If you’re new to conversations on feminism(s), social justice and global oppression – there are probably quite a few terms that are very new to you or that you are a little bit hazy on. Some of you might have exclaimed in frustration because feminists, womanists or persons concerned with social justice might have at some time or another have told you to go read a book. This is actually an incredibly helpful suggestion. Read. Read a lot. There is a lot of carefully created content online that has been designed to help you understand why the cisheteropatriarchy (which I will explain below) is the pits.
Below are some terms/ideas that it would be good if everyone understood in order to help understand what structures various feminism(s) are actively working to dismantle, as well as make clear the complexity of women’s oppression. It would be good for us to realise that none of us are free until we all are. Each segment comes with links to some lovely online resources – mostly blog posts by black women and trans and queer people, where you can read* more.
Cisheteropatriarchy – Portmanteaux describing a global oppressive super structure that is created by “smaller” oppressive structures operating together: cisnormativity and cissexism, heteronormativity and heterosexism and patriarchy. The cisheteropatriarchy secures the dominance of cisheterosexual men over women and LGBTQIA* people and normalises their exploitation by cisheterosexual men.
Cisgender – a cisgender person is someone whose gender identity matches the gender they are assigned at birth.
Cisnormativity– the assumption that all or almost all people are cisgender
Cissexism – this refers to the way in which we enforce the gender binary with the additional assumption being made that it is better to be cisgendered and that trans* people aspire to be cisgendered. This includes our social norms, attitudes, institutions and biases that continuously conflate gender with genitalia and that work to unfairly privilege cis people.
Heteronormativity – the assumption that all or almost all people are heterosexual
Heterosexism – basically this is the way in which heterosexuality is shoved down our throats with implication that it is and should be the primary and superior way of creating romantic relationships. Heterosexism is enforced through social norms, attitudes, biases and institutions such as the law. Heterosexism works to unfairly privilege heterosexual people.
Patriarchy – refers to the system that operates to concentrate social, political and economic power e.g. access to resources and the rights that come with personhood, in the hands of cisgender men and secures dominance over women (cis and trans) and persons of other genders.
Gender and Patriarchy Masterclass on Decolonize All the things. It is a full blown lesson, structured to really make you understand what we’re talking about when we use these terms. The blog is great and is a quest for a decolonised non-oppressive masculinity. It is written by a genderqueer trans man named Shay, and it is intellectually rigorous. Go learn ALL THE THINGS.
The website Everyday Feminism is a friend. Start with these great articles:
- Here are 20 examples of cissexism we’ve probably all committed at some point
- What Privilege Really Means (and doesn’t mean) – to clear up your doubts once and for all
A term coined by Moya Bailey a queer Black Feminist scholar to refer to anti-black, racist, misogyny that black women face under the triple oppressions of white supremacy, racism and patriarchy. This refers to the unique experience of black women and Bailey initially used the term in her essay for the Crunk Feminist Collective, “They aren’t talking about me…” to refer to ‘the particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual and popular culture’ and has been used as a framework to analyse black women’s experiences specifically.
Blog posts to read:
“Explanation of Misogynoir” on Gradient Lair, an excellent personal blog on womanism by Trudy. Trudy will not be putting up any new blog posts after running for almost four years, but all the articles and critiques are worth having a look at as you develop your ideas on feminism and womanism. Trudy does have a specific content use policy so please be mindful of that.
A term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in her article, “Demarginalising the intersection of race and class”. She created the term to refer to black women’s experiences under the burden of intersecting structural oppression. As a jurist, she was critiquing in particular anti-discrimination law’s inability to recognise the harms that did not and could not fit into the single-axis framework that posited that all forms of oppression were mutually exclusive. This single axis framework focused on the most privileged of an oppressed group – that is men with class privilege under anti-racist anti-discrimination laws, and white women under anti-sexist anti-discrimination laws, erasing the experiences of black women entirely. Crenshaw expanded her analysis to explain the continued marginalisation of black women in mainstream American feminist discourse (white feminism) and in anti-racist politics. Although initially focused on race and class, the framework has been expanded in order to talk about other forms of structural oppressions and marginal identies that affect women’s lives as we do not live single-issue lives e.g. disability, sexuality, gender identity, as well as geography.
This list is not in any way definitive or exhaustive but it will hopefully help clarify some stuff and broaden our feminist horizons particularly if we are coming to feminism(s) or womanism as cisheterosexual women, without disability and with class privilege. Reading around is an important part of the (un)learning process, and it is also imperative that we be proactive in our learning particularly as we work to build broad movements. We must remember that the oppressed even amongst the oppressed, do not have an obligation to teach us about their oppression and hold our hands as we take our baby steps. That is both intellectual and emotional labour they are not being paid for, and to expect to get it for free because we think it’d be nice, amounts to exploitation.
May 2016 bring a lot of unlearning and the continuous dismantling of oppressive structures! Also please do consider making a donation to the various blogs to pay for the content and to keep the blogs running. Paying for labour a good feminist praxis.
*A note on hyper-consumption of content: please do be mindful as you go exploring blogs that because of the political nature of the work and writing and because it challenges the status quo the authors are often erased and trolled. Be sure to properly cite content, to temper sharing and consumption of content and to ensure that you follow the sharing policy on the website if there is one.
Main image taken from imgur.com