reminder to pass the mic. In order to center those who have been marginalized, we need to include them in the conversation not by speaking for them, but by creating the space for them to speak for themselves and be heard.
Topics like these have come up in my gender studies classes, and often elicit the response, “Most people are new to this movement… At least they’re showing up… We’ll scare them off if we ask too much of them.” While showing up is so important, we can’t act as though folks can only take baby steps (not only is that patronizing, it’s just untrue). It’s ok to expect more of people; it’s ok to demand more.
We’re all still finding our feminisms, and that’s ok. But it’s ok to be helping others in finding theirs, because this movement is urgent. This is a fight that has to be fought together, and we need to make sure we’re all remembering one another in the process.